Thursday, 24 December 2009

Top 10 Horror games of 2009

Ho Ho Ho, and Merry Christmas. Couldn't find me video of Home Alone, so missed out on some classic Christmas Horror.

Below is my list of the top 10 Horror Videogames of 2009. I will try and keep it focused on games that came out this year, but will also include some I played for the first time this year which may have come out earlier.

10. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (Nintendo DS)


This is a cheeky choice, as I only brought it today, and have played about an hour of it. I absolutely love the Metroidvania style of the handheld Castlevania's, so know I will love it, and so far it is good, with cool bosses, and the same old cast of monsters.

9. Zombies Ate my Neighbours (Virtual Console)


This finally came out on the Virtual Console after years of rumour, come out fittingly on Halloween. I owned this on the Megadrive as a child. It is a good game, with ace music, but not as good as my rose tinted specs remembered.

8. I Maed a Gam3 w1th zomb1es in it (X-Box Indie Games)


I have the spelling wrong in this title I'm sure. There are many many Zombie Indie games out now, but this was the 1st (Well 2nd after a Pac-Man style Zombie one). The game is a twin stick shooter which sees you fending off waves of Zombies, Pixel Blocks and Blobs of Goo while an insane song is played. Very well made, and the best of the crowded Indie Zombie games. One day I must do a proper review of them all.

7. House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii)


An original House of the Dead game with a fantastic Grind house style to it. Mature if you count lots of gore, and amazing use of the F-Bomb as mature. The locations are varied, but slightly let down by really easy bosses, and dare I say it - too many zombies, and not enough other types of enemy (In fact I don't think there are any other enemies other than zombies.

6. Silent Hill 5 (X-Box 360)


I have wanted to play this game for the longest time. Having done so now there's just something about it that isn't fresh. It is a good game, but very Silent Hill by numbers. The graphics are the best they have ever been, but they just look too clean and crisp, and not grimy like they need to be.

5. Resident Evil 5 (X-Box 360)


I was so unsure about this game that I actually rented it at first rather than buy it. While I missed out a lot due to having to suffer the awful A.I partner rather than a human I was pleasantly surprised by this. Definitely not a horror game, it has mutated too much for that, but as a Resident Evil game it was good mainly for all the story, and cool Wesker moments.

4. Persona 4 (Playstation 2)


Another game I had wanted to play for ages. This is a RPG like no other. Playing as a young man you enter a TV and battle strange creatures at night, while attending School during the day. A fantastic soundtrack, and intriguing story revolving around strange murders. Only a small way into the game (About 15 hours) but I feel it's going to stay good. UPDATE: It lasted me 90 plus hours, was fantastic!

3. Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS)


I got this as it was cheap. I have never been keen on the Zelda games, too much similarity. This was a really fun game though. Very easy, but addictive, and cute. Amazing boss battles, and the touch screen controls worked real well.

2. Left 4 Dead 2 (X-Box 360)


I had no intention to get this, but then did anyway. Improves on the first in every way. The introduced Melee combat makes the game feel totally fresh compared to the original. Some fantastic missions (The rain level for instance). Again I just wish I had people to play it with.

1. Borderlands (X-Box 360)


This game is so addictive! A fantastic MMO style first person shooter RPG, like an arcady version of Fallout 3. It is included in the Top 10 Horror games of 2009 as the first DLC is very heavily Zombie based. Taking place on a dark mysterious island. There are an insane amount of zombies in this game, I very nearly got zombie fatigue. A very very very good game, it will suck your life away!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Awaken the Dead (2007) - Zombie Film Review


To be honest, most indie films are dreadful. Bad acting and badly shot films are almost never good. Awaken the Dead is a very good film though, and very original.

A young priest awakens to find a cryptic letter by his bed summoning him to the house of his ex-boss. Arriving there he is confronted by the boss's angry daughter. She too reveals she was left a note; hers telling her not to leave the house. Before long the house is under siege by hordes of zombies. With no TV, radio or phone signal the two are isolated from the outside world. Reinforced doors, and shatter proof glass along with a CD containing details of a secret government experiment leads them to the conclusion the 'Boss' had known a zombie outbreak was to happen, and so brought these two to the safety of his house. The priest notes there is a shady man in black taking notes outside the house, a man who the zombies ignore. Trapped from the outside world the two, along with a few random survivors from outside must find a way to survive the apparent zombie apocalypse.


The film is a indie film, but looks amazing and unique. The film is shot in a grainy style, and all the colours are washed out making everything seem light brown and white almost. This gives the film a real dream like quality to it. I can't explain really how, but the theme of the film really makes the zombie apocalypse seem like an event designed purely to make the two main characters (both with shady, mysterious pasts) confront their demons and become better people as a result, like the whole apocalypse was really made with them in mind.

The acting is mostly of a good standard, and the music is fantastic. Most the tracks are from two different groups - a female fronted group called Jenae, and a more metal based group called Edible Clowns and the Gentle Fracture. Their music really fits the isolated feeling of the characters. The plot is quite interesting, and even brought to mind traces of Kill Bill in places.


Awaken the Dead was really worth picking up, a really good indie film!

SCORE:

Top 5 Christmas Horror Films (list created 2009)

Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat, the chainsaws are revving, so here's my top 5 Christmas films in a turkey bap...God...

5. Black Christmas (1974)


One of the very first slasher films. This sees a house full of young women at Christmas being killed off one by one. It is original in that the killer is never shown. All you see is the killers eye looking through keyholes in doors, and the killers perspective of the murders. Also contains a nice twist ending, and a play on the urban legend of the threatening phone calls being made from within the same house they are aimed at.

4. Jack Frost (1997)


A very funny slasher film with a difference. A killer on death row is being transported to another prison when the van he's in crashes. He lands in some toxic waste and is transformed into a Snowman! He causes havoc around a small snowy town killing the towns inhabitants via Christmas themed methods (Seem to recall him strangling someone with Christmas lights).  Like Freddy Kruger he is constantly wise cracking. Very entertaining, just avoid the utterly dreadful low budget sequel.

3. Home Alone (1990)


Similar in tone to such grizzlies as Last House on the Left. This film sees a young psychotic boy called Kevin (played by Macaulay Culkin) accidentally left home alone over Christmas. It is left up to him to stop two murderous and brutal criminals who are intent on robbing the houses in his empty neighbourhood with increasingly violent and deadly methods. Very sick and disturbing torture porn.

2. Gremlins (1984)


Both this and the sequel are classic films. While the second descended into farce this stays mostly comedic horror. The gremlins (created when a Mogwai called Gizmo gets wet) rampage around a small American town, and are genuinely scary in places, and murder quite a few people. A little known fact is the original plot for this film was much darker, with the main character's mother actually stabbed to death by the Gremlins early in the film.

1. A Nightmare before Christmas (1993)


While incorporating both Halloween and Christmas themes it is more a Christmas film, with many songs about Christmas, and the main plot revolving around the event. A fantastic Tim Burton stop motion film.

Of course the very best non-horror Christmas film is the mighty Batman Returns.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Lists!!!

Because I am cool I keep lists of every single book, game and film I read/play/watch. As it's coming to the end of the year I will be doing lists of my top 10 horror themed stuff. Look out for that over the coming few weeks!

I mostly read books about the two world wars, so I am not sure if that particular list will be able to have 10 entries. As for films and games though I have more than enough to fill up those. This year has been the very worst of my life, yet on the flipside has been a good year for my blog. Heres hoping that next year will be better, and that horror and zombies continue to reign supreme!

P.S: I will be doing a Top 5 Christmas Horror films list very soon also, I think I can think of 5 Christmas based good films!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Streets of Rage 2 - Action Videogame Review (Megadrive)


Streets of Rage 2 is superior in almost every way to the original, and is observed by some (me included) to be the very best example of a scrolling beat-em-up ever made. The graphics are beefier, with bigger sprites, the music is amazing, and the presentation is top notch. All enemies have energy bars now which is a welcome addition.

Basically it is a year after the events of the first game, the City has turned peaceful when suddenly Mr. Big (now called Mr. X) who was believed dead re-appears with an army of thugs and takes control over the City again. Adam one of the playable characters of the first game is kidnapped. So this time 4 characters set out to rescue Adam and defeat Mr. X again.


Blaze the fast but weak woman and Axel the average reappear, as well as new characters Skate (really fast, but really weak), and Max (really slow, but really strong). There are again 8 levels to fight through. From the Streets all the way to Mr. X's jungle hideout. The levels are a lot bigger and varied than before. Where in Streets of Rage you just fought from left to right in a straight line, here the levels are split into smaller sections taking place in different locations, and also make more use of lifts, and diagonal routes. A good example of this is level 3. As well as several street areas there is an arcade you fight through, a Pirate themed park, and a really atmospheric Alien themed land (complete with mid-level Alien boss, and exploding Pods).

Gone are the smart bombs, and to replace them each character has unique special moves. These special moves are powerful, and can be used at any time, but use up energy quite a bit, so need to be used strategically. There are many many more moves per character, far more than the limited 5 or 6 of the original, though the useless co-op moves have vanished.

The enemies are amazing. A lot of the enemies are updated ones from the first game. The fat man boss has been relegated to a normal enemy, and is now throwable, the ninjas are much more deadly now, the prostitutes now have electric whips, and a host of bikers have joined the fray. There are a lot more mini-bosses now which turn up throughout the levels. The bosses are really cool. There is a Blanka rip-off, a flying man, and even robots as bosses. Only once does a boss repeat itself. The first boss in particular is fab. You’re fighting in a club. At the end of the level you get to a bar. Barbon the Bartender is cleaning glasses behind the bar. When he sees you he leaves exit stage Right. The next section of the level takes place in an alley way behind the club. Rain is lashing down. Barbon and his stooges are in fighting positions waiting for your approach. As you draw near Barbon yells “come on!” before ripping his shirt off. A classic moment in a classic game.

SCORE:

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

There will be Brawl - Videogame Webseries Review


'Sonic looked back, and saw with fear a missile heading for him. It struck square in the back. Tendons and muscle tore as the missile dug through his insides, crushing, and churning up his stomach parts before ejecting itself from his belly like some grotesque caesarean birth. There were no rings to save him this time, for Sonic it was game over...'

Another day, another fan fiction excerpt. I do have a point with this though, There Will Be Brawl has a most excellent and bleak portrayal of the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario is an alcoholic, while Luigi has turned drug dealer. The City is under the control of several different gangs, led by Ganon, Bowser, Mee-Two, and King Dedede who are systematically being killed off by a mysterious assassin shifting the balance of power in the City leading to doom.

There are many characters from the Smash Brothers games in here. The usual Mario characters as well as others like Sonic, Samus, Liquid Snake, Kirby and many others, all looking fantastic and twisted versions of their cutesy selves.


The show is live action, and is very dark and bleak. It is so over the top dramatic that it really comes across as hilarious considering the cute and fluffy material it's based on. There is lots of swearing, sex, drug use, and especially violence. The violence is varied ranging from Mario beating Donkey Kong to a bloody pulp with a mallet to a traumatic and poignant tragedy when Ash the innocent Poke-trainer boy and his Pokemon are senselessly blown up.

A must see. Most episodes range between 10 and 20 minutes, and there will be about 11 or 12 episodes in total I think. The later episodes are not as good as the earlier ones and the plot does get quite confusing.

SCORE:

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 - Zombie Videogame Online Review (X-Box 360)


I got to try out some Versus mode on Left 4 Dead 2 last night. I never got to play with anyone I knew, so played with complete strangers.

The campaign I did Versus mode on was the first one - Dead Center set in and around a shopping centre. As with the previous game there are 2 teams of 4. You take it in turns to be either survivors or special infected, each round taking place in a chapter of the campaign. The new zombies control very well. The charger is a joy to use, the Jockey can be a little imprecise when trying to jump on a survivors head, while I have not yet got used to how the Spitter works yet. The Boomer is as weak and useless as always.


The levels seemed better designed for the infected to get around, and more chances for sneak attacks. There seems more explosives for the survivors to use to hinder the infected. I found the Barf Bomb quite effective for attacking the special infected infected with. The defibrillator finally got put to use, but the person I resurrected with it was unaware for a bit he was back alive and so got killed again quite promptly.

Playing with strangers is always a awkward experience, much silence on my and their parts, and not really much team work, apart from slightly sticking together as survivors. Still, it was a lot of fun. Gamertag again is Happyhead UK.

SCORE:

Monday, 14 December 2009

Fan Fiction - Left 4 Dead 2


Here is the first in a new series of affectionate and quaint looks at some of the best moments in zombie horror, induced with a splash of that oft called style and wit from the pen of the mighty Daniel Simmonds. Enjoy;

"Cor Blimey Guvnor thems a right pickle we're in and no mistake!" said Toby the chimney sweeper. "I would heavily agree with thee, this is a most unwelcome zombie apocalypse" Makintyre replied with a weary resignation. They had started out 4, and were now down by half. Priscilla the street whore had been dragged off into the darkness by the slimy tongue of a Smoker a few blocks back, while Tom, carpenter Tom, yes that Tom, Carpenter Tommy Tom Tomtom the burliest man in Burley had had his face dissolved off by the acidic goo of a Spitter. That bitch had paid though, Toby in rage had took a guitar to her head, severing it instantly of course, the resulting mess dissolved away much more of Tom unfortunately, his dying wish was for them to "run, run, get to a safe house, leave meeeee" or it may of been "help! help!! you bastards where are you going?!"

They were now in sight of the Military gunship, it had promised to air lift them to safety out of New Orleans. Suddenly a Tank appeared, then another, then another. They roared in unison. They in their lumbering way where soon upon Makintyre and Toby flinging them about like rag dolls. "ouch" and "ow" they jointly said, it looked bleak, it looked like the level would have to be attempted again. Out of nowhere Priscilla the street whore appeared, bloodied, but in otherwise good shape. She looked at the beaten and useless forms of the fallen duo as she ran past. The third Tank now focused on her. It ripped a massive slab of concrete out the ground and flung it, it caught Priscilla square in the stomach, crushing her insides to a minty fresh pulp. She quickly took some pills which instantly restored her to feeling well and leaped onto the Gunship. It took to life and roared off to salvation.

A note on the fan fiction; obviously that was a very emotionally charged story, I think you always have to put a bit of yourself into these things, it brought up a lot of painful memories for me, as can be seen by the thought provoking words of Tom, or by the hidden wit of Toby. I feel the anguish of the Tanks is rather explicitly shown, as is the bravado of the Smoker. Or the whole thing could be a load of balls (Not could be, it actually is, lol).

Left 4 Dead 2 - Zombie Horror Videogame Review (X-Box 360)


I got Left 4 Dead 2 yesterday, Played through all 5 new campaigns in single player, the game does feel quite different to the first.

The game this time around takes place around New Orleans, with a deep south feel to the whole game via it's music, and it's locations. The 5 campaigns each take around an hour to do (single player, on Normal). The first campaign feels much like the levels of old. Your aim is to get to a shopping centre. It really is Left 4 Dead by numbers in terms of levels design, but is a good intro level for the game. The other 4 campaigns are where things get really cool though. Number 2 - Dark Carnival as the title suggests is set in an amusement park. It features a fantastic climax as well as the games only zombie clowns. Number 3 is set in swamp land, ending in a Plantation Manor. The 4th Campaign called Heavy Rain sees you and the fellow survivors on a mission to find some petrol for your escape vehicle, during a horrific thunderstorm. This campaign is unique in that you head to an objective, and then back to the starting position. The final mission features an amazing bridge gauntlet at it's end.


The weapons are as good as always, but it's whats new that is really exciting. There are now melee weapons in the game. Cricket bats, police batons, even samurai swords all make appearances, and are very very effective in chopping up zombies. They really change the way the game is played. No longer are you as good as dead if you get surrounded by zombies, as now you can chop them all up easily. It just seems a bit odd that a guitar is just as effective as a machete in decapitating them. There is also a amazing rare chainsaw, but this only has limited use as it guzzles gas. As for the old guns, there are a bigger variety, as well as upgrades (such as laser sights) and even alternate ammo (incendiary rounds, and explosive rounds!).

There are more special infected this time. On top of the old guard of Tank, Smoker, Hunter, Witch, and Boomer there is now Spitter (spits pools of corrosive acid), the Jockey (can jump on survivors to control there movements), and Charger (like a weak version of the tank, but can juggernaut his way through the survivors). I don't know how these new specials control as have not played Versus mode yet.

The A.I for the other survivors is as average as always. They do an ok job, but are no substitute for real humans. The game has a lot of slow down in places, the last mission in particular had quite horrendous slow down as the number of infected is at it's largest there.

I like this game, I really hope I get to play it with humans, as that's the way it is supposed to be played. I never got to play the first Left 4 Dead as it was intended and as a result missed out. Gamertag is Happyhead UK if anyone wants to play!

SCORE:

UPDATE 15/12/2012: I never did get to play the game with humans I knew, as such the game quickly became very boring and unsatisfying.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Descent: Part 2 - Horror Film Review


God, it's been a long time since my last post, just been so busy at work that I haven't had time...not that I do posts whilst at work!...? Anyway, I went to the cinema last night, I saw The Descent Part 2. The first Descent was an unexpected hit with me. I saw some awful film from the 70's an age ago which followed a similar situation and had thought it would be the same, but it actually felt quite unique.

Basically in the first film a group of young women go cave exploring in some uncharted caves in America. They get lost, and then killed by a bunch of Albino blind humanoid monsters. No one survives. Yet the sequel sees one of the women escaping the caves somehow (this is kind of confusing as in the European version it is made clear no one survives, only the U.S release had someone surviving). She's taken to hospital where an old, idiot Sheriff forces her to go back underground with him and some cave rescuers to search for the rest of the girls. The survivor has amnesia, and so goes along, soon getting her memory back once yet again trapped underground. Really soon the albino monsters appear and start killing everyone yet again.


The film is set in the same location as the first, and so many of the victims from the first are still (in one case literally) hanging around. The action starts much more quickly than the first, which kills some of the tension. Also there is no build up of discovering what the monsters are, as they are the same as the first film, so are a known quantity. Again victims are harassed, chased and crapped on (again quite literally) as they attempt to yet again escape. The ending is not great, with an unexpected, yet totally dumb twist. Though a lot of characters are killed off I wouldn't be surprised if they all turn up for the third film, like the apparently dead survivors of the first turn up here.

The film was ok, but the tension and mystery of the first was lost, and as a result is just not really scary.

SCORE:

Friday, 4 December 2009

Streets of Rage - Action Videogame Review (Megadrive)


I love the Streets of Rage series! It all started off with Streets of Rage. It is kinda a Final Fight clone, but it is a fantastic game in its own right which stands alone.

An un-named City is in the grip of a massive crime syndicate, ruled by a mysterious man known as Mr Big (Mr X in the later games). The crime syndicate have total control of the city with the majority of the Police force corrupt there is no one to put things right. Axel, Adam, and Blaze resign from the Force and decide to take matters into their own hands fighting their way to Mr Big via the...Streets of Rage.


The game is a scrolling beat em up which comprises of 8 levels. The levels take in such locations as a boat, a factory, a beach, and finally ends with Mr Big's penthouse. Each level ends with a boss battle. The bosses are all memorable, and require different tactics for the most part. Bosses include a fire breathing fat man, a Wrestler, a man with Freddy Kruger style claws among others. The normal enemies are quite varied as well, and act differently. Jugglers will fling objects at you, Ninjas can throw you, while Prostitutes will attack you with whips. The music is fantastic, all rave and dance style stuff which fits the ultra violence well.

The 3 characters have different strengths and weaknesses. Stupid Adam (stupid as he is kidnapped in Streets of Rage 2) is strong but slow, Blaze is fast but weak, while Axel is a mix of the 2, but his jump kicks are pathetic, making the Blaze's sisters boss battle particularly difficult in single player. Each life grants you a smart bomb in which a police car will pull up and fire a mortar/Gatling gun killing all enemies on screen.

The very best thing about the game is the fantastic bad ending. Like Double Dragon's co-op game you get to fight each other at the games end. Well just before in fact. Upon arriving at Mr Big's throne room he asks you both if you want to join his army. If one player says yes, and the other no then they fight each other. If the player who said yes wins, then Mr Big again asks the player if they want to join his army. If the player selects no and defeats Mr Big an ending shows with the player sitting on a throne, and then with comically bad animation starts to laugh while sinister music plays and the end credits scroll. Amazing!

The game can be found on the Virtual Console, as well as many Megadrive collections, definitely worth playing!

SCORE:

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Wes Craven's A New Nightmare - Review

Wes Craven's A New Nightmare is the 7th installment in the Elm Street series. An attractive girl on Facebook recommended it to me, which actually led to me getting back into the series as a whole. The film gets meta which makes for an interesting and original spin on the traditional slasher.

The film takes place in the 'real' world. It features many actors from previous films playing themselfs. Basically the film series ended with Elm Street 6. For 6 films some type of evil force had been contained in the character Freddy Kruger. Now the series is over the evil force is able to leave that role and start attempting to get unleashed in reality. The evil is using the actor's (who played Nancy in 1, and 3) child to come into the real world.

The film is a much darker offering than what went before. The traditional jokey Freddy Kruger appears briefly, but is Robert Englund performing for some fans. The real version of Freddy Kruger is much more menacing, and scary. He appears wearing a dark trenchcoat and fedora, he doesn't make jokes, or act goofy, he just acts with pure evil intent. His clawed glove is now much more organic looking, made out of bone and muscle, like an extension of him rather than an actual weapon. It's far into the film before Freddy is seen in full, it's a shame as I would have really liked to see more of him as it's such an interesting departure.

It's been a fair few weeks since I saw this, so my mind is a bit fuzzy on it, so not too interesting a review. Needless to say, while not a classic, it is definatly worth watching if you have any sort of interest in the horror series.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Death Jr: Root of Evil (2008) - Horror Video Game Review Part 2 (Nintendo Wii)


An update from yesterdays post. I have now completed Death Jr: Root of Evil. It was about eighteen levels long (including three boss levels). The game progressively got more difficult, and frustrating, and the locations turned quite bland. The last set of levels is all set in boring looking caves and forest areas, the amazing music turns into just ambiance, and the end of game boss battle doesn't even have any music!

Combat turned into a bit of a problem. Your melee attacks become less effective as due to lack of a block your energy bar can quickly get knocked away. Nearly all the enemies later in the game constantly throw powerful projectiles at you with scary accuracy, add this to some tricky platforming, and constantly respawning enemies and frustration appears. It would be fair to say that the main way I died in the second half of the game was by enemies cheaply shunting me off platforms to my death in lava pits.


The game was good, but the first half is definitely a lot better than the more crowded and bland latter half, it's a shame there was such a noticeable shift in quality

SCORE:

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Death Jr: Root of Evil (2008) - Horror Videogame Review Part 1 (Nintendo Wii)


Death Jr is a 3D deceptively cutesy platformer, it is a remake/re-release of a 2006 PSP game. You play as either Death Jr (a skeletal boy wielding a scythe) or Pandora (a goth girl with a bony whip) who accidentally release a evil plant based villain who plans to rule the world. They have to work through about nineteen levels of platforming action to thwart her plans.

I had assumed the game was a kids game, but playing it I realised the humour is much more in the vein of Tim Schafer, and odd ball. The game features odd characters such as a limbless boy in a vat of liquid, and a girl with bleeding holes in her hands called 'Stig-Martha'. The humour is kinda dark in places, and more for a teenage audience (eg: one level is called Morning Woods. I have only played through around eight levels, but it has been quite fun. The first place I did was a toy graveyard, complete with plenty of zombie teddies rising out the ground to attack me. The second location I visited was a science lab, enemies comprised of experimented lab rats.


I don't know how the Pandora character controls, but Death Jr controls great. You can use his scythe not only as a weapon, but also as a tool to swing from bars and hooks, to glide across gaps, and to help you climb onto unreachable platforms. As well as the scythe you also get a variety of different guns to use, ranging from pistols, to shotguns and rocket launchers which use the Wii-remote to aim.

The music is excellent, and the graphics are good for a touched up PSP game. The Wii controls which can destroy some Wii games are used sparingly here which really helps. If the rest of the game stays as fun as the first half then it should be cool.

(Part two of the review)