horror video games

[Review] Alan Wake Was My Disturbing Boyfriend (Xbox 360)

Confession time.

I have been happily married for years to a wonderful guy. But, for the better part of one month, I was obsessed with a different guy.  His name was Alan Wake, and I was enraptured by the man, the myth, THE GAME for most of February 2012, and as long ago as that was, I have to say the memory of that game stays with me to this day.

The first time I saw any part of Alan Wake I was standing in an EB Games waiting for my hubs to decide what current offering he was going to buy, when one of their TVs started playing the trailer to Alan Wake. I was instantly taken in. It had a few criteria I was interested in – it looked realistic, dark, and appeared to have an intriguing story behind it. But above all, it looked scary.

I had some experience with scary games – Shiver: the Vanishing Hitchhiker (of course), Silent Hill: Shattered Memories for the PSP, and the Walking Dead game on the XBox 360 come to mind. I had sweat through those games and made it to the credits unscathed. So, I thought, I could take on Alan Wake on the 360.

Alan Wake tells the story of a writer of thriller fiction whose wife goes missing while they are on vacation in rural Washington State. As he searches for his wife, he finds himself in a nightmare of sorts, where he is living in the plot of one of his scary books, but one he doesn’t remember writing. Armed with a flashlight, he ventures into the darkness of the forest looking for his wife, fighting enemies (also called ‘the Taken’), evil ravens and possessed inanimate objects. The light is the one thing that protects you from enemies, so you are searching relentlessly for batteries for your flashlight, some flashbangs, a spotlight or streetlight to save you from the evil (and to get to a safe point). Guns also help you to attack your enemies.

I found ‘the Taken’ scary as heck, and I think that is what freaked me out the most about Alan Wake. My nightmares often have scary dark figures chasing me, so imagine being surrounded by dark shadowy figures that wield axes or sickles at you, and yell odd things that scare the crap out of you. Thanks to a decent 5.1 stereo system, I got to hear ‘the Taken’ in all their angry surround-sound glory (you can listen to them here, if you don’t care about spoilers). Partner this with a misty dirt path through the forest in darkness, and you have the makings of a horror game.

Speaking of, the scenery in Alan Wake is truly breathtaking. You can tell the developers took five years to make this game. No detail was overlooked, nor overworked.

The final screen! I had to take a picture!

The final screen! I had to take a picture!

Alan Wake made me keep the lights on when I played it. My hands shook in petrification. I was even dreaming of the game in my sleep. At one point I said to the hubs that I thought I’d have to put the game down for awhile. The further I went into the game though, the more I wanted to see how the story ended. I would then find the courage to carry on and fight some more Taken. And I am glad I did – Alan Wake is one of my all-time favourite scary games.

Also read: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Alan Wake
Developer: Remedy Entertainment / Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Released: May 2010 (North America, Xbox 360)

This blog was originally posted in June 2013 – but because of my recent appearance on the Retro Fandango podcast where I proclaimed this game as my favourite, I spit-shone’er and made it new to you. Hope you enjoyed!

[Review] Miasmata (PC): Mia Gotta Motion Sickness

Bleh.

Miasmata, a creation by brothers, Joe and Bob Johnson, is a survival horror game that has you play as Robert Hughes, a scientist who has been exiled to a forested island. He doesn’t know how he got there and he has a mysterious plague. He wakes up with dried blood on his hands. His task is to figure out the mystery of why he is there, what happened on this island, and collect plants and fungi so he can create a cure, all without dying…from this illness, of course…but also from something evil lurking on this island… watching Robert…waiting for the right moment…

The good: Intriguing storyline, gorgeous scenery.

The bad: The gameplay made me sick.

You see things from Robert’s perspective and lead him around the island, collecting clues to figure out what happened. Time is an avenger here; to that end, you are given a watch to keep track of your time. You get to experience daytime, nightfall, thunderstorms and sunshine. You are also given a compass, and there is a rudimentary map at your disposal, but you are also made to mark it up using landmarks. I never did quite figure this piece out, so I was a bit lost a lot of the time.

(www.quickmeme.com)

Besides finding a cure so you don’t die, you are made to locate water to drink and shelter so you can sleep. There are various abandoned shelters on the island, each with a pitcher of water that you can use to drink from and fill your canteen. Some also have cots to sleep on (doubling as a safe point in the game). Others have microscopes, specimen trays and a distillery to make vaccines. Your health is important in this game. You get dehydrated, you die. You swim too long in the lake, you drown. You fall down a steep hill, you can get a fever and die. This is where cots are important. When things like a fall happen and you find a cot quickly, you can rest up and be ready for your next adventure in no time.

You have access to the entire island, and the scenery is breath-taking. You truly feel like you’ve been dropped somewhere in Algonquin Park.

(Photo: s19.postimg.org)

Except, some aspects of the gameplay itself left a lot to be desired or simply didn’t make any sense. For starters, there was food on the island, but Robert never got hungry for any of it. You are given bananas, access to a knife and rabbits and squirrels nearby, but you don’t kill any of them.

Then Robert finds very shocking dead things and instead of a cut scene associated with them – “ho-hum” – he casually steps over said dead things like roadkill. No reactions, no cut scenes, no writing it down in the journal – nothing! Bizarre!

Um, yeah don’t mind the guy lying prostrate with a knife in his back…nothing to see here…(photo:tap.repeatedly.com)

Miasmata uses a keyboard (SAWD and Esc keys) and mouse to move around. Although the game looks good, I didn’t find the maneuvering was all that smooth. In fact, moving my character forward was stiff, yet if I twitched my mouse just a little, the camera would swirl me around dizzily and I’d lose my orientation (this is with adjustments to sensitivity made in the game settings). As a result of this effect alone I developed a bad headache, coupled with nausea. I am not often prone to motion sickness, but it surfaced this time. Maybe because there was no on-screen cross-hair to look at and follow? I don’t know why, but I felt terrible playing this.

After over two hours of Miasmata, I had to walk away for good, And that’s where the story ends with Miasmata and me.This game has potential, and is probably a great story in the long run. But, I am passing on it for how it made me feel physically.

7/10 (The good bits were good, but lost points for the game mechanics)

Miasmata (PC)
Publisher: IonFx
Released: 2012