Tag Archives: horror games

The Horror in Brevity

Many moons ago, reddit users were asked to come up with horror stories that are only two sentences long.  Many of the tales spawned from this request are quite creepy and leave a lingering unease, in spite of their length.  The most effective of these stories play on universal human fears and utilize the reader’s ability to extrapolate the narrative even further.  Due to their nature, these two-sentence musings provide few details as to the setting or the characters involved.  There is no time to explain or to build the surmounting terror; the reader is thrust into a story in motion at the climax of a bad situation.  As I read through these very short stories, I wondered: could a video game scare players under similar constraints?

When gamers make a list of the best survival horror titles, the featured games often have one trait in common: an atmosphere of dread.  From small towns infested with monsters to remote space stations that may not be as empty as they seem, these settings are crafted to put the player on edge.  So much work goes into the ambient sound and visuals of each area, so the player does not need a bulky narrative to explain why he/she should be frightened.

Despite this effort, the developers of such titles take the time to build a complex story.  The best of these games make use of both setting and story to create an engaging game, while the worst of them clutter a potentially chilling experience with unnecessary areas and exposition.  Across the board, these games follow the traditional three-part mold of a feature-length film.  It’s almost as if a horror game has to contain certain story elements and have a lengthy playtime to be a success.

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Enter Sepulchre; a point-and-click PC game from Owl Cave.  From the developers’ website: “It’s a game featuring horror, trains, and huge bags.  It should take most people around half an hour to play through.”  A perfect example of truth in advertising, Sepulchre took roughly forty minutes to complete, during which time I took control of a passenger on a train, eager for a bite to eat.  Like the two-sentence short stories, this game does not require much set-up to cause a sense of dread.  The lack of information, along with striking visuals and sound, created a foreboding atmosphere that lingered long after completion.  It seems a video game can incite fear under heavy constraints.

If you are looking for a short jaunt into an ominous world not so unlike your own, please check out Sepulchre.  Your time together may be brief, but the horror will last a lifetime.

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Digital Draughts: Resident Evil 4 with Flying Dog Brewery’s The Fear

On Saturdays through the month of October, we will be cross-posting the latest video game and beer pairings from Chip’s new blog, Digital Draughts!  Normally written on a semi-monthly basis, Digital Draughts will feature frightening and fantastic pairing posts through October as a treat for you, dear readers!

Please be sure to subscribe to Digital Draughts for future beer and video game pairings, and follow the related Instagram account for all of the pours and plays between the main posts!


There are times when I encounter a new experience and I can immediately tell that my attitude has been altered.  A previously undiscovered book becomes a new manifesto for my reading preferences, or the first taste of a new cuisine refines my palate.  But not all life-changing moments feel as though your status quo has totally shifted.  It can take years of additional experience before the proper perspective can settle for a particularly transformative incident.

When I first tried the components for today’s pairing, I enjoyed each of them at face value: the latest in a beloved survival horror series and a solid seasonal beer from an established craft brewery.  Now, with over 11 years since my first play and nearly 8 years since my first taste, I want to revisit these experiences with an updated perspective.

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My love for pumpkin-flavored treats is a well-documented psychosis.  From my first taste of pumpkin pie as a child, I was hooked on the taste of gourd and spices.  So it makes sense that I would enjoy the seasonal beers of autumn as an adult.  However, restrictive distribution routes limited my first pumpkin beer options to bland offerings from domestic beer companies.  It took a massive relocation to provide me with the opportunity to try a pumpkin brew with a some bite to it.

It was the label that first drew me to Flying Dog Brewery’s seasonal beer. Ralph Steadman’s surreal and terrifying artwork of a snarling canine beast loomed from the packaging.  The side of the bottle featured an equally aggressive piece of copy; daring the drinker to, “learn to embrace THE FEAR that consumes you.”  I heeded their advice and took the challenge of this imperial pumpkin ale.

At the time, The Fear was unlike anything I had ever drank.  Instead of a sub par beer with cloying allspice/cinnamon flavor, I was treated to a hearty ale with intense flavors of ginger and baked pumpkin.  The Fear set a new standard for pumpkin beers, which I was surprised to be met so quickly by other delicious seasonal craft offerings.  With so many other interesting autumn brews on the shelf, my dance card became quite full, leaving little room for The Fear in the years to follow.  But I made sure to clear a recent evening to check in with the brew that started my journey down the dark path of pumpkin beers.

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The Fear pours cola brown framed with a red-orange hue and topped with a fizzy toasted marshmallow head. The spices used in this brew are at the forefront of the aroma, as a strong nose of ginger and nutmeg lead into mild notes of baked pumpkin with a dash of cinnamon.  The ginger continues to lead with a tangy bite at first sip.  This kick of spice quickly dissipates into a pumpkin bread body with a toasty finish and a hint of dark chocolate. As The Fear is an imperial ale, the piquant bite of 9.0% ABV is present, but well-balanced against the pumpkin pie flavor.

After sampling dozens of autumn brews over the years, I am pleasantly surprised to find The Fear stands out from the crowd.  Its strong ginger flavor and roasted pumpkin notes are still delicious and unique.  With a glass of this striking beer by my side, I was ready to hook up the GameCube and take on the mission to save the President’s daughter once again.

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Resident Evil 4 hit store shelves during the latter half of my junior year at college.  Around that time, I had found my gaming tribe at school and we were all eager for the latest in our preferred survival horror series.  Even though each of us had pre-ordered our own copy of the game, we all gathered at a single apartment to watch the game unfold.  Across multiple televisions in a single room, we each began our journey as Leon Kennedy.

Despite playing as a protagonist from a previous entry in the series, this game did not feel like the Resident Evil to which we were accustomed.  Instead of the foreboding hallways of a derelict mansion or the oppressive destruction of a city under siege, Resident Evil 4 dropped us in the wide open villages of rural Spain.  Gone were the mindless zombie enemies, replaced by mad villagers who could utilize weapons and actually dodge our attacks.  Even the core gameplay was changed; placing the camera over Leon’s shoulder and increasing the options within the combat mechanics.  The whole experience felt more like an action movie than a suspenseful thriller, which turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.

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I fell hard for Resident Evil 4.  I loved the increased action and expanded verb set, but also appreciated that the tension remained throughout the experience.  Even though Leon was a well-trained government agent, he was still regularly challenged by the maniac hordes of the Los Illuminados cult.  In addition to the main storyline, there were extra gameplay modes that kept me in great competition with my friends.  We regularly tried to compete for better scores in the Mercenaries survival mode and all of us raced to collect the tiny virtual figurines offered at the Shooting Gallery.  We played through the story again and again, trying to find every collectible, upgrade each weapon, and generally speed through the game with greater ease.

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Resident Evil 4 was a great game to discover and play with friends by my side.  But once I left college, I rarely found the time to replay this game that I had so enjoyed.  I dabbled with the sequels that followed, but there were so many other survival horror games spilling onto the market that I wanted to try.  To further complicate matters, there was a distinct split in the survival horror genre following Resident Evil 4.  Some games leaned into the action elements, forgoing any sort of suspense and subtlety and focusing on mowing down horrific monsters with bigger and bigger guns.  The other side of this coin gave up on empowering the player; purposefully placing you in terrifying situations with little resources or hope of surviving.

As it turned out, I started preferring the more cerebral and suspenseful horror games, which pulled me further away from the series that started me on this path.  So I was very curious to see how my feelings had changed towards Resident Evil 4 after playing so many other titles within the genre.

Right from the start I noticed one thing had changed drastically since the last time I played Resident Evil 4: my skill level.  I am downright terrible at this game.  I struggled to make well-aimed shots at my enemies, often wasting piles of bullets and dying repeatedly to basic scrubs that were previously no problem.  Despite this refreshed difficulty, I am still enjoying the tension provided by the combat.  Every encounter with basic enemies is a challenge to effectively eliminate targets while avoiding being overrun.  It’s a balance that remains impressive even years later.

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The visuals and sound design are equally stunning, in spite of their age.  The expressive character models and amazing lighting still look good, even when upscaled from the GameCube’s A/V output.  The story and voice acting have not aged as gracefully, with some truly hammy lines popping up time and time again.  The main villain of the game sounds like a discount-store Dracula impersonator, and some of our lovable ally’s dialogue has only become more uncomfortable over time (“I see the President has equipped his daughter with ballistics, too”).

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Quick-time events continue to be a massive frustration, often creating easy-to-fail scenarios that contribute nothing worthwhile to the game.  I was surprised how little I enjoyed the boss encounters when playing again.  Instead of feeling like clever puzzles or strategic battles, fighting major enemies felt like obnoxious bullfights; running around a tight arena and unloading massive amounts of ammo in lumbering meat walls. Alternatively, my love of the item management system has only become more acute; every moment spent arranging ammo and recovery items in that briefcase felt like a delightful little puzzle game break.

Overall, Resident Evil 4 doesn’t hold the same sense of wonder from the idyllic days of playing with my friends in college.  I no longer have the time to invest in this massive game and its many additional modes.  However, playing Resident Evil 4 after so many other lackluster survival horror titles makes me further appreciate what an impact it had on my personal taste and video games as a whole.  This game became my benchmark for quality of design and the joy of play in the survival horror genre.  I am pleased to find that Resident Evil 4 remains as that standard even after so much time has passed.  Minor complaints aside, I still recommend Resident Evil 4 for anyone looking for a great action title or survival horror game, which pairs very well with the spicy bite and tasty pumpkin notes of The Fear.

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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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GIMMGP Pumpkins Return In: Anger of the Gourds

On the very first year of this blog, Chip and Laura compiled a list of pumpkins that appear in video games.  Keeping in the tradition of so many horror movie franchises, GIMMGP has decided to release a remastered post, now with 30% more spooky squash!  We hope you enjoy this gathering of gourds in gaming.

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We can start with the NES oddity, Monster Party!  In the first level of the game, our hero Mark comes across a pumpkin-headed ghost who spits smaller pumpkins from its mouth.  Even more odd is the fact that this boss was originally an ape-man riding on horseback.  Since it was a bit risky to feature such a blatant parody of Planet of the Apes, the simian rider was replaced with a pumpkin ghost.  You can read all about the various changes to Monster Party at The Cutting Room Floor.

SMLPumpkinZoneSuper Mario Land 2 featured good ol’ Mario traveling to six different worlds to retrieve coins which will open a door to the palace where his Princess Daisy is being held.  One of these areas is the Pumpkin Zone, which is filled with spirits, slashers, and a wicked witch as the final boss.

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Thanks to the efforts of Disney and Hot Topic, The Nightmare Before Christmas saw quite a revival during the early 2000s.  Along with piles of other merchandise flooding stores, a pair of video games was released in 2005.  While there were plenty of pumpkin decorations and sprites in the Game Boy Advance title, it was the PlayStation 2/Xbox game The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge that allowed players to take control of The Pumpkin King.  Developed by Capcom, this game featured combat similar to Devil May Cry, where players could switch between different forms for Jack Skellington: Santa Jack (who battles with booby-trap presents) and The Pumpkin King (who sets his foes aflame with lantern magic).

MM7PumpkinEven robot pumpkins exist!  A mid-boss in Mega Man 7, this cyber-pumpkin (adorably known as Van Pookin) has three gourd-geous layers that protect a tiny seed-spitting pumpkin robot core.  A fun secret in this level, if you only shoot the eyes on the outside of the pumpkin, he will bust through the floor, allowing Mega Man to face his brother, Proto Man.

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Mega Man isn’t the only robot fighting mechanical pumpkins.  The 1993 arcade game Ninja Baseball Bat Man features a variety of odd robot ninjas, including some pumpkin-headed foes.  Although this game was extremely popular in Japan during its initial release, Ninja Baseball Bat Man had a rather limited run in North America.  Since then, this strange and wonderful beat ’em up has become a cult hit in emulation circles.

OgreBattlePumpkinOgre Battle was an interesting strategy game for the Super Nintendo.  One of the bosses you fought was the witch Deneb, who commanded pumpkin-men to do her bidding.  After defeating her, Deneb would offer to join your party, providing you with the ability to produce pumpkin soldiers who would gladly throw their gourds at your command.

FFIXPumpkinA bit of a tribute to the attack of the pumpkin-men from Ogre Battle, Quina, the blue mage/weird clown maid in Final Fantasy IX, could learn the attack Pumpkin Head.  This attack was rather strong, but very risky, as the damage it would inflict was equal to the difference in your max health versus your current health.

PersonaPumpkinContinuing with the pumpkins in role-playing games theme, the developers over at Atlus have featured the character of Pyro Jack in several of their series.  This little spectre has shown up in the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games as an enemy who can be convinced to join your team as a fire-based familiar.  Pyro Jack also starred in his own title…

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Jack Brothers on the now (very) defunct Virtual Boy gaming system!  Three goblin brothers Jack Lantern, Jack Frost, and Jack Skelton had to conquer several puzzle based levels on Halloween Night.

SMPumpkinSilhouette Mirage was an obscure Sony PlayStation title from Treasure Games.  In this game, the heroine Shyna has to shoot her way through two equally dangerous races, the Silhouettes and Mirages, with the basic enemy for the Silhouettes being little green pumpkin men.  Like so many other Treasure titles, Silhouette Mirage is cute, fun, and deceptively difficult.

LoMPumpkinThere are several pumpkins to be had in the wonderful PlayStation action-RPG Legend of Mana!  One of the missions in the game culminates with a battle against an evil little doppleganger witch in an enchanted pumpkin patch.  A victory in this fight unlocks a new piece of produce to cultivate in your garden in the game: the Bumpkin!

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Even Link has faced his share of orange gourds.  The boss Pumpkin Head appeared in Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Color.  Link would have to knock his gourd off and then throw the pumpkin at the dungeon walls to smash this poor creature’s head.

ZeldaPumpkinNot all pumpkins in the Zelda series are sinister.  In Twilight Princess for the Wii, Link collects an Ordon Pumpkin as an ingredient for a very tasty looking pumpkin soup.  Be warned, this soup is prepared by a yeti, so expect some stray hairs in the broth.

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When Ness and Paula enter the cursed town of Threed, they are accosted by several spooky foes.  Violent ghosts, possessed dolls, and shambling zombies are all wandering the streets, looking for humans to terrorize.  Marching right along with these monsters is the Trick or Treat Kid, a maniacal little ghoul that will spit pumpkin seeds at our heroes, which deal a surprising amount of damage.

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Most of Castlevania’s entries into the world of the third dimension have been… lacking.  Castlevania: Lament of Innocence was forgettable, save for a hidden character that unlocked once you beat the game twice: Little Pumpkin!  An enchanted pumpkin toy who decided to join the fight against Dracula, this hero is seemingly harmless, yet…

LoIGrandPumpkinHe can unleash a super-powerful attack known as the Grand Pumpkin, where giant pumpkin spirits rise from the ground and destroy his enemies with seasonal magic.

LBPPumpkinLittle Big Planet is a great reason to own a PlayStation 3, as it provides hours of super fun co-op play.  One of Chip and Laura’s favorite things to do in this game is dress the little Sack Boy (and Girl!) in silly costumes.  Sure enough, a jack o’ lantern mask was provided for Halloween fun!

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When Street Fighter II released for home consoles in 1992, a glut of other fighting games soon followed.  Many of these games were pretty basic imitations of the Capcom classic, but there were some titles that stood out, such as Clay Fighter.  This goofy game featured digitized clay characters who were brought to life with the magic of stop motion photography.  The aesthetic of Clay Fighter was appropriately silly, featuring punny characters like the pumpkin ghost Ickybod Clay.

BanjoPumpkinMy friend Grant would be sad if I didn’t include the pumpkin transformation from Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64.  In the Mad Monster Mansion area, our hero Banjo the Bear is shrunk down into a pumpkin in order to sneak through the hedge maze and small corridors.  He even got to keep his little blue backpack, adorable!

Well, there you have it boils and ghouls!  A list of digital jack o’ lanterns to light your way back home on this Halloween weekend.  Be safe, have fun, and make sure to dress as your favorite video game characters!

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Resident Evil – Peace of Mind

The save rooms in Resident Evil cause a contradiction in player emotions.  On the one hand, these areas serve as a refuge from the monsters that would cause harm to protagonists Chris and Jill.  There is an unspoken rule that zombies cannot cross into these rooms, so the player has some time to collect their thoughts and plan ahead.  There is often ammunition or healing supplies located in the save rooms, as well as item boxes where one can stock up on necessary supplies.  A sort of calm exists in these spaces.

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However, Chris and Jill will eventually have to leave these peaceful zones in order to complete the game.  The momentary respite for the player is quickly replaced with the tension of preparing to depart.  It is very common to avoid killing any zombies in the mad dash to a save room, leaving these menacing creatures lurking just beyond the door.  Any tranquil thoughts have to be cleared away in order to psych yourself up for the next battle.

Aptly titled Peace of Mind, the theme for the save rooms in the first Resident Evil matches these conflicting emotions.

A soft string section tries to ease the player’s mind, while otherworldly tones instill a feeling of foreboding.  The music is just off-putting enough to keep folks from relaxing.

The save rooms and their related characteristics continued across most of the Resident Evil series, and each sequel included appropriate music to match.  A recent micro episode of Retronauts presents all of the save room themes in a seamless playback, providing listeners with a chance to hear the musical transition of this classic series in a single sitting.  Be sure to check it out, along with the other fantastic episodes of this retro-gaming podcast!

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Resident Evil 4 – Regenerator

There are moments in video games that inspire abject terror.  When your avatar is faced with a threat unlike anything they have dealt with before.  The conventional weapons that have served you faithfully over the course of the game have no effect on this new monster.  Your only hope is quick thinking and fast reflexes.  The music in the game shifts, to match the anxiety you feel when staring down a creature like the Regenerator.

When I first encountered the Regenerator, I was frightened.  Instead of the poor souls who were infected with a single Plaga parasite, these monsters were filled with several of the organisms, granting them near-immortality.  Every shot of my weapons was immediately healed, while the massive Regenerator staggered towards my character.  Then it hit me: I had seen this sort of threat before.

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In the video game Killer 7, the Heavens’ Smile terrorists used human hosts filled with radioactive tumors to become living bombs.  These Regenerators were no different.  I turned on an infrared scope, just like I would in Killer 7, and rapidly picked off the Plaga parasites within the host.  The seven-foot tall Regenerator was felled, just like so many Heavens’ Smile monsters before it.

Shinji Mikami, the director of Resident Evil 4, had also served as one of the writers for Killer 7.  It was this collaboration that must have inspired the Regenerator monsters in RE4, since they so closely resembled the Heavens’ Smile.  Composers Misao Senbongi and Shusaku Uchiyama crafted an appropriately oppressive theme to match the Regenerators to inspire great stress and anxiety in players who encountered these unfortunate souls.

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Splatterhouse – Evil Cross and Nightmare

In the past, I have talked about how the schlock and gore of Splatterhouse appealed to my high school self.  This game had all of the components an awkward horror nerd required: a setting heavily influenced by monster movies, side-scrolling beat ‘em up fun, and an eerie soundtrack full of gothic riffs.

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Composed by Katsuro Tajima and Yoshinori Kawamoto, the Splatterhouse soundtrack featured tracks with heavy metal titles like I Can Feel It in My Veins, I Will Find You, and Evil Cross and Nightmare.

Somewhere between horror movie track, heavy metal ballad, and baroque classic, Evil Cross and Nightmare is a fantastic song that takes much of its inspiration from Romantic composer Frédéric Chopin.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street – Elm Street

Even though David Wise is best known for his work on the Donkey Kong Country series, this fantastic composer has a massive body of music that predates Nintendo’s simian reboot.  While working at Rare, he wrote the soundtracks for classic games like Wizards & Warriors, R.C. Pro-Am, and Battletoads.  David Wise also created the music for many lesser-known licensed titles like Double Dare, Hollywood Squares, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

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Developed by Rare and published by LJN, A Nightmare on Elm Street was an odd game that tasked up to 4-players with collecting the bones of Freddy Krueger while trying to stay awake with the help of coffee and boomboxes.  The game was generally panned by players and critics, but at least some good music came from this frustrating title.

This track and many other songs from horror titles were featured in an episode of the Super Marcato Bros. Video Game Music Podcast.  A great show for fans of video games and their soundtracks, the Super Marcato Bros. (composers Karl and Will Brueggemann) discuss compositional and technical aspects of game music from all generations.  So far, they have recorded over 100 episodes covering a variety of games, composers, and genres.  They have even featured an exclusive interview with David Wise!

These brothers bring a positive demeanor, interesting analysis, and a great selection of music to every episode.  Definitely check this podcast out!

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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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