GIMMGP Pumpkins III: Revenge of the Jack O’ Lanterns

Costumes have been donned, candy has been prepared, creepiness abounds; the day is upon us, Halloween has arrived!  Here at GIMMGP Headquarters, Laura and I have procured a pair of pretty pumpkins for the festivities.  Instead of the usual Pokémon offerings from the last two years, we have been influenced by our current gaming experiences and carved fresh visages into these lovely gourds.

Thanks to hours upon hours of Mario Kart 8, my jack o’ lantern boasts a cute little Shy Guy.  Meanwhile, Laura’s time with Bayonetta 2 has inspired a sort of optical illusion: Is it a snake?  Is it a panther?  With Bayonetta’s unique dash moves, it can be both!

As with every year, we hope your homes are filled with joy, gaming, and lots of candy!  Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

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Frightening Friend Posts: That Bloody Wrench

As a special treat for the final week before Halloween, some of our friends have graciously contributed spooky posts for your reading pleasure.  The third and final ghoulish goody is from our lovely literary friend, Sarah!  A crafty and creative soul, Sarah makes gorgeous jewelry out of a variety of materials.  Be sure to check out her store at SeroCreates

Even though she prefers fantasy vastly over horror, Sarah continues to dip her toe into the inky black pool of spooky games.  So grab a torch and follow our friend as she makes her journey into the world of horror games!

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Confession: I don’t play scary video games. I play for the escapism (Fable II), for the art and graphics (Final Fantasy X), and for the adorable burlap simulacra (Little Big Planet). Scary games are, well, scary. I’ve never enjoyed the spine-tingling shivers that arise from tumble-down buildings, whispery voices and fog that, frankly, has far too much time on its hands creeping around graveyards. If I’m going to kill things, I want to kill them with magic, magic, and more magic.

Nonetheless, my reticence to play horror games has not stopped my many game-loving friends from foisting them upon me. Every single time the same thing happens: I play for about 30 minutes, get to a point where my character is beset upon by ghouls or zombies or werewolves or something and I’m forced to stop being sneaky and morph into a frenzied berserker rage, killing everything that moves. Then, I die due to ignoring my life meter (see: berserker rage) or I die due to misjudging my location in relation to a cliff or well or landmine or some shit, or I die due to a dead enemy who is not actually dead, just wounded or faking it because he’s a douchebag who won’t just die like his/her/its (often undead) comrades. On the off-chance I actually survive the encounter, I’m so full of adrenaline that I realize I should, under no circumstances, continue playing or controllers will be thrown, tables upturned, fangs will sprout from my gums and I will run, howling into the night. Or something like that.

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If I had to choose a favorite among these least-favorite-of-games, it would be the last of the scary games: BioShock. Shortly after its release, my friend Adam (the most persistent of  horror-game-pushing friends), had invited me over on the pretext of showing me a new game. Trusting fool that I am, I accepted. Adam is also the friend who introduced me to Little Big Planet, Portal, and Flower, so my guard was down.

To be honest, BioShock looked pretty cool, more steampunk than scary. I should have remembered that this is also the so-called-friend who tried to get me to play Resident Evil 4 (nope), Silent Hill (no way), and the Walking Dead (what is this even). In short, he’s a complete and utter jerkface.

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To begin with, the graphics in BioShock are pretty great. Add to that the creepy but fun music playing in the background, the whole world-building concept (a bathysphere? Yes, please) and the decently intuitive gameplay and I was ready to enjoy this game. But wait! There’s more! Of course there is. See, the catch with BioShock is the following:

  1. Your melee weapon is a monkey wrench. You know, so you get that real-world bludgeoning experience.
  2. You get hit with fairly heavy foes early on in the game, so if you are a slow player like me (as in, you like to search every single square inch of a room before moving on) you do not have the prowess or weaponry to fight such a foe. You either die or run away.
  3. Even if you run away, there will be another creature that shows up and who you have to, despite trying to reason with it, bludgeon to death with a wrench.

After killing about five humanoid creatures in quick succession, I calmly passed the controller to Adam, without even pausing the game, and said, “Okay, that’s enough murder-by-wrench for one lifetime. Can I go back to killing things with magic?”

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Frightening Friend Posts: Adventures in Doom 3

As a special treat for the final week before Halloween, some of our friends have graciously contributed spooky posts for your reading pleasure.  The next of these morsels comes from our own horror-movie aficionado, Allyson!  In spite of her exhaustive knowledge of frightening films, Allyson’s gaming preferences tend to lean away from the scary stuff.  Which is what made her first encounter with Doom 3 such a scream!

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Go back to nearly a decade ago and jump into the shoes of a young video gamer girl in college. This gamer was safe, warm, and coddled in the land of RPG’s and cute games like Final Fantasy X, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Kirby’s Dreamland, and Mario Kart.  One day, this naïve gamer sits down with her friends at their college apartment. She is given a controller with no knowledge of the world she was about to be thrust into, no concept of survival horror or first person shooters.

Doom3BabiesI am sure that the general idea at the time was, “we serious gaming men need a break for sustenance, here…let’s see what you can do.” Starting D00M3 without any knowledge of shooters or how to defend myself was like a civilian being dropped into a war zone in enemy territory.  I was immediately immersed into a horrifying world of monsters, death, blood, darkness, guns, and chainsaws.  It was kill or be killed, and let’s face it; who wants to be killed by mutant freak babies?

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When you first pick up a shooter/survival horror combo like D00M3 ,there is a sort of adrenaline rush.  You become very mindful of exits, pathways, your health, your flashlight, and your ammunition. The experience, while exhilarating, can be exhausting with all the tension you have built up while playing.  Your eyes are constantly searching through darkness for any movements, because one mistake could easily be your last step in this game.  If you are like me, you even forget to blink because you don’t want to risk missing anything.

Much to my delight (and terror), I adapted quickly and made it further than I think anyone anticipated, though literal tears were staining my cheeks from the lack of blinking.  My will to live got me to a door that my comrades had somehow missed on one level and I found a new weapon on a different floor that made victory a bit easier.  I clawed my way out of that tense hell-world and consider myself to be a better player because of one simple fact: I survived!

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Frightening Friend Posts: F.E.A.R.

As a special treat for the final week before Halloween, some of our friends have graciously contributed spooky posts for your reading pleasure.  The first of the wicked writings comes from my good friend Jeremy, who is a battle-hardened veteran of so many PC shooters.  A top tier virtual gunman, Jeremy has a frightful tale of a game that caused him many a restless night.  Reader beware, you’re in for a scare!

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There are many games that try to frighten their players, anywhere from a general sense of unease to actual horror. Many of these games accomplish that goal, but very few leave any lasting effect on the player. For me, the game with the most vivid and terrifying images stuck in my brain was First Encounter Assault Recon, or F.E.A.R. (aptly named), a game about a black ops unit dedicated to the supernatural.

The whole game had an eerie feeling, and was best played with headphones in a dark room. A fairly large chunk of the story takes place in an old facility used for covert psychic warfare experimentation, so the game is rife with dark hallways, random noises, and otherworldly flashbacks to set the mood. There were jump scares aplenty, but the most frightening moments were always delivered in slow motion. Any time things started to slow down, my pulse would start to speed up. I knew something was about to happen.

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One such instance still haunts me to this day. The whole sequence begins by following dead soldiers that disintegrate as they walk, bits just floating into the air and evaporating. That is creepy enough. Past these ghouls is a room with a skeleton on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood and gore. “What happened to this guy?” You wonder. “I hope I don’t meet whatever bad mamma jamma gibbed him.” But you continue on, ‘cause you ain’t skeered.

F.E.A.R.

You jump over a rail into a normal looking hallway.  Within an instant, the end of the hallway is engulfed in flames, and directly in the center is a creepy little girl. Both girl and flames move towards you, everything dragging in slow motion, so you know you are screwed. Shooting her does no good as she staggers closer and the flames explode around you. You are well-and-truly boned, and may need a change of underwear.

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Required Reading: Halloween Comics Edition

On top of watching scary movies and playing horror games, one of our favorite October activities here at GIMMGP Headquarters is to curl up by a crackling fire and read some fantastic fiction.  Lengthy novels about werewolves and dragons tend to be Laura’s cup of tea, while I prefer pouring over spooky sequential art.  This Halloween season has yielded quite a harvest of creepy comics, so I decided to share the choice crop with you, boils and ghouls!

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

When I was a young man, there was a series of books that every child seemed to have read, yet none of us dared to keep a single copy in our homes.  Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark and it’s two sequels were immensely frightening collections of scary stories and prose.  While the writing was enough to spook the average reader, it was the unsettling black and white illustrations that instilled a lingering unease with anyone who came into contact with these books.

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Since my younger years, nothing has left such a haunting impression as these books…until I came across the work of Emily Carroll.  Her comics are a wonderful combination of spooky prose and beautiful artwork that take full advantage of the webcomic format.  Interesting paneling, extended backgrounds and settings that drag across the computer screen, a clever use of “next page” pauses; all of these elements combine to make some of the best horror work I have read in years.

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Carroll’s website features a wonderful collection of horror and fantasy comics, and just earlier this year she released her first book called Through the Woods.  This anthology of frightful tales features her webcomic, “His Face All Red,” in print for the first time, along with several fresh tales to leave readers entranced and enthralled.  Be sure to pick up this fantastic book for those lonesome October nights where the shadows stretch and anything could be lurking about the corners of reality.

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, and Dave Stewart

Like so many other folks during the Halloween season, Laura and I will load up on spooky shows and films during the month of October.  Unlike so many other folks, we will generally shy away from slasher flicks and gore-fests, turning instead to watch haunting fantasy films and family-friendly frights.  One pair of movies that we enjoy watching during the autumn is Hellboy and its sequel, The Golden Army.  The impressive practical effects and engaging action-fantasy scripts make for a set of great monster movies that tell an emotional and sometimes bittersweet story.

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As Hellboy’s bright-red mug has been showing up on store shelves since 1993, trying to pick a jumping-off point to begin reading the comics can be rather daunting.  Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent one-shot comics featuring this loveable demon.  So what better place to dive into this world of supernatural creatures than a haunted circus?

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Appropriately released in October 2013, The Midnight Circus tells the story of a young Hellboy who decides to run away from his home at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.  On that fateful night, the little devil encounters a circus of wonders that runs from the dangerous hour of midnight until the fearful crack of dawn.  What follows is a tale of ghosts and demons, monsters and men, and a loving surrogate father, desperately searching for his lost little boy.  If you are looking for a gorgeous comic in the vein of Pinocchio and Something Wicked This Way Comes, please check out The Midnight Circus.

Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers by Zac Gorman

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My third choice for this list of great October comics might seem biased; I have certainly professed my adoration for Costume Quest and Zac Gorman in the past.  But rest assured, you don’t need a history with Double Fine or Magical Game Time to enjoy Invasion of the Candy Snatchers.

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Instead of following the exploits of children on Halloween, this comic’s protagonists are three adolescent Grubbins from the ghoulish world of Repugia.  Pint-sized Klem has hatched a plan to bring sweets from the human world back to his candy-starved homeland in an effort to impress a girl and break the shackles of dorkiness.  But Klem and his friends find that there are bullies at every turn, both human and Grubbin alike!  A colorful adventure filled with candy, costumes, and a little bit of courage await Klem, Sellie, and Brolo on Halloween Night.

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Invasion of the Candy Snatchers is filled with humorous and heartfelt moments that will resonate with trick-or-treaters current and retired.  Neighborhood Halloween parties, the many tones of orange decorating the world, even the menace of older youths who want to take kids’ candy; all of these bits show up in Costume Quest.  Zac Gorman’s cartoon-styled artwork suits the story quite well, with plenty of expressive faces and fun character designs.  For this Halloween, there is no comic I would recommend more than Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers.  Pick it up will ya!

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Catching Some Spooky Pokemon

Since the early days of Pokémon Red and Blue, Nintendo has been gifting limited edition monsters to players via store events and online distribution.  How fortunate for fans of ghost-types that this October features not one, but two spooky Pokémon up for grabs!

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A fresh face to the ghoulish team, Pumpkaboo is an adorable ghost- and grass-type Pokémon that embodies the haunting holiday of Halloween.  From its Pokédex entries:

“The pumpkin body is inhabited by a spirit trapped in this world. As the sun sets, it becomes restless and active. It is said to carry wandering spirits to the place where they belong so they can move on.”

Gourgeist

This cute and creepy little monster is available as a Mystery Gift via the internet.  Simply boot up your 3DS with Pokémon X/Y and download the little gourd monster.  This super-sized Pumpkaboo comes preloaded with moves like Trick-or-Treat and Scary Face, and a simple trade allows it to evolve into the formidable Gourgeist! 

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The other ghost-type searching for a new home to haunt is my personal favorite, Gengar.  What makes this grinning ghoul even more enticing is its luster.  That’s right- this Gengar is a shiny Pokémon!  With a shard of Gengarite in its mitts, this monster will mega-evolve into a even more intimidating creature with a pallid coat of white.

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To receive this extra-special specter, hop on over to your local GameStop and ask for one of the free code cards to download the shiny Gengar and his mighty Gengarite.  But make sure you hurry- the code cards are only available until the 26th of October.  Happy Haunting!

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Spooky-Silly Poetry Contest: Week 3!

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The wild rumpus of October continues! The fantastic folks at United We Game have been running a Spooky Silly Poetry Contest, featuring all sorts of eerie prose inspired by horror games. There’s writing on Doom, Slender: The Arrival, Vampire The Masquerade, and even this piece I wrote about Zombie Revenge and its glorious voice-overs. So be sure to hop over to United We Game and check out all of the wonderfully wicked wordsmithing!

Originally posted on United We Game:

Image captured by Hatmonster

Our little contest is now firmly underway with three weeks to its name thus far! Just two more to go and then it will finally be time for us all to cast our votes and decide who shall be crowned the Spooky Champion of Silly Poetry! This week’s entry comes from Chip of Games I Made My Girlfriend Play and is titled: Vendetta . But first, a little intro from the poet themselves:

View original 517 more words

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Reviving the Living Dead: I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1

Lately, it seems like all of the proper scares have been popping up from independent studios.  Horror games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender: The Arrival make players quiver in fear more often than the triple-A offerings sitting on store shelves.  Without having major focus groups to please or sequel expectations to fulfill, smaller studios can more clearly represent the frightening concept or story they are trying to convey.

Similarly, if an independent studio wanted to make a relatively simple and fun game about friends eliminating hordes of zombies to a goofy theme song, then keeping other cooks out of the kitchen might be the best way to go.

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Officially titled as I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1, this delightful game debuted on the Xbox 360 in August 2009.  Sold for only a dollar through Xbox Live’s Indie Marketplace, this game let up to four players mow down legions of increasingly difficult and absurd zombies in a top-down, twin-stick shooter fashion.  The simple controls and gradual difficulty curve emulates the arcade games of old, where a player’s only goal is to survive and set a high score.  What sets this fun little gem apart is the glorious music that serves as a single-song soundtrack to the carnage.

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Instead of a chiptune background beat or a symphonic movie-style score, I Made a Game With Zombies In It features a roughly 14-minute hard rock journey from the developer himself.  The tempo of the song flows with the gameplay, featuring slower beats when the action cools and shreddin’ guitars when things get frantic.  Even the lyrics fit the on-screen onslaught, as they center around the game itself.  Right from the start, developer James Silva melodically welcomes you to his game and gives you basic instructions on how to play (zombies come shambling out from all si-aye-ides/you’d better shoot them, or you’re gonna die-aye-aye).  Since the game lasts as long as the song, the whole experience feels like some sort of awesome concert you have to fight your way through.

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Unlike the other two games in our zombie round-up, I Made a Game with Zombies In It is available for download on Xbox 360 and Windows phones, so there is no excuse to miss out.  The ease of play and frantic multiplayer fun make this game a welcome addition to any ghoulish gaming gathering.  So be sure to check this one out.  Besides, it only costs a dollar for you to play-aye-aye.

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Reviving the Living Dead: Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse

It’s a rare video game that will let you take control of a zombie.  Most of the time, players are limited to competitive shooters where it’s humans versus the undead (Go Team Zombie!) or in action games via a sort of temporary “extra life” as a shambling corpse(read: SO SLOW).  There have been a few games with undead protagonists like the mummy Chuck D. Head in DecapAttack or the ghoulish Polterguy in Haunting, but these examples are not really “zombie” games, strictly speaking.  You don’t exactly lead Polterguy to devour brains or guide Chuck to create a legion of creeping creatures.  That’s the sort of thing you leave to Stubbs the Zombie.

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Rebel Without a Pulse hit store shelves in 2005, during the appropriate month of October.  The titular Stubbs the Zombie was once Edward Stubblefield, a traveling salesman who met his untimely demise from a gunshot, courtesy of his gal Maggie’s father.  After collapsing in the woods in 1933, Stubbs is reanimated in 1959, at the grand opening of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania.  Angered at the venture capitalist who disturbed his eternal rest, Stubbs decides to hunt the wealthy playboy and cause quite a bit of carnage along the way.  What follows is a comedic and creepy quest through a sort of retro-future metropolis; the “city of tomorrow” that might have been seen in 1950s science fiction.

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Most of the game is spent trailing industrialist Andrew Monday through the city of Punchbowl.  As Stubbs, players can attack the citizens of Punchbowl, eating their brains and creating a group of zombie comrades that devour right alongside you.  Stubbs has some additional actions, most of which involve tearing off his own arm to beat enemies, activate switches, and take control of better-armed adversaries for some shooter options.  There were also plenty of vehicles to commandeer and drive recklessly through the perfectly polished pathways of Punchbowl.

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For my college self, the gameplay and visuals in Stubbs the Zombie felt like second nature, since the game was developed using the Halo engine.  As an avid Halo 2 junkie, the co-op campaign and Xbox controls made the transition from space marine to dopey zombie salesman rather seamless.  My friends and I would switch off between stages, playing as a pair of zombies on a mission of revenge (and eating tasty, tasty brains).  As we shambled through Punchbowl, a fantastic soundtrack of 50s and 60s era hits covered by modern alternative rock artists kept us bouncing in our seats.  The whole game was a delightful tribute to the goofy-spooky horror movies of the past.

Just like the previous title in our zombie game round-up, Stubbs the Zombie is a tough title to track down.  Our zombie friend was briefly ported to the Xbox 360 as an “Xbox Original” download, but the game was removed from the Marketplace in 2012.  There are still original Xbox, PC, and Mac hard copies floating around the internet, but an appropriately retro system is required to play any of these versions.  Since the developer, Wideload Games, was purchased and closed by Disney Interactive, it is unlikely that Stubbs will rise again on any modern offerings.

Even for the heady price that most of the original Xbox copies are calling for, Stubbs the Zombie is worth checking out.  It is a hilarious and gory co-op romp through a quirky science fiction setting.  There is a lot of fun to be had and brains to be eaten, so shamble forth with a friend and help Stubbs find his fate!

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Reviving the Living Dead: Zombie Revenge

Let’s play a little guessing game: I’ll rattle off a short plot description of a horror video game, and you the reader will try to come up with the title.  If you have a friend around, see who can name it first.  If you’re alone, just yell your guess at the computer screen and assume someone was around to hear it.  Here we go!

“A cataclysmic world event caused the dead to rise again.  In spite of the massive body count, a handful of survivors managed to keep themselves alive.  The player takes control of a grizzled and world-weary soul, who’s only motivation is to keep breathing and try to regain some bits of his/her life before the apocalypse.  While the undead could attack at any time, players will find that the real monsters are other humans.”

So, did you figure out the game I am talking about?  Me neither!  This brief plot intro could be one of a dozen video games on the market today.  Whether it’s the living dead, humans driven insane with rage, or some sort of parasitic creature, most zombie games have fallen into a rut.  Gameplay boils down to some sort of shooter with a brooding plot about managing to survive in a ruined world.  This type of game isn’t necessarily bad, but it takes a little digging to find a zombie game that stands out from the crowd.

This week, I want to highlight some video games featuring the world’s favorite shambling terrors that are unique and fun to play.  So let’s kick things off with Zombie Revenge.

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Originally released in 1999 in arcades and for the Sega Dreamcast, Zombie Revenge was a spin-off game from the beloved House of the Dead series.  Instead of the usual on-rails shooter gameplay, Zombie Revenge was a 3D beat ‘em up in the vein of Final Fight or Streets of Rage.  Players could select from three AMS agents (one of whom is a half-zombie martial artist) to eliminate a horde of zombies and take down the bioterrorist known as Zed.  These intrepid heroes would use the brawler trifecta of punches, kicks, and expendable weapons to take down enemies and bosses in an infested city.

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At the time of Zombie Revenge’s debut, my brother and I were already devoted players of House of the Dead 2.  We loved the campy horror movie stylings and the interesting boss designs.  To see this aesthetic brought over as a beat em’ up was pretty much our digital chocolate and peanut butter.  It was so much fun using spin kicks and bare-knuckle brawling to take down zombies, and the weapons ranged from practical to just plain absurd.  There was a variety of firearms (from pistols to flamethrowers), a handful of melee weapons (axes and lead pipes), and some silly bonus items.  There is ghoulish fun to be had by taking a comically large power drill and boring through hordes of colorful zombies.

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Fortunately, Sega made sure to port this arcade cult classic to the Dreamcast with some extra modes and options (including a VMU game of zombie fishing).  Unfortunately, this game has yet to be ported to any other system.  It seems like an obvious choice for a Sega Dreamcast bundle pack, but time and time again this schlocky horror game is overlooked for Sonic and his ilk.  Outside of a handful of cameos in tennis and racing games, Zombie Revenge has yet to claw its way back from 1999.  But if you are willing to seek out a Dreamcast (which you should), I would recommend Zombie Revenge as a must-have game for some zombie co-op fun.  Just be sure to share the power drill and guitar weapons with your friend; don’t be a greedy turtle.

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