(...Am I still doing it?) Am I still alerting you to whenever I complete a Humble Indie Bundle game? Well, I am now, I guess. Anywho, Penumbra! It's a survival horror game, and it came so close to being the one survival horror game I like without reservation. (Clock Tower's as close as it's gonna get, for now.) But alas, it was not meant to be, for it suffers the same pitfalls that drive me to other genres entirely!
For example, a mediocre story! It all starts in Britain, when an emotionally distant 25 year old university professor gets a letter from his dead dad. No, that's not really supposed to be the scary part. Those parts come later, when he goes to a mine in...Denmark? Antarctica? Greenland? Coldistan? I guess the location isn't important; what really matters is the artefact (or artifact; the game honestly can't decide) his father left in this mine, which turns out to be....I have no goddamn clue. That's my main problem with the plot: not enough detail. Yes, I'm left with more questions than answers at the end, but not in a good, provocative way or anything.
For example, why do the dogs hate my character? Maybe they're rabid because of decay and disease, since their bod-Wait, why are their bodies so goddamn messed up? Is it the decay thing, or is it some demon magic bullshit? I mean, there are those lantern things sc-What are the lantern things? Are they visions of the future, of the past, dead people trapped inside, strange recordings, what? And is this supposed to be rooted in crushing reality, or is there some supernatural shit going on here? Mind telling me, game? Or are you content with your "unhinged" (read: annoying beyond belief) side-character? I imagine much of the blame goes to the episodic nature of Penumbra, given the cliffhanger nature of the ending, but that's no excuse. Don't hide your answers in a different game entirely.
I guess to make up for this, Penumbra put a ton of work into the atmosphere. For those of you playing this game alongside the blog, what? You're stranger than that Red character you'll come to hate soon. But anyway, it may sound strange, given how much the game tells you to be scared, but give it time. Soon, things are gonna pay off. You think you want the comforting touch of man (since, I guess, that's the aim of the game), but you spurn the company of others you see. The darkness becomes your friend, and silence your other friend. I know this sounds like pretentious bullshit (and that's probably because I still have Red on my mind), so anybody who has played this game full screen with the brightness knocked down to nothingness can probably attest to how scary this game can be. That probably explains why the game threw such a hissy fit when I tried to get it in windowed m-
NO! Good things now, bad things later! How about generally interacting with the world? I'd say that it's almost as good as the atmosphere, but really, the two go hand in hand with each other. Objects have a real sense of weight behind them, which is as close as possible to feeling like you're actually there. Besides, it's generally fun to fuck around with bottles and rocks and other shit. Same with the com-ALMOST. You think I'd say the combat is fun, given that it also has the sense of weight behind it, but I really can't. Yea, there's power behind your swing of the hammer, but the dog's not gonna find that shit funny. He's gonna bite your face off. All your pussy-ass can hope to kill is an oddly powerful spider, and that's on a good day. (Somebody get on posting a picture of a pussy-ass in the comments.) And that's what I love so much about Penumbra. It's one of those rare cases of a survival horror game making you feel powerless without making the combat a complete pain in the ass...
...until, of course, you stand on something slightly elevated above the ground, like a 1950s woman standing on her stool, screaming at the mutant zombie mouse sneaking into the kitchen. Turns out those wild dogs lunging at you have no idea how to strike at something standing on a fucking box. It's at this point that you realize how dumb the enemy AI is, since they're perfectly happy to bite straight into your pickaxe and collapse over dead. And then come are the moronic puzzles, because you can't have a survival horror game without idiotic puzzles. (Clock Tower tried, and we all know what became of that.) I'll just let this defy logic all on its own. The context doesn't justify it too much, either; it's a riddle to help you remember which chemical beaker is which, even though there's no reason the names couldn't have been written on the actual beakers. Did you enjoy that? Well, regardless, there are more puzzles like that in the Penumbra experience. No! You're coming apart at the seams, Penumbra! And you were so close to being a competent survival horror game! Will none stand to the call of duty?.....Please let the first survival horror game I unconditionally love be a Call of Duty game. I don't care if it makes no sense. Get on it, game industry.
- Claustrophobia is scarier when you're not being pestered by an imbalanced dick.
- But it's effective claustrophobia, nonetheless.
- At least until you're fucking about with pistons to progress.
This may not look like it fits into anything else in this blog (and not just because I can't embed the actual video), but just skip to 5:46 and watch your brain start to leak out your ears. (Your eyes will have rolled back into your head at this point, making it more than possible.)
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti
(Sure, why not?) I need a vaguely horror themed game to go alongside Penumbra and SpongeBob, and this is about as vague as it gets. Remember how the first three games were controversial back in the day. (I doubt it; I'm around specifically so you guys don't have to remember that shit.) Well, the closest this version comes is that old Nintendo brand of controversial made up entirely of acknowledging religion as a thing. Now remember how the Splatterhouse games were pretty much nothing but walking forward and whacking things, like some murderously aggressive game of Whack a Mole? Well, this was the one aspect they kept in the game. I don't know, either.
I'm not kidding; that really is all Wanpaku Graffiti has to offer. Just walk forward, slash something that's in your way, and jump a couple of times. There are a few instances where you get a shotgun, but that's about it. You cannot carry seven levels on this idea alone. Maybe one level, but not seven. After that long, I'm gonna want more. More weapons, more meaningful enemy variety, more challenge, more anything. Challenge especially, because I shouldn't have to tell you that there isn't much challenging about Wanpaku Graffiti. OK, there are a few difficult moments littered about, but it's ultimately an easy-ass game. Hell, most of the boss battles consist of simply beating the opposition over the head until they just get fed up and decide to leave.
But remember that whole "moving away from traditional Splatterhouse" stuff I said before? Well, it turns out it was for the better. I'm not trying to insult previous Splatterhouse games (mainly because I've only played the first, and that was a while ago), but what Wanpaku Graffiti does works perfectly. I don't even know how to explain it. There's just something very appealing about gathering up all the vague horror references you possibly can and turning them into this light hearted romp. Maybe it's how ridiculous it is to have a masked murderer rise from the grave (along with a pumpkin head, because that's scary, I guess) looking so effing cute, or maybe it's the fact that one of the bosses is Thriller. I'm not entirely sure. All I know I that it gives the game a very clear, highly memorable personality. So where does that leave us? Is all this enough to mask (no pun intended) the fact that the gameplay consists entirely of moving right and slashing things? Juuuuust barely.
- Why is that cute little five year old ripping out that pumpkin demon's intestines? Also, what the fuck are pumpkin demons doing in something like this?
- And do I ever use any buttons other than right and "kill"?
- By the way, the title translates to "Naughty Graffiti". Not that it makes any more sense, given the utter lack of graffiti in this game.
Wait, something just occurred to me. What number blog is this? Seriously? 299? Shit! I'm gonna have to prepare something seriously awesome for next week. So I guess tune in next week, wherein I remind you that I have written 300 blogs (too many).