Capsule Review: The Conjuring House (PC)

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Uh, mommy? Holy hell, The Conjuring House sure is scary when it needs to be (which is often). Developer RYM Games has a an almost killer game here that despite a few technical flaws (which are currently being addressed via patches that will hopefully improve the overall experience) is one near-total freakout of a game. Things get off to a scary start and the tension builds as the game follows the tried and true “Old Dark House filled with dreadful evil”  formula with some pretty hefty psychological horror and jump scares. Unlike some more popular horror titles, you’re unarmed and have to try and avoid or run from enemies whenever possible, the game has intentionally distant save points and yes, this leads to a few too many deaths whether or not you’re careless. On the other hand, when when things click, you’re playing half under whatever you were sitting on when you started with one eye opened because the other has shut itself closed.

Nevertheless, in its current form, some elements of the game aren’t quite as solid as they should be. Changing the default video settings immediately makes the game too dark to see and that default setting uses a post-processing effect that seems to add too much blur to the movement. Some well-done but lengthy cutscenes do a great job of storytelling, but can’t be skipped at all, so if you die  before one, you’ll need to watch the whole thing all over again. Add in those long treks and/or backtracking between those save points plus a single save slot and you get a recipe for frustration as well as fear of playing for some of the wrong reasons.

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Your brain will look and feel like this decrepit room right from the moment you gain control of your hapless non-hero.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is a Good Thing to Have), Part 2

You’re either back for more… or you fell asleep reading that first part and just woke up in time for part two. Well, here you go, then. Some of today’s entries are coming out after October, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. Anyway, here are six more games to look forward to (unless you’re too freaked out to want to try some of the scarier ones, mua-ha-ha-haaaa!):

 

 
Home Sweet Home (PS4/PSVR/Xbox One) – If the trailer is any indication, this could be one of the downright scariest stealth/horror games of the year. I missed out on the PC version of this truly scary-looking Thai horror game from Bangkok-based indie dev Yggdrazil Group Co.,Ltd, but my pals at Mastiff Games seem voraciously intent on putting me under the couch with this upcoming PS4 and Xbox One port. The PS4 version will support VR as an option (I’ll take my scares flat, thank you much) and if you prefer your games on a disc, this one’s going to be a GameStop exclusive in addition to a standard digital download on PSN and Xbox Live. I may have to shell out for the disc version, as this one certainly looks scary enough to be a keeper. That and I want to have the option of maybe loaning that disc to a friend or two who hate horror games but are slowly coming around. Then again, I have the feeling that this might be one of those games that sends them back down the ladder to being too skittish to fire it up.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is A Good Thing to Have), Part 1

Although horror-themed games are released all year long from developers and publishers of all sizes, the number definitely increases as the Halloween season approaches. I’m currently playing a few quite interesting to downright too damn creepy titles that should keep you up at night if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ll divide this into a few parts because my inbox is a bit loaded with what’s looking like some really fun games of varying degrees of scariness. Let’s start with five for now:

The Conjuring House (PC) – Holy #@*+. Well played, Morocco-based RYM Games, well played. Here’s a game that knows what it wants to do (make you too scared to keep playing) and it gets right to it with the scary stuff after an extended opening cinematic sequence that gets your heart pumping before handing you control in the middle of a chase sequence. Gee, thanks. So far, the game is absolutely dripping with atmosphere and the Unreal 4-powered visuals definitely get the job done. That said, the English translation needs a bit of tweaking as some awkward text mars the experience when it doesn’t match the spoken dialog. Still, this is going to be one of those games that sucks players in and should keep them jumping long after they’re done. It’s out September 25 on Steam, so keep an eye peeled (or else). I’ve got my fingers crossed for solid console port (PS4, please) if only to keep further away from the screen. Or: playing this on my laptop has been pretty damn frightening with those blasted creeps right up in my face, yahhhh!

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Blu-Ray Review: Deep Red

Deep Red ArrowI clearly wasn’t ready for Dario Argento’s Deep Red way back when I saw it on a somewhat beat-up rented VHS tape back around 1990 or ’91. While the 1975 film had some primo scares (such as that freaky clockwork dummy scene and the genuinely gory brilliance in its stylized murders), the story seemed to be a bit chopped up to the point of distracting me a wee bit too much. Hey, I often tend to pay attention to the plot more than the violence in most horror films, so sue me. Flash forward to Arrow’s 2016 UK restoration (finally getting a North American release) which adds back in scenes that was cut and makes one of Argento’s best early films even better. Granted, it’s not going to be for everyone (yes, it’s quite violent), but as with many gialli, you more or less know what you’re getting and you’re going to get it but good (and in both eyes, at that).

David Hemmings plays Marcus Daly, a British jazz pianist who ends up being the target of a killer after he sees said killer killing the hell out of some hapless victim. During the initial police investigation, Daly’s photo is snapped by snippy, snoopy reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), who inadvertently puts Marcus in grave danger after posting his handsome mug in the newspaper. As in his earlier The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails, you get leading men who get in well over their heads once they try to do a bit of extracurricular detective work and yes indeed, Daly gets put through the wringer but good. This is also another Argento film where a woman saves the lead from certain death, with Nicolodi’s Brezzi making a strong impression as a gal who’s no screaming wallflower at all.

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Review: Don’t Knock Twice (PS4)

DKT_PS4.jpegWales Interactive’s Don’t Knock Twice is an “all-in” game if ever there was one. While it can indeed be played without the PSVR headset and during the sunnier daytime hours, the game works best when you wall yourself (Amontillado or not) up all alone in the dark (heh) completely wrapped up in those goofy goggles and a decent set of headphones. Being afraid of the dark and having the additional fear of things that go bump in the night also go a long way in making this mild experience in terror a bit scarier.

On the other hand, if you’re one of those really jaded people who think all horror games need to be gory undead shooting galleries or have stuff jumping out at you every ten seconds, you may not totally grasp what the fuss is all about when the game finally ends somewhere about an hour to hour and a half later. Is the game perfect? Nope. Does it do what it intends to do? Yep. If you let yourself become immersed in the mood it aims for, it’ll get under your skin and make you a bit jumpy for a tiny slice of time. You’re not going to use the (overused) word “innovative” here at all to describe this one. You’re getting a short and creepy horror experience that’s not going to wear out its welcome when all is said and done.

 

 

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Mail Call, Yesterday Edition

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So, I’m in the process of writing up a certain review when I take a minute to check one of my inboxes which kindly notes that a DVD I finally got around to ordering has arrived (and rather quickly, at that). On Sunday.  As it was about 2:24am Monday (“Sleep?” What’s this “sleep” you speak of, mortals?), my eyebrow went up and yes, I got my keys, put some pants on (TMI: I tend to dress like a video game mascot character from the 90’s when at home) and hoofed it downstairs to check my mail with the first thought being the mailbox would be empty and somehow USPS and/or Amazon mucked up the delivery date. Wrong, and well, wow for the post office for delivering regular mail on a day when it usually doesn’t.

Um, go write a letter or postcard or something today and mail it, I guess. USPS kinda needs people to be less reliant on tech and more reliant on good old fashioned handwritten surprises via the post. Either than or they go under and we end up going broke because it’ll cost a mint to ship via other services angling to take their place and doing a worse job in the process. Anyway, back to the backlog, ladies and germs!

-GW

Review: Detention (PS4)

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Detention BlockWhile thematically similar to The Coma: Recut from Devespresso Games, Red Candle Games‘ excellent Detention ($12.99 on PSN) manages to add a more psychological as well as historical tone to its scary elements. Set in a 1960’s era Taiwan during the horrfic period of martial law known as The White Terror, the game works extremely well as a short but solid game experience that gets as much mileage from its frightening imagery as it does with its somewhat timely political allegory

This isn’t a “survival horror” game in the zombie-packed Resident Evil vein and while it has a more similar vibe to the early, more thoughtful (but weirder) Silent Hill games, there are no weapons to wield here or a need to stock up on healing items for your trip through this virtual hell-space. This one’s a pure side-scrolling horror adventure game where you’ll need to avoid or appease the freakish ghosts you’ll encounter as you try and escape from the nightmare that Greenwood High has become.

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The Evil Within 2: Perfect For Your Fright-day the 13th

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Confession time, again: other than dabbling with a friend’s copy for about 20 minutes or so back when it was launched, I didn’t play the original The Evil Within. Between my ridiculous backlog and other busyness, I never got around to getting to that game and its assorted freakish frights. Well, here we are some time later and guess what? The Evil Within 2 didn’t wait for me to even think about playing the first game before it popped up to say “Hi!” and it looks as if I might need grab this at some point or it’ll come to get me. Help!

Of course, if I don’t get the game, no one will notice, right (he said, looking around and then checking all the closets and under furniture for something that might come get him at some point)?. And here I was, saving up my pennies for Wolfenstein: The New Colossus (which has “Timeliest Game of the Year!” flashing over it in bright neon lights for some reason). Oh, Bethesda, you keep it up with this stuff and I’ll need to start carving holes in my schedule like a pumpkin. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way (and neither should you).

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Don’t Torture A Duckling

DTAD_AV099Toss the name Lucio Fulci into a decent horror film conversation and it’s quite possible it may turn into some sort of cranky debate about a few of his more outrageous films that feature copious amounts of gore and violence (often against female characters). There’s an excellent video essay by Kat Ellinger called Hell Is Already In Us included on the fantastic Arrow Video restoration of Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling that drives home the point that the director was merely holding up a mirror to some of society’s madness and letting his camera do the dirty work. While not as relentless as his later work, what’s here is a pretty effective blend of thriller and pointed social commentary that’s still got a mean bite all these years later.

Considered by the director to be one of his personal favorites, Duckling’s blend of Italian countryside setting, shocking (off-screen) child murders and handful of suspects where everyone has either a direct motive or abnormal/amoral proclivities that can be seen as motives makes for a pretty unsettling experience. Adding to the film’s grim tone, Fulci also skewers his faith but good here with some knife-twisting fierceness and a killer finale that’s either going to make you cringe or crack up laughing (or preferably, both). This is a film that’s tough to watch, but extremely well made and even thought provoking in its own manner.

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Review: The Coma: Recut (PS4)

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The Coma Recut PS4Ah, high school days. The loads of homework, Salisbury “steak” and canned veggies for lunch, getting shoved into lockers by bullies, and that curvy teacher you’ve got a secret crush on transforming into a hideous axe-wielding demon-thing who will try really hard to chop you to pieces after hours…

Wait, what?

Okay, that last bit is why you’ll be way up too late on a school (or work) night and all bleary-eyed and freaked out in the morning if you’re playing The Coma: Recut. This remastered version of the Korean survival-horror cult classic, The Coma: Cutting Class manages to be pretty scary stuff from developer Devespresso Games and publisher Digerati. If you’re a fan of games such as Clock Tower (both the Super Famicom original and its first sequel on the original PlayStation), this one’s well worth snapping up.

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