Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Monday, October 22, 2012

Side by Side, Deep Sleep, Mastermind: World Conqueror

This entry has been sitting in backlog for, like, two weeks! Go figure. Perhaps I was subconsciously saving one of the best horror-themed browser games for Halloween, yet laziness won out.

Side by Side


Mammoths need love too, and these two lovely beasts are trying SO HARD to reach one another's world. I'm not sure what THAT'S all about, but it's up to you to unite them through a series of puzzles. The controls are a bit tricky at first, and the map screen looks a liiiiiittle cluttered, but overall I think it's worth playing.

Deep Sleep


You're asleep. You've got to wake up. WAKE UP. Deep Sleep is a genuinely creepy game, with crazy sounds, a bizarre atmosphere that would make most survival horror games proud, and an... interesting... story. A point-and-click adventure that'll probably freak you out, even if it's just a little bit. Play it at night, with the sound cranked, for maximum potency. (Damn, shoulda saved this for Halloween.)

Mastermind: World Conqueror


You are MASTERMIND. You must rule the WORLD. Resource management and static tower defense, that's World Conqueror. This is a deep, robust game that's likely to last a hell of a lot longer than your average browser experience, and more than fun enough to warrant the time spent. Huzzah for sacrificing patsies and robbing gas stations!

All done! Next on Browser Rousers: who knows, I have no more backlogged posts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rymden, Shadow Tag, Just A Cell

Today's three games are so wildly different from one another that the theme is difference. Yes, that's it. Difference.

Rymden


Perhaps the strangest space shooter I've ever played, Rymden is unabashedly Swedish. Pilot your crazy ship through increasingly difficult waves of space enemies, firing off special weapons and beating down bosses as you go. The game is littered with references to Sweden throughout, and, to people from North America (hi!), is probably impenetrably bizarre. Fun bizarre, but bizarre. A bit repetitive, but, frankly, that's what the creator was going for. Mission accomplished.

Shadow Tag


The simple act of going from your house to your car should not be anywhere as creepy as this. Shadow Tag has you navigating hedge mazes in the night, pursued by weird little children who 'only want to play with you'. Your only ally is your flashlight, and even it will go out after a while. Though not out-and-out scary, Shadow Tag IS quite unnerving - you're not fast, the children are annoyingly good at following you through the maze, and they'll talk to you while they hunt. Fuuuuuucked uuuuuuup. (And fantastic.)

Just A Cell


Eat. Evolve. Survive. Rhyme. These four things are important to a successful game of Just A Cell. Starting off as a single-cell organism you eat other creatures and steadily build your way up to the top of the food chain. A fun game, but two pieces of advice: a.) Stay away from the walls, you'll get killed by bigger creatures if you sit there blindly; and b.) DO NOT PLAY THIS IF YOU SUFFER FROM EPILEPSY. Seriously. There are a lot of flashing colours when you om another creature, especially in the later levels.

Next up: an entry I've been saving for close to two weeks, now, because I keep finding other games I want to review. Until then!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Infectonator 2, WorldBox 2, Endless War 6

Infectonator 2


I've been waiting for an Infectonator sequel for a while, now, and I was more than pleased with the results. Your goal is still the same: eliminate the world with a horrifying zombie virus. The scope of the game has increased dramatically, however, with TONS more levels, a lot of upgrades, much-improved graphics, and a better sense of humour. There's almost no point in playing the original Infectonator anymore, as number two is better in virtually every way.

WorldBox


WorldBox isn't so much a game as it is a simple simulator. You have a world, you can build more of a world. Or take it away. Or other stuff. This is basically a very limited version of a Sim game with few consequences if you lose. It's not that great, but it appears to be a base for something a hell of a lot better, and I look forward to whatever it might create in the future.

Endless War 6


You are tank. You blow shit up. That about does it for Endless War 6, like the previous games. There is OTHER stuff to consider, of course, but it boils down to mashing your opponents. I haven't played the previous games in the series, but I like this one, if for no other reason, for the fact that you get to drive alongside a bunch of other troops. You're part of a coordinated whole, and that's pretty cool.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rot Gut, Days of Blood, Dude and Zombies

Ever feel like drawing some blood? You probably shouldn't, not in real life, but that's what video games are for. Playing out those epic fantasies that would get us arrested. Prepare for a triple dose of brutality in today's recommendations!



Woefully few browser games sport a film noir tone, and that may be because the rest were waiting for Rot Gut to show 'em how it's done. Featuring a 1920s prohibition-style story of murder and intrigue, Rot Gut is a hop-and-bop, shoot-em-up style game that brings back fond memories of the NES and SNES. The controls are great, the weapons a lot of fun, and it's just challenging enough to enjoy without tearing your hair out. Also, tiny cigarette being the only source of colour is a great idea.

Days of Blood


Evil cultists need a virgin sacrifice to power their dark magicks, and you're just the knight to make sure that doesn't happen. (Would be nice to see an inversion of this tired trope and have a FEMALE knight rescue a MALE virgin, but, oh well.) Lotsa back and forth killing, here, while you protect the poor woman from stabby cultists. A bit repetitive, and unforgiving in its timing (get it EXACTLY RIGHT each time or you dieeeeee), but still fun.

Dude and Zombies



Today's first two games were pretty damned bloody; seemed only right to make it a triumvirate and play a game about zombies. Your car has broken down in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, and you need to put it back together before the zombie hordes overwhelm you. Blast their heads off with a variety of guns while fixing your car. Good, upgradeable fun, though once you have a fully automatic machine gun of the highest calibre, it's pretty easy.

Next week: perhaps some cuddly games. Yes?

Friday, September 14, 2012

EsPoir, HUEBRIX, I'd Change The World For You, Kitty Punch

Right! Two in a row, off to a good start... we begin today with a little horror game that reminds me very much of a slew of Capcom titles, mainly because it nicks much of its audio from said games. Yay EsPoir!

EsPoir

Survival horror ain't nothing new to gaming, but I'm not sure that I've ever played one in a retro style before. In comes EsPoir, a side-scrolling escape game where your one goal is to flee from a horrifying abomination. Because it's a survival horror game, EsPoir's background is shrouded in darkness, and you're forced to remember the pitfalls every time you die. Short, difficult, fairly fun - though I'm not sure the Mega Man sound effects fit, y'know?

HUEBRIX


Puzzler! Easy enough concept. Stretch your coloured bricks across allllllll the white spaces. Each colour can only accomodate so many squares, though, and little special features throughout each stage will complicate your path. Starts out pretty easy, gets damned challenging by the end - I'm stumped at level 24.

I'd Change The World For You


Would you change it for me? Hope so - being stuck in that tiny container would drive me to suicide. Fairly simple platformer: move around a contained maze thing and manipulate the world's shape by pressing switches until you can free your loved one. If you get stuck, hit R to go back in time and change the way you did things. Won't take long to beat, but it's still fun. You may have to play on the designer's website rather than Newgrounds to prevent rampant lag.

Kitty Punch


Just... just play it... I'd have no idea where to begin on describing this fantastic monstrosity...

All done! See ya on Monday, folks.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Pestilence Z

I've been waiting, for a long time, for a good zombie-based RPG to come out. Zombie games are typically shooters or survival horror deals - for obvious reasons - and the genre could use some branching.

As far as I can remember, Pestilence Z is the first zombie RPG I've ever played. (Feel free to argue that if you've read the archives. I honestly can't remember.) First GOOD one? Ehhh... that's debatable. Pestilence Z ain't bad, but it could use some work.


Concept

Pestilence Z is like any zombie movie. You're a survivor in the midst of a zombie outbreak. Time to   escape your home and fight your way through massive mobs of the undead. There's a bit of a plot involved, mainly in getting to the home of a doctor who may be linked to the outbreak (read: probably), but for the most part it's an out-and-out survival-fest.

One with surprisingly high numbers of zombie fatalities. Run away? Meh. You're a one-man-woman-whatever wrecking machine.

As the screencap above hints, you can choose to be one of three people: a sexy nurse, a high school jock, or an army vet. (I, naturally, chose the nurse.) Each has different starting stats, skill progressions and specialties, and each appears differently in cut scenes. Consequently, each play through IS a fair bit different from the last, though the main goal is, as always, to blow the shite out of zombies.

And how do you do that? Via turn-based, strategic combat. The game is laid out in a series of grids, allowing you to move only a few spaces each turn before the zombies get to move. Once you get caught in battle with zombies (which can be done from a distance or at close range), you duke it out in long- or short-ranged combat with a variety of weapons. As is typical with RPGs, new weapons are scattered all over the place, and skills earned while leveling make killing zombies a little easier.

Yep. Pestilence Z is a bonafide zombie RPG. One that could use some spell checking, true, but a zombie RPG nevertheless.


Controls

As far as I can tell, you can't play Pestilence Z without a mouse. There are tons of menus, and you have to click on the map to make your character move. That said, many of the in- and out of-combat actions have hot keys that greatly speed up game play. Entire battles can be waged without touching the mouse.  Be careful using these keys, as it's easy to accidentally hit the wrong one. 

The primary issue as far as control is concerned lays in the turn-based nature of Pestilence Z. When you're on the map, it's a very slow game. Your character can only move two squares at a time when there are zombies about, which means there's a hell of a walk from one side of the screen to the next. This isn't so bad when the zombies ALSO move towards you, but there always seems to be one or two on each screen who refuse to budge. Either you hoof it to them or you tolerate a long, annoying search when looking for items in boxes or shelves or whatnot.


Graphics

It's hard to classify Pestilence Z's visuals, because they're both 'good' and 'meh' at the same time. Everything is clean and identifiable, there's a lot of variety in the surrounding environments, and the artwork is many steps above other browser-based games. I give extra points to the menu symbols, which are all easy to identify thanks to efficiently-drawn symbols.

And the meh? Again, it's a matter of speed. Everything looks and feels sluggish. There's no sense of urgency in this zombie apocalypse. The zombies never feel alive, which is an odd thing to say about the undead. Even your survivor seems detached from the whole scenario. I know RPGs can be slow, but this... this needs a few jolts of excitement.

Also? More variety. Seeing the same six or seven zombies over and over and over is so damn blech.


Sound

Pestilence Z is, by far, weakest in the sound department. There's a tiny handful of subdued songs, none of which real capture the flavour of the end of the world, and almost no sound effects. No groans, no fleshy thumps of a bat, no crazed screams... the best you'll ever get is the rat-a-tat-tat of a gun. The outbreak is devoid of menace without sound.

Challenge Rating

Because it has four different difficulty levels, Pestilence Z's challenge rating can fluctuate. I played it on Normal and it was fairly easy, with lots of findable weapons, med kits, ammunition and armour. That doubtless changes on more fiendish play-throughs, granting the game more replay value. Expect to take at least a couple hours for each complete circuit of the game.

Problem is, most run-of-the-mill RPG players probably won't replay Pestilence Z. The combat system is way too tedious and repetitive to maintain much interest, regardless of a different character choice. Movement alone will keep me from touching Pestilence Z again, or at least not for a long time - and if I DO replay it, I'll focus all of my efforts on head shots and one-hit-kills. They speed up the game significantly.

Oh, and one major problem for an RPG: though Pestilence Z allows for game saving, once you refresh the screen the save game disappears. No saving in cache. Thumbs down.

Conclusion?

This game doesn't knock the zombie genre out of the ballpark, nor does it grant much innovation to RPGs in general. Hell, it didn't even seem that strategic to me, despite the grid system. Pestilence Z IS still a decent game, however, and level-grinding fanatics will probably enjoy the pace.    
 
PLAY PESTILENCE Z

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Working Stiffs

Zombies.

Zombies?

Yep, zombies. Another game about zombies. These things just ain't scary anymore. Hell, Working Stiffs paints them as rather funny blokes - though they're still after your brains.


Concept

Every zombie story paints the origins of the outbreak differently, though I don't think ANY of them, prior to Working Stiffs, depicted it as a computer virus. Nevertheless the lolcatz have managed to turn most of the workers in an office building into mindless zombies, and those few who escaped infection (ie. don't stare at their email all day) must escape.

What this amounts to is an RTS of sorts. You're given a small squad of humans in each stage, ranging from one to a dozen, and you need to lead them all to safety vis a vie stage exits. Weapons along the way will help them kill zombies, and various other items - keys and documents, mostly - are necessary to make it through the exit door. It's rather a neat twist on standard zombie games where you gain control of a single person and have to wade through hordes of the undead on your own, especially given that these poor saps are understandably AFRAID of being eaten and will run if they stray too close to enemies.


Controls

Working Stiffs requires dual use of a mouse and a keyboard. The mouse, when clicked and move, will force nearby survivors to follow the path you've set, allowing you to swiftly dodge them around groups of zombies. The arrow keys allow you to scroll the map and see what's coming. Easy enough...

... in theory. In practice, Working Stiffs is a little problematic when it comes to controls. The fact that you can move the survivors about quickly is nice, and you'll usually get them past tight spots without trouble. Unfortunately, because you don't have pinpoint control over EVERY survivor at once, they're prone to run into walls or get stuck on objects you'd rather they avoid. This can prove particularly grating if you're in a race against the clock.

My biggest gripe, however, stems from changing weapons. Whenever a survivor comes across a weapon (or some other items), they'll pick it up immediately. Come across another and you'll have to hover the survivor over the item for a few seconds before they swap what they're carrying. A good mechanic for one person, perhaps, but when you have a cluster of survivors and you're trying to get only one to pick something up, you'll have to fight with the controls to achieve the desired result. And, yes, you can opt to move only one character at a time, but when you're stuck in a hallway full of zombies, your other survivors are likely to dash in and screw up your efforts.


Graphics

Working Stiffs hovers staunchly in the SNES range graphically, and I'm fine with that. The environments are fairly varied, and filled with appropriately office-ish stuff, and everything looks more or less as it should. I would, however, like more variation in the survivors and the zombies - you're more or less staring at the same handful of sprites for the entire game.

Sound

Generic horror stuff that blends into the background for music, generic screams and haunting calls for 'braaaains' for ambient sounds. Meh.


Challenge Rating

Working Stiffs is a game about overcoming great obstacles in the pursuit of survival. In most levels you're forced to bypass rather significant amounts of zombies to proceed - as it should be. A lot of people work in an office.

That saaaaaaid, Working Stiffs is surprisingly easy. There are only one or two genuinely difficult levels in the whole game, and even these are usually one-trick ponies that can be circumvented once you figure out the major threat. Your survivors are just too swift and too capable with their firearms, not to mention aided by various other environmental factors, not to survive. What's more, you don't typically have a required survival limit, so as long as at least one person gets to the exit you'll proceed to the next level. A prerequisite for survival would ramp up the difficulty.


Conclusion?

Working Stiffs is a solid game. Not too difficult, but more than innovative enough that it should prove satisfying to most RTS fans, let alone zombie lovers. Recommended.

PLAY WORKING STIFFS

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Robots vs. Zombies

It has been a little while since I played a game involving tower defense... or zombies... or both combined, which I suppose would be NEVER... so now's a good a time as any. Robots vs. Zombies? Robots vs. Zombies.


Concept

The title more or less gives the concept away in this case. You, the robot, must stop the zombies, who are on their way to pick up some delicious energy cores. There you go, folks - that just about covers the plot of Robots vs. Zombies.

And, hey, who needs a plot in a tower defense game? The objective is obvious enough: stop those bastards from getting through. It's a familiar concept, though I will admit that the zombie need to both pick up the cores and carry them away again is something I haven't seen in a tower defense game. If nothing else, the round trip gives you some extra chances to fire on your enemies.

With what? Well, towers, obviously. Beyond that, though, you also have a nice little mech running ops, and when you're not laying down towers you can guide it around to provide some extra firepower. Not enough to stop entire waves, mind, but it's a nice touch, and one that reminds me of The Engineer. (Though in that case the robots were the bad guys. It's all a matter of perspective, folks.)


Controls

Familiar fare, here. WASD guides your robot, the mouse lays down and upgrades towers with a few clicks. A goodly combination, and the mouse works fine.

... but the keyboard is a little screwy. Not TOO screwy, but I did have trouble making my robot stop every now and then. Given that the robot provides a lot less cover than the turrets this isn't a big issue, but it's still something that could be addressed.

Graphics

Robots vs. Zombies is a tad generic visually, but it sports a layer of appreciable polish. The mechs look good, the towers look good, and the zombies... well, they look like zombies. There's plenty of variety in the beasties, one element in which a lot of tower defense games suffer - there's repetition, but variety in that repetition (particularly when two enemy types come blended). Not top notch originality, but more than sufficient for any professional game.


Sound

Techno beats. Repetitive techno beats. Not a fan, even if they are suitable to the game.

Challenge Rating

Given that you can adjust the difficulty, and that the game is pretty bloody hard as it is on Normal, Robots vs. Zombies is likely to keep all but the most seasoned tower defense players happy for many long hours. The zombie waves are merciless from the start, and it'll probably take you a while to determine what skills (yes, you can buy skills) and tower combinations best work with your style of play.

There is, however, one problem when it comes to difficulty in this game: it is buggy. I experienced no less than three total game lockouts while playing, and on other occasions the zombies would make it through the exit gate with the last cores, spelling me to doom - only the game wouldn't end. Subsequent waves would stand idly at the door with nothing to do, and I could blow them away at my leisure, providing I had towers close to the door already (further building was not an option). Once or twice in a several-hour session might be excusable, but this happened every two or three maps.

Should I complain when bugs kinda work in my favour? Probably not. Doesn't make for a terribly attractive package, though, when difficult levels are easy to conquer by virtue of technical problems.


Conclusion?

Robots vs. Zombies is a borderline generic tower defense game with more depth than the average title, and an equal number of bugs to match. Fix this game up and strip away the rather blatant similarity to Plants Vs. Zombies (really, name it something else) and you'll have a winner.

PLAY ROBOT VS. ZOMBIES

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Don't Catch The Herp!

Up until this point I've been fairly stringent on reviewing only, y'know, 'proper' browser games. Games that are more interested in game play than, say, comedy... particularly ribald comedy.

No more. I will wear these shackles NO MORE! And so, today, we review something that, despite its insensitivity to those with STDs, has made the front page of Newgrounds: Don't Catch The Herp!


Concept

The, uh, 'story' of Don't Catch The Herp is half the fun, so I won't spoil what happens, but I can, at least, state the objective: get the hell away from someone who has herpes. Politically correct? No. Funny? I don't think the concept is that hilarious, but the execution is pretty damn clever.

Sitting behind this terrifying drapery is an actual game, and it's similar to, oh, WarioWare in its execution: you need to plow your way through a series of mini-games, all different genres sewn together to make a bizarre whole. Expect a high-speed car chase, a dash through a night club, button mashing that should take you back a few years, and even a Frogger-esque escape through oncoming vehicles. All this is capped off by a trial with multiple possible endings.

Don't Catch The Herpes! strikes me as more of an interactive Flash movie than a game. You have things to accomplish, yes, but the experience is neither lengthy nor difficult enough to stand as a tried-and-true browser game. And don't think for a second that this statement is meant to put the accomplishment down, 'cause I think Don't Catch The Herp! is lots of fun.


Controls

Since Don't Catch The Herp! hops between control schemes, how you move your character varies from scenario to scenario. Overall, however, the arrow keys will move you from place to place, and the Space bar acts as an escape mechanism. (Be careful not to break your keyboard.)

The quality of the controls also varies between mini games. It's quite smooth when driving, for example, but the harsh hit detection in the Frogger game left a bad taste in my mouth when it came to using the controls. The controls are never bad enough that the game is impossible, however.


Graphics

Don't Catch The Herp starts off as a stickman extravaganza gone bad. It's not attractive - and understandably so, since the herpes-bearer looks horrifying:


That said the game gets progressively more impressive as you move on to other sections, and I personally think the graphics during the car chase scene are worthy of an SNES game.

Overall? Mish-mash. Some good, some bad, all suitable.

Sound

Don't Catch The Herp! pays a surprising amount of attention to its sound. Where the creators could simply have tossed in some generic horror music and called it a day, they actually composed a few short songs WITH LYRICS to grace the end of the game, and everything leading up to that dramatic finale suits the game quite well. There's also some decent voice work, which, while not professional-level, is just fine for the subject. Big thumbs up on the sound.


Challenge Rating

Piece of cake. Only the Frogger scenario was at all difficult, and even then it was more frustrating than outright hard. Again, as much a movie you're meant to watch to its conclusion as a browser game. I especially liked that you could restart the final sequence after beating Don't Catch The Herp! rather than going all the way back to the beginning to try for a different ending, as your life hinges on your final decisions.

Conclusion?

Don't catch The Herp! is a stupid-yet-terribly-clever piece of Flash that neatly encapsulates Internet humour. Don't play this one if you're easily offended... but jump all over it if you frequent, say, Reddit.

PLAY DON'T CATCH THE HERP!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Visitor: Massacre at Camp Happy

Part of a series of similarly-titled-and-grotesquely-themed browser games, The Visitor: Massacre at Camp Happy reminds me a hell of a lot of The Thing. Alien creature comes down from the heavens, starts killing stuff and taking on their attributes, and ultimately... well, people die. What more noble goal can their be for a voracious space worm?


Concept

Though I do believe I JUST summed up the game, I'll toss in more background for clarification. It's night. A group of campers are hanging out near Camp Happy, and their numbers are slowly dwindling as they wander off on their own, true to any horror story - and all because they keep getting snagged and murdered by a race of malicious parasites who, after crashing down on meteors, proceed to eat everything they can find and take on new genetic attributes.

The story also neatly sums up the game play. Playing as 'The Visitor', or rather several different 'Visitors', you must slime your way through various levels, eating animals and stealing their evolutionary benefits. Do so in a sufficiently organized and strategic manner and you'll find your way to a human. Chow time! I've always enjoyed evolutionary games (E.V.O. was one of my favourite all-time SNES titles), so this formula works for me.

Oh, yeah, and eating things. That's always cool too.


Controls

The Visitor is half-and-half puzzling and moving your worm around, and fortunately for you movement is damn simple. Arrow keys guide the parasite, and the space bar prompts a vicious bite that will consume anything smaller than the creature. You gain new body parts (wings, fins, claws) that will allow you to circumvent different obstacles in each level (pits, water, trees), but using the arrow keys never changes. No glitches, and aside from being thrown a liiiittle too far when hit, I never had any control issues.


Graphics

The Visitor is okay aesthetically. It does its job without going overboard. The animals all look as they should, the environments are okay (if repetitive), and the worm itself is appropriately gruesome. I took some issue with the humans, who don't reeeeeally look like they belong with the rest of the game, but since you don't see 'em that often it's no big deal.

Oh, and blood. Lots and lots of blood. This is not a kids' game, so don't let your eight-year-old start mucking about with the keyboard unless they really enjoy sci-fi horror bloodbaths.


Sound

The music in The Visitor is campy horror fare. Good, solid, alien tunes... or perhaps I should say tune, since it's a fairly repetitive game. I did, that said, appreciate the gruesome sound effects accompanying your worm's frequent meals.

Challenge Rating

The Visitor is much more of a puzzler than you might initially think, as you must eat the right animals in the right order to proceed through levels. These animals will respawn after they're consumed, though, so you can go back and right old wrongs with impunity - you just won't get extra points for eating the same animal.

This is not a terribly difficult game. Though you do need to dodge animals in action-esque fashion, none of them are terribly cruel, and you shouldn't experience huge difficulties circumventing the levels. Don't dismiss the game as TOO easy, though, 'cause some of the later puzzles are moderately devilish.


Conclusion?

If you enjoy monster movies, you'll have fun in The Visitor: Massacre at Camp Happy. It's chalk-full of horror movie conventions, right down to the idiotic victims, and the game play is pretty fun to boot. Om nom nom!

PLAY THE VISITOR: MASSACRE AT CAMP HAPPY

Monday, January 2, 2012

Outpost:Haven

I have yet to find a browser game that's really scary. Granted, I've watched a lot of horror movies so that's difficult for a work of fiction to DO, but there still hasn't been one that's really tugged at my nerves. (Gyossait comes kinda close, but it's more unnerving than outright scary.)

Outpost:Haven still doesn't quite hit that level of fright I'd love to see in a browser game. It does, however, come far closer than anything else I've played.


Concept

Outpost:Haven is sci-fi horror in typical good form, and part of a genre I've enjoyed for many years. If you like futuristic monster movies, you can probably predict the plot: something has gone wrong at a space station, marines are sent in to deal with the problem, they discover a whole lot of alien nasties. Time to get the hell out, discovering in the process what happened to the original residents of the station via journal entries and abandoned communiques.

Outpost:Haven's story is solid. It's not really original, granted, but the fact that there IS a story behind what could otherwise be an excellent no-brain shooter is much appreciated. The writing could use a bit of editing - there are some unsuccessful attempts to use 'big' words, and the script is fraught with typos - but none of these bothered me too much.

Story aside, Outpost:Haven is a bird's eye view shooter. You move around the darkened space station with a gun, limited ammo and the desire to not open the next door, because there are probably aliens waiting to swarm you on the other side. What fun!


Controls

Because the aliens show you absolutely no mercy in Outpost:Haven, it pays to have some solid controls - and so long as you're using a proper keyboard and a mouse, you'll be fine. The keys control the movement of your character and the menus, while your mouse covers direction and firing your weapon. The combination works well, and the fact that there are no less than three different sets of keys for moving your marine is much appreciated, as not everyone wants to use arrow keys or WASD. My only beef with the controls stemmed from one of the menus popping up whenever I tried to take a screenshot, and covering THAT base isn't the concern of the programmer. Two thumbs up.


Graphics

As an overhead horror game, Outpost:Haven is at a natural disadvantage compared to first- or third-person games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill for generating scares. Monsters just aren't as frightening when you're seeing them wiggle towards you from a great distance, and especially not if you can see them before you even go into a room.

That said, Outpost:Haven still achieves some rather amazing things in terms of scares, thanks primarily to its setting and tight control over lighting. Most of the space station is plunged in darkness, and the lights that DO help you wander around are... limited, to say the least. Consequently, you really don't know what's coming in most cases until it's almost on top of you...


... and the times that you DO know something is there, it unnerves the hell out of you, 'cause you can't do anything until you get close enough. (Yes, those are eyes. Yes, they follow you as you move around. That's freaky, man.)

What especially impressed me about Outpost:Haven's visuals was the attention to detail. The space station was meticulously constructed, with tons of little environmental and atmospheric details thrown in to help hide the aliens. For example, you might run across a burst steam pipe in the halls - and while you're busy looking at it, you'll be ambushed by monsters. Excellent diversionary tactic that ups the difficulty a notch.

My primary problem with the game's graphics lies in the aliens. They ARE unnerving as they wander around in the darkness, but once they come out to play their static nature renders them less-than-impressive. A bit more animation in the enemies, especially if they're given writhing, bizarre limbs that reach out to grab you, would really increase the freak out factor.


Sound

Spooky though your surroundings may be, it's the sound that really makes Outpost:Haven a worthwhile horror experience. Like so many good horror games in the past, Outpost:Haven doesn't rely on background music - instead, it uses ambient sounds and the bloodthirsty snarls of aliens to bring the game to life. You KNOW enemies are coming when you open a door and hear them growl... you just don't always know where they are.

I would, however, caution players against having their speakers set too high before playing. Between the roars and the gunfire, Outpost:Haven is VERY loud during moments of action.

Challenge Rating

Outpost:Haven is neither too difficult nor too hard. It does skew a little towards challenging in that you can have your health drained rather easily, but there's enough health and ammo strewn about the space station that it's hardly an insurmountable adventure. There are also stations where you can purchase new ammo, weapons and upgrades, so keep your eyes open and you'll be fine.

There is one problem I have with the difficulty, however, and it works more in the player's favour. Because the levels are covered in moveable objects - crates, chairs, desks, that sorta thing - it's easy to take cover from aliens... and, in some cases, to get them stuck on said cover as the baddies to scramble over to you. Get a clear shot while an alien's jammed on the edge of a box and killing the thing will be a piece of cake. I wouldn't mind seeing a little more path finding programming that guides the enemies around obstacles in a more intelligent manner.


Conclusion?

Outpost:Haven is an excellent browser game with problems that can PROBABLY be addressed easily in subsequent releases. There aren't many browser games that are anywhere near this ambitious, and consequently I'd highly recommend giving this title a whirl. Its attention to proper horror storytelling and game play is too delicious to miss.

PLAY OUTPOST:HAVEN

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thoreau

What's real? What's not? Is this world an illusion, a mass hallucination in which we all share? Or are we just somebody shadow, a single entity who lives only for themselves, followed by all of us who want to exist...?

Damned if I know. But Thoreau is something along those lines. Plus monsters and traps.



Concept

I must admit, I'm not ENTIRELY sure what's going on in Thoreau. As far as I can tell you're a shadowy man with shadowy hair who, through a serious misstep, has been plunged into the earth - and now you're dogged by traps, a mysterious monster and a strange inverted version of yourself. All you have is your wits and your ears, and the hope that you'll emerge alive.

Oh, yeah, and some weird sight power that can crumble incoming and reveal hidden problems. That's important too.

The story's kinda cryptic, but at its bare bones Thoreau is a platformer. You need to survive by moving through an underground course filled with traps, all hidden in the darkness, using your sight to identify things that might kill you before they, y'know... kill you.


Controls

Thoreau's controls are okay at times and problematic at others. Like most survival horror games - and I would argue that this is survival horror, at least a touch, as it doesn't try to make things easy for you: you're a limited, fragile human who will die rather easily. You need to plan your movements and jumps carefully if you're to survive this nightmare. I had no huge issues with the controls, though they were problematic when stacked against the game's sometimes questionable hit detection.

Graphics

Say what you want about the rest of the game, but Thoreau is pretty. That's an odd thing to say, too, because it relies heavily on darkness to set the scene, meaning you won't see a hell of a lot while playing - but when light DOES pierce the cavern, it's used quite nicely. For example, fire:





Light isn't always dangerous, however - indeed, it's vital to your survival, as you use the game's many light sources as both save points and as recharging stations for your sight power, a necessity for beating Thoreau. Overall, good use of the monochrome, especially in covering up the game's otherwise fairly basic character models.

Sound

Here's the biggie. Though light and vision do play critical roles in surviving Thoreau, sound is HUGE. There's very little music in the game: most of the time you're traveling in silence, and when you do hear something, it usually means a trap is coming. The spring of an arrow, the crumble of rocks, the growl of some horrid beastie... regardless of the sound in question it's essential to keep your volume up, 'cause you'll have little warning otherwise and probably waste your sight power identifying harmless corridors. Sound also provides most of the game's heart-pounding moments, changing Thoreau from an annoying platformer into a mildly suspenseful experience.


Challenge Rating

Thoreau isn't a difficult game. You can probably beat it in twenty minutes, 'cause you'll learn where the traps are in a hurry and be able to react accordingly.


The problem with this game's challenge rating lies in, as mentioned above, its hit detection. It's really easy to die by accident by straying a little too closely to a trap, to the point that you'll die for stupid reasons - for example, walking up to a rock trap that's already been triggered, and SHOULD be harmless. I believe the programmer is planning on changing that in later releases, but even with that removed you're bound to die some questionable deaths in Thoreau.

Will they stop you from beating the game? Probably not. Still. It's a more irritating experience than it should be, because you're dying not from a lack of skill, but because the game is inherently cheap in some respects. Shrug?



Conclusion?

Thoreau is an okay game. The premise is intriguing, if apparently done before - I'll have to try out this Limbo game people keep comparing it to on Newgrounds - and the execution is decent, given that the game was created in four days. Worth a try at least once, though I guarantee it will annoy some gamers into submission.

PLAY THOREAU