Tag Archives: Horror

Anchorhead

Author: Michael Gentry
Year: 1998
Development System: Inform
Cruelty Rating: Cruel
Length of Play: 5-10 hours

My Rating: 10

Awards: Best Setting — 1998 XYZZY Awards

My introduction to H.P. Lovecraft, and frankly, well-written horror, Anchorhead remains one of my favorite games ever made twenty years later. While the free version stands on its own, the 20th anniversary edition is well worth the ten dollar price tag on Steam if you liked the original or are a fan of thriller/horror games.

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Pleurghburg: Dark Ages

Pleurghburg: Dark Ages DOS Title screen, start menu

Publisher: GASPOP Software
Developer: GASPOP Software
Year: 2001
Platform: DOS; Windows

If you’re a Sierra fan who ever wondered what it would be like to combine elements from Police Quest and Manhunter, then you’re decidedly an odd duck. But you’re also in luck, as Pleurghburg (pronunciation: fuck if I know): Dark Ages does just that, providing a tense, gory, exciting adventure.

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Enclosure

Enclosure Windows Title screen

Developer: Femo Duo Entertainment
Publisher: Femo Duo Entertainment
Year: 2004
Platform: Windows

There exists a game development tool that allows one to create adventure games in Sierra’s AGI system, responsible for their first three King’s Quest games as well as most of their adventures prior to 1989. Most of the games that were made were very amateurish, and even the ones I’ve enjoyed are hardly worthy of review. Enclosure is the exception, an engrossing horror adventure worthy of play by anyone who enjoyed adventure games in the 80’s.

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Scratches

Scratches Windows Front Cover

Publisher: Got Game Entertainment
Developer: Nucleosys
Year: 2006
Platform: Windows

Horror is my favorite fictional medium, and I think there’s a simple reason why. I have virtually nothing in my wonderful life to fear, and thus it is an emotion I rarely feel. Additionally, it is an adrenaline-inducing intense feeling with the security of fiction laced around it, making it very attractive. And when I mention horror, I refer to the suspense of the unknown, not hack’n’slash gore. True horror allows the imagination to create feelings of terror. Bad horror has a cat jump out of the cupboard, coupled with disproportionately loud noises, jarring the senses.

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45: The Dark Eye

Publisher: Expert Software
Developer: Inscape
Year: 1995
Platform: Windows, Macintosh

Review: If I scored games on originality, The Dark Eye would probably have the highest score. One of the few adventures that has no inventory, the player weaves through three Edgar Allen Poe stories, as well as one original, haunting tale in true Poe fashion.

The game begins with you arriving at your eccentric uncle’s mansion, simply on a trip to visit him, your brother, and your cousin. You learn quickly that your uncle disapproves of the relationship between your brother and cousin and a plot begins to develop, growing darker at every turn. However, to advance the plot you must enter the world of Poe’s stories.  The three works you explore are The Tell-Tale HeartThe Cask Of Amontillado, and Berenice. You get to complete each story playing both the victim, and the victimizer, unable to change the course of the original story. The farther you advance, the more of the plot you see, until the last story is finished where the game’s end is revealed.

The characters are strictly claymation, in both the real world and in Poe’s stories. At first this may seem like a turn-off, but the brilliant acting (especially by William Burroughs) combined with the dark, ominous setting draws the player into their world. The only drawback in this department is character movement, which is very blocky and poorly rendered (perhaps intentionally, but not to my taste).

However, despite being an interactive story without puzzles, the gameplay mangles some of the tension. To trigger advancement in the story, one must click on various objects on the screen, which will trigger events or, at times, memories or voices. Many times this whittles down to a monotonous exercise in guess-and-check, creating more frustration than tension. Additionally, it is often difficult to discern what direction you are heading. There is at least one time during the game where I kept turning around in circles, pleading for an exit before I was felled by carpal tunnel.

Though the game can be played without having read any of Poe’s stories, I’ll guess that it is more enjoyable if one knows the material heading in. The story and the motivations of each character should make a little more sense. There’s also the foreknowledge of the tragic end, which being forced to endure satisfies any internal sadistic tendencies one may have.

Of course, if you don’t like Poe, you probably won’t enjoy this game. For those who do, I strongly suggest playing this fascinating, if imperfect, campaign. And while I found the final Easter egg to be overlong and dull, those who win the game get to hear Burroughs do a reading of Poe’s The Masque of Red Death.

Contemporary RatingMedium. What is essentially an interactive movie is not made intuitive, which is amazing when you think about it.

Cruelty Rating:  Merciful.  You can’t win the game unless you die!