Why Gone Home Is A Horror Game (Spoilers)

/ by Thom Edwards

It seems that lately there has been increased focus on certain games regarding sexuality. Games like Mass Effect and The Last of Us have dealt with the subject in a way that handles it with grace and care, despite certain idiots giving the developers slack for it.

For all its faults, the gaming world does seem to be handling the idea of same sex relationships with a lot more grace than most news stations or religious organizations these days and I for one see this as another example of gaming’s ability to evolve. This article, written by Armi Dimaranan and published by Max Level, explores the hit indie game Gone Home and how it uses the theme of a same sex relationship to add a sense of desperation and horror to the game. The danger of the game is not based around killer monsters or zombies, it’s based around human intolerance towards those who are “different”. In the article, Armi looks at the subtexts in this game and how it comments on the worlds attitude towards same sex relationships during the 90′s. It’s a great read and I highly recommend you give it a read right HERE. All credit and massive respect goes to Max Level and the author, Armi Dimaranan.

Anna Review

/ by Toddziak

Anna Review

Publishers: Adventure’s Planet
Developers: Dreampainters
Release Date: July 15th, 2012
System: PC

Summer is usually a closed season for video games. You can count the big titles released in this period with the fingers of a lumberjack’s hand. But it doesn’t mean that absolutely nothing is happening now in the gaming world. Many smaller developers use precisely this time to promote and publish their titles, knowing they would probably be unfairly passed over among Triple-A productions. Dreampainters, an indie developer from Italy, used this strategy with Anna, a horror adventure game that aims to fill your pleasant evenings to the brim with disturbing frights. Does it succeed at scaring the living daylight (or nightlight) out of the gamer? Yes, at least to a certain degree, though you’ll be screaming here more often with frustration than with terror.

The beginning is very enigmatic. As an unseen and unidentified male protagonist we find ourselves in an idyllic location, facing an old sawmill on the verge of collapsing. We keep seeing this house in our dreams, knowing it’s somehow connected with the mysterious woman called Anna, so like every hero in the horror genre we bravely venture to explore it, instead of getting the hell out of there like any sane person should. Once we enter the building, it is however too late to bolt, since the door shuts down tight and we get trapped in a nightmare. We have no other choice but to ransack the premises and figure out what really happened here, grasping at straws and tidbits of the plot presented in the form of echoes from the past. The story is intriguing, even though excessively foggy. The good thing is you can make your own interpretations, but more clarity certainly wouldn’t go amiss.

Anna candles

Anna’s biggest advantage is its dense and eerie atmosphere. We feel imprisoned in a claustrophobic and dilapidated sawmill where a few flickering candles only highlight the pervasive sense of dread and not give us any feeling of safety. At first everything is relatively calm, peaceful and normal, but as we progress with the plot more and more weird and unsettling things happen. Ghosts begin to appear randomly behind our backs, cans start floating in the air and the floor suddenly becomes adorned with elongated hands sticking out of it. Even though we soon realise that nothing can really harm us in the game, it doesn’t change a thing when it comes to scares jumping right at your face – there’s no way that you won’t flinch or have a mini heart attack at least a few times while playing Anna.

However, not only fear can be the reason for some serious medical conditions. The same goes for the puzzles in the game that can easily give us a stroke and gastric ulcers. I’m not a newbie to the genre, but I can’t remember the last time when I saw conundrums that made so little sense. Not all of them fortunately, but the majority of tasks that await us are really illogical. After being stuck for around thirty minutes I finally consulted a walkthrough and my only reaction was loud “WHAT? Are you kidding me? No way, that’s gonna work!”. But it did. The fact that most of the time we don’t have a clear objective and just wander aimlessly around, poking various things, doesn’t really help. The game itself is rather short, but it feels really dragged and simply tiring when we have no clue what to do next and waste time walking repeatedly through the same rooms. What’s even worse, the hotspots are really hard to see. You have to point your cursor at the exact place or you’ll simply miss something of importance and then woe is you. It’s really annoying.

Anna hands

Speaking of annoying, the interface really stands in your way to enjoy the game. In order to open the inventory you have to press either middle mouse button or “I” key. Then you use the left mouse button to chose the option to pick the item up, you close inventory and finally you can try the object on the hotspot. And you have to repeat it over and over again, since to solve illogical puzzles you have to employ trial and error approach and literally use every possible item on every possible spot until you miraculously find the solution. Of course, don’t forget about the correct order of clicking things (A on B works but B on A not necessarily) and superhuman precision in doing so or else you’ll cry oceans of tears unable to overcame the irritation. Anna occasionally utilizes the same mechanism of manually opening the door or moving things around as Amnesia: The Dark Descent. But what worked excellently in Amnesia, deepening the immersion in the game. Here it is tedious due to the oversensitive mouse cursor. Anna really fails when it comes to gameplay.

At least in the graphics department Anna can shine. The outdoor location looks really amazing and very detailed, whereas the interior of the house doesn’t fall a lot behind. The lighting is especially impressive and adds a lot to the creepy atmosphere of the game. The haunting effects also tend to be creative and genuinely unsettling (the masks, ugh!). Music composed by the Italian band Chantry can be best described as “eerie” and brilliantly builds up the uncanny mood permeating throughout the entire game. It’s not the soundtrack from a run-of-the-mill horror game that attacks your eardrums with thuds and shrill noises. No, it’s much more subtle and atmospheric. Generally the whole musical setting is very good, including blood-curdling cracking of floors and the voices from the past. The actors did a really good job on them.

Anna stove

Anna is definitely not a perfect game and her faults are many. It’s unpolished, frustrating and illogical. Strangely enough, I still enjoyed playing it mainly due to a remarkable atmosphere and overall weirdness. Just treat Anna more as an experience rather than just another game to beat. And have an open walkthrough within reach. Then you’ll be just fine.

Pros and Cons – Anna

+ Great atmosphere
+ A few good scares
+ Good graphics and music

- Illogical puzzles
- Frustrating interface
- Hotspots hard to… spot

Anna exterior


Slender: First Impression

slender feature
/ by Alex Balderas

Oh Slender. I played it only once: I lost the game after only some 10 minutes of exploration, and now I sit here, erratically mashing the keyboard with my quaking hands.

Let me explain the goal of the game: you must find the 8 pieces of paper. The challenge: avoid the Slender Man.

Slender Man

Let me brief you on that one: the Slender Man is a modern mythological creature of folklore, much like the Chupacabra. The whole thing is actually really silly, and the Slender Man himself looks almost pathetic under analysis, but that’s not what the game is about.

Slender is about not seeing the Slender Man. You walk through a Forest, looking for 8 shiny pieces of paper, each with a cryptic message of doom. You try to conserve your stamina and your flashlight’s battery while also trying to find your way, and you are constantly turning around because of the noises, but all you ever see is a bunch of trees everywhere, and of course you feel lost because of so much twisting and turning, and suddenly you spot a landmark of sorts, so obviously there’s something of interest there, so you don’t really want to but you approach it and find some paper that says “IT FOLLOWS”. You grab it, and look around to see nothing around you, so you keep going, and you hear real noises this time, and you think you saw him but that was just some swaying grass, and you find another landmark, some building, and you reach around it, and you find another paper: “IT ALWAYS WATCHES, BUT IT HAS NO EYES”. You hear more noises now, so you walk away quickly, try to get your bearings, but you still see nothing, and you know this shouldn’t be scary but it is, and you spot another landmark when YOU HEAR A BLEEP AND STATIC AND YOU TWITCH AND HE’S THERE SO NOW YOU RUN

Then you get ahold of your self, and you turn around and there’s nothing there anymore. You turn again to find that there’s still nothing around you. So you walk a little bit and point your flashlight to the side and OH GOD THERE HE IS AGAIN, but you don’t think he saw you so you turn right round and walk, but you think he’s still following so you look again and he’s nowhere anymore.

Then he is right there when you turn back.

There is no falling into predictability with this game; the Slender Man always watches. There is no technique to win, no preferred tactic to run away. You think if you give him your back he’ll never catch up with you? He’ll just pop in at your side. You think you just need to turn off the flashlight? When you turn it back on you’ll be surprised. You think he only moves when you look away from him for a long time? He doesn’t care, he’ll just “jump” straight into you the moment you look away. Or not. He doesn’t care, he’ll do what he wants, and he’ll kill you when he wants to.

The worst part is that you never see the Slender Man move – he might as well be a scarecrow.

Let me talk about game mechanics: I’m not even going to talk about game mechanics. There’s just nothing to say; grab the 8 sheets of paper, and don’t die. You walk with ASDW and you run with SHIFT. That’s all.

So surely there is some depth to this game, right? Some bars to fill up, some inherent mechanic fun to it, some achievements to unlock? Some doors to open, some platforms to jump on, some clues to be found? Nope, there is none of that. There is no “game” to this game at all. It’s less like Silent Hill or Amnesia and more like Woody Allen’s orgasmatron, except your body fluids will come out the wrong end. So why play it then? Why not just go to a haunted mansion instead?

Because this is the “new” haunted mansion. This is what all the kids are talking about, the cool new thing everyone has to experience. It’s the new crazy ride at Six Flags, and everyone should try it (after all, it’s free).

And when you try it, please record yourself.