By ArbitraryWater 4 Comments
Welcome to the new age of dubious. The new age of terror. The new age of streaming gimmick formats because I was tired of being subject to a randomizer wheel and wanted to mix things up. It’s time for THE TOWER OF DUBIOUS HORROR GAMES. More structure, less chaos! More democracy, less transparency! More full playthroughs, less two hour introductions to RPGs! That’s right, it’s up to me to climb, traverse, or otherwise navigate this categorical calamity using my wits, cunning, and audience voting. The current categories (which may or may not be switched out upon my leisure) are:
- Horror(bitrary)Water: A surprising number of horror games feature aquatic themes! If it’s on a boat, if there’s a significant amount of wet, or if fish are involved, it probably goes here?
- The Real Terror Was Dubious All Along: What defines a horror game? What makes something “scary?” If you said “actually a video game of dubious quality is scary in and of itself” then this category is a catch-all for that, I guess! Sometimes I want variety.
- Actual Good Video Games: Because not all horror games are dubious, I swear.
- The Curse of Beloved Franchises: There are several video game franchises that spring to mind when one envisions “horror.” Not all of the games released under those names are great.
- Visual Novels Can Be Scary Too: Read along with your friend ArbitraryWater as you learn just exactly how many visual novels and spooky RPGmaker VNs one can go through before pants are shat (in fear. Not for other reasons)
- Licenses… of DEATH: sometimes horror games are based on horror films. A novel concept!
- Sega NightmareCast: The scariest console of them all, the Sega Dreamcast. A surprising number of weird-ass horror games only exist on this console! YOU BET I'M GONNA LOOK AT EM ALL, JESSIFER.
- Clonk Tower: an entire category devoted to justifying the $50 I spent on a secondhand CIB copy of Clock Tower 3. Anyway, um, I guess you hide from a scissor man or something.
- Respect the Classics… or else!: Only the creakiest, oldest, most crustiest of spooky video games in here! Haunted House for the Atari 2600, is that you? (probably not)
- Actual Garbage: Fox Only, Final Destination, No Items. Just dubious.
Watching my streams LIVE gives you the opportunity to determine the course of my horror streams. When I finish (or tap out of) a game, you will determine my route through this terrifying tower of torment! Depending on how hard I wanna go down the hustle hole (ew), there might also be follower and/or subscriber incentives. Should be fun, yeah?
Release Date: March 15, 2005
Time Played: Somewhere under five hours
Troubleshooting: Fan Widescreen Fix. I had to disable my second monitor so the ad-hoc controller setup I made worked.
Dubiosity: 2 out of 5
Number of times I sang the Lonely Island song “I’m on a boat” on stream: Twice
Would I play again? naw
I don’t have a ton to say about Cold Fear. It’s maybe the most “We have a Resident Evil 4 at home” game imaginable, given its release proximity in early 2005 and presence on Xbox, PS2, and PC. See, this game is from the same team responsible for Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare a game I played to completion last year and would just like to briefly touch on since it's basically half the inspiration for this feature existing at all. AITD: The New Nightmare is a weird, recursive mess of a video game. In the same way Wasteland 2 and 3 are inspired by Fallout 1 and 2, which were inspired by the original Wasteland, so too is The New Nightmare a weird riff on Resident Evil, which itself was inspired by... the original Alone in the Dark trilogy. Shit's weird. It's also an attempt to launch the series into franchise potential, with a bunch of ominous, poorly-delivered plot threads which are vaguely followed up in the 2008 Alone in the Dark revival (which, don't worry, we'll get to.) The most notable thing about it might just be the part where I literally had to do no troubleshooting whatsoever to get the GOG version to play nicely with OBS, but otherwise it's a mediocre trifle best avoided.
As Darkworks' follow-up game, Cold Fear dares to ask “What if Resident Evil had boat physics?” and goes from there. It's also a significantly better game than New Nightmare. As AmericanMcCoastGuard it’s your job to run back and forth between a handful of rooms on a spooky Russian oil tanker in an entirely linear fashion. In a feature I HAVE to imagine was riffed from pre-release versions of Resident Evil 4, it’s got mostly fixed camera angles but switches to over-the-shoulder when you’re aiming, but the actual layout and progression never becomes trickier than running around, grabbing one key item, and then going back to another room to use said key item. It doesn’t even have save rooms, it just has set places in the story where it asks if you’d like to save.
It’s a surprisingly playable, competent affair, which is more than I can say for a lot of other stuff I’ve touched. Don't confuse that for something you should run out and play, but as an introductory experience to this feature I'm happy it started basic. It’s also a game with exactly two ideas, both of which it uses throughout the entirety of its run. The first is aforementioned boat physics, and the fact that to kill the not-plagas infecting the crew, you need to go for the head. Always. The lack of a map is probably the game’s way of trying to feel longer than it is, but it also means at no point did it ever overstay its welcome. That's probably also why the whole thing fails to stick out in my brain, being DEEPLY UNMEMORABLE, but it's some extreme B-tier, 6/10 energy exuding from this entire product.
A bunch of random licensed games my roommate had in a binder
Category: The Real Terror Was Dubious All Along
Release Date: Somewhere between 2003 and 2007
Time Played: anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour for each of them
DMCA claims to date: none, surprisingly
Would I play more? Maybe one day we’ll give Return of the King another look. Otherwise, nah.
Licensed movie tie-in video games! They used to exist, now they don’t, at least not in the same way! This is not a tragedy. This is not something we need to mourn or be nostalgic about. If my podcast episode on Lord of the Rings: The Third Age wasn’t proof enough, there’s no better example of this than the quick survey of four movie tie-in games I borrowed from my roommate. In this accursed CD Binder, I found video games based on two commercially unsuccessful, critically panned fantasy book adaptations and two of the highest grossing films of the 2000s? Sure, that’s a decent mix. At least, a decent enough mix for me to get threeish hours of quality entertainment out of the lot.
The thing that struck out to me is how much these game tie-ins all have in common. There’s the scuffed realistic art direction which just looks like mud, the soundalike voice actors (except Return of the King, which managed to get most of the cast in a recording booth for a day or two), the pained attempts to turn 5 minute movie scenes and set-pieces into 30 minute video game levels. Somehow, all four of these games are just brawlers. Pre-God of War character action titles, I guess I’d say. Complexity, mobility, or really any sort of combo potential are far beyond their reach, but by golly can you press a short string of face buttons together and stuff will happen. Sure, there are force powers and brisingrs and maybe a jump, but for the most part you’re doing the prehistoric equivalent of a square square triangle, but without the part where you can hold the triangle to do a launcher afterward.
Even The Golden Compass, the odd one out in this quartet, still opens with the most awkwardly animated armored polar bear fighting you’ve ever seen in your damn life. I don’t remember a thing about those books other than vaguely thinking they were the YA novel equivalent to r/atheism, but I’m going to guess they didn’t involve quite as many polar bear fights. Thankfully, after the action packed introduction, including fighting some sort of Inuit-looking shaman and his ghost wolves(?) the bad platforming and stealth elements became more apparent when you *aren’t* playing as the polar bear. Which is about where I tapped out.
I don’t really have much to say about the other three games, other than thinking Return of the King probably seems like the most playable of them. Alas, going back to it now, it’s not quite the banger I remember from 2003. Don’t get me wrong, It’s resoundingly good compared to the other three games I played for this feature, but between the surprisingly difficult insta-kill segments, groups of enemies swarming the player from off-camera, and less-than-generous checkpointing, it’s also “of its era” in a way I’m increasingly lukewarm of. At least it has FMV interviews with the cast, in case you’d like to know that Sean Astin is apparently the worst at video games. Please enjoy me narrating the cutscenes to avoid showing movie footage on screen when I get to that part of the stream
This is also the stealth launch of my sunday show, currently called “Sunday Scan Converter Supertime” which is my ill-intended method of justifying owning this RetroTink 5x Pro. I have a bunch of Gamecube, PS2, and Wii games here, ready to go and show themselves in beautiful (?) 1080p dark magic upscale. Wait, if I plug the PS3 in and use it to play PS1 and PS2 games does this also count? I guess we’ll see.
Resident Evil Dead Aim (AKA Gun Survivor 4: Biohazard - Heroes Never Die)
Category: Horror(bitrary)Water and Curse of Beloved Franchises
Release Date: June 17, 2003 (happy 19th anniversary, bad video game!)
Time Played: Around three hours
Dubiosity: 4 out of 5
Light Gun? No
Would I play again? Lolno. I’ll likely end up playing Resident Evil Survivor at some point but fuck if I'm gonna play the Dino Crisis or Code Veronica ones.
The light gun game is one of those lost relics of the arcade age, something that never really translated when home consoles became the dominant form of interactive entertainment. Outside of a brief resurgence of Wii originals and the current proliferation of VR shooting galleries, it’s one of those dead end genres that loses relevancy the second you aren’t pumping quarters in constantly. I guess there’s that House of the Dead remake on switch? That’s weird, right?
This is why I find Capcom’s weird dalliances with trying to translate the light gun experience to home consoles so… interesting? They made four of these. Resident Evil Dead Aim is the LAST one, and the year prior there was a Dino Crisis themed one? Sure. The general idea behind this series was to combine the sensibilities of a light gun shooter with a traditional Resident Evil game, complete with the GunCON light gun controller. That last part is important, actually, because I don’t know if these games work removed from the context of a bespoke light gun doohickey. Of course, given that I don’t have a CRT television readily on hand, I also wouldn’t be able to play these games as intended even if I did have one.
With a regular-ass DualShock 2 (and definitely not a DualShock 4 hooked up to a computer, officer) what I’m left with is maybe the most bland simulacrum of a Resident Evil game awkwardly foisted upon a fake light gun shooter imaginable. Someone in my chat put it best when they said “This looks more like a Resident Evil knockoff than the actual knockoff [Cold Fear]” The ongoing trend of Biohazard spinoffs being almost universally terrible starts from the beginning, and Dead Aim is a perfect example of that. As action man Bruce McIrvin, it’s your job to shoot zombies in the head with guns and clonkily navigate through the blandest boat ever made. Sometimes discount Ada Wong is there. A plot is vaguely gestured towards, but the most memorable thing the game has going for it is some truly, truly, astoundingly bad voice acting made extra good because the VA doesn’t match the subtitles. Oh also the main villain turns himself into a sexy lady version of the usual Resident Evil Tyrant monster, complete with boobs and organic stripper heels, so clearly someone in the art department had some preferences they needed to get out. Don’t worry, like all final bosses in Resident Evil, it eventually mutates into an amorphous blob with tentacles and weird orifices that look like buttholes, so they got that part right.
Removed from the novelty of a light gun controller, it’s just a really fucking boring, sedate simulacrum of a Resident Evil game without any of the puzzles, environmental navigation, or resource scarcity which makes the series good. Inventory management is reduced to only being able to carry eight stacks of ammo, which is still PLENTY of ammo (there is a never-ending supply of handgun bullets in save rooms, which means you’ll never be dry) However, the dark and horrible secret about this game is… you can kinda just run past a lot of the zombies. Likely due to the game’s nature as a light gun thing, the environments themselves all tend to be quite wide, which also means the classic art of juking zombos is surprisingly easy. It’s not much harder once you get to dealing with faster enemies either. I can easily see speedruns of this game lasting less than an hour.
But yeah, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised a forgotten installment of a forgotten sub-series made by the people who would go on to make Bullet Witch is kinda fucking terrible. What surprised me was finding out some elements of this game actually made their way into future Resident Evil light gun spinoffs, Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles (uncoincidentally also made by Cavia, uncoincidentally also not great.) Oh well. At least the save room theme will continue to be part of my regular pre-stream music rotation.
I've made sure to keep a running youtube playlist of all my stream archives, in case you'd like to follow along at home. I'll try and keep up on the blogs from here.
|N/A||Some really good, high quality games for the Sega Dreamcast|