09
Dec
18

Black Friday Woes

[EDIT: A rep from Kohl’s did finally respond, as of Monday morning. Their response was a canned “Your credit will be available within 7 days, we’re sorry for any frustration.”]

Another Black Friday has come and gone, and with it ridiculous price cuts and psychotic shoppers. That’s not news. Nor do I particularly care. I did most of my Black Friday shopping online, and had no issues.

Well, except for one.

You see, I’ve been looking at the PlayStation VR for a bit. Not sure how much I’ll get out of it, having problems with depth perception and being mostly blind in one eye, but there’s piles of horror games I’d love to try that are only for that format. Plus there’s part of me that wants to see just how nasty Marguerite Baker from Resident Evil 7 looks when she’s literally in your face. Given my handicaps, I figured waiting for a sale was the best way to go. Pretty much everywhere had the units on sale for $100 off, so the time seemed ready to pounce.

There was much deliberation on what retailer to go with, and after that it was determined that Kohl’s was the way to go. The promise of $60 in Kohl’s Cash and having a coupon that would apply to the purchase tipped the scale. So the order was placed.

I’m going to be petty, now. I’m going to bitch and moan for no reason other than to vent in the vain hope that someone, somewhere, notices and cares. If anyone out there had issues with Kohl’s this holiday season, let loose your own rage and vent your frustrations in the comment box, so we can take solace in knowing it wasn’t just us.

Anyway, they gave an estimated delivery date of 11/30. 11/30 came and went. No headset. No word. “Not an issue; it was Black Friday after all, they’re probably just running a bit behind.” Checked on UPS, says there was a tracking ID created, and label printed, they just hadn’t gotten it from Kohl’s yet.

Another week passes. We’re on the 7th of December, now. Still no sign, no changes on the UPS site. Kohl’s site claims the order is “complete.” I give them a ring, just to see what’s up, and the friendly, heavily accented individual informs me “I’m sorry, we cannot answer any questions at this time, please call back in an hour,” before hanging up. This is before I’ve even been asked my name or what my issue might be. I tried calling back, and get a different individual who says the same and hangs up again.

I shrug, say “Okay” to myself, and prepare to wait out an hour. I call back. I am given the same spiel and a hangup yet again.

I wait another hour, call back. Same results, though this time there was 30 seconds of foreign language shrieking to someone in the background before the rep gave their speech.

One more hour, I call again. At this point I am told that the item is out of stock, will not be restocked, and that I’m out of luck. They’ll refund it, of course, but that will take up to 7 business days. Would I like to place another order?

Fuck no, I wouldn’t. They had no answers as to the initial hangups. Not even a canned response as to why they couldn’t be asked to e-mail me and tell me “Hey, we screwed up, you’re not getting your item.”

So, of course, I’m out a headset, since all the sales are long gone, and in my area at least, the units themselves seem to be pretty universally sold out. Whatever; I can live with that. I’ve gone this long without one, I won’t die. I’m a teensy bit irate about the games and accessories that were purchased to go with the unit, since they’re either digital or outside of the return period, but that’s secondary.

What’s got me riled is the goddamn psychosis of the way Kohl’s has handled this, without even giving a “Sorry.” I even Tweeted about it, at which point Kohl’s responded to me asking me to DM them the details. They did that tweet about 5 seconds after I posted mine, and I immediately DM’d them, but they didn’t see fit to answer for another 20 hours. At that point they asked for my order number, which I provided, and have said nothing since. That was two days ago; I’m not expecting results any time soon. Not a surprise. Given they couldn’t bother to tell me anything about the inability to fulfill the order, why would I expect any communication from them now that I am no longer of use to them?

Further investigation shows several thousand 1-star reviews and reports of others suffering the same problems, alongside several multiple charges, wrong items, Kohl’s cancelling orders because they were suspected of being fraudulent (and then charging full price to replace the order, as the sale had ended and Kohl’s doesn’t feel the need to adjust the pricing down or otherwise compensate those affected) and incredibly poor customer service on the rare occasions someone can get a response out of them at all.

The best part is their constant self-congratulatory articles, Tweets and posts, bragging about having had their most successful Black Friday ever. I bet; raking in cash from multiple charges and items you don’t intend to send, charging people and sitting on the money (some reports indicate that even now, approaching 3 weeks later, the charges for cancelled items and duplicate charges are still impacting customer’s balances), and forcing people to pay full price and pay for any Kohl’s cash they used during the sale will certainly inflate that accounting… and if/when it’s fixed, it’ll show on a different report, thus making them look even better to their shareholders and accountants. At least until the amended report with the refunds comes in. That’s assuming there aren’t folks out there still waiting to find out what happened to their items, or those who just forget or write it off. (You wouldn’t think that would happen, but I work in the financial sector and the number of times I’ve had to file claims against items not received a year or longer after the initial charge is far more than any credulous person would believe.)

I’m done complaining, now. At least here. As noted, if anyone else had similar experiences with Kohl’s – or other retailers – in the Black Friday frenzy, feel free to share your stories below. If you’ve any advice on what else can be done – or know a place where I can still find a PSVR for $200 that isn’t eBay – drop it down below.

Beyond that, Happy Holidays, everyone. Hopefully next year is better.

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09
Nov
18

Game Review: Call of Cthulhu (2018)

It’s been a while since we had a proper cosmic evil video game. Call of Cthulhu has been making the rounds for a few years now, often whispered about like the rumors of what the neighbors are doing in the basement or what’s really in the meat you’re eating, occasionally bobbing to the surface in a brief and oh-so-tantalizing-yet-maddening bit of exposure before being submerged once more.

The call was finally answered this Halloween, and I was powerless against it. The question is, though, if it was worth it.

Short answer? No. At least, not right now.

I had some videos up of my playthrough, going over some of my issues and demonstrating some of them, but had to take them down due to potential copyright issues (apparently some of the music flags it), but I’ll try to speedrap some of the problems. My screencaps are likewise AWOL due to a faulty flash drive, but some of them made it onto my Twitter, at least.

One, the graphics. Now, the environments are great, though they were a little too in love with the color green – I mean, seriously, why do all the oil lamps glow green? I get it, in some instances, since what the whalers have been hauling up of late may not precisely be whales, but ALL the lighting? – but still well done, very detailed, and appropriately moody and atmospheric.

The denizens of Blackwater, on the other hand, are tripe. Their faces look wrong – and not in an Innsmouth Look way, but in a “poorly designed” way – and the generic NPCs have maybe 3-5 possible face/clothes combos, yet have as many as 10-15 in a small area, making you wonder if somehow the influence of Cthulhu has led to an upswing of twin and triplet births. The primary characters are a little better, but they’re still poorly animated, weirdly proportioned, and consist almost entirely of stock characters. (The drunk/drug addicted cop, the shady financier, Old Willie the Groundskeeper, etc etc etc.)

Of Mythos horrors, you won’t see much. A couple of mutant freaks, the suggestion of a squid-monster, and, if you get the bad ending, a pretty badass Cthulhu design for about 3 seconds. To be fair, for a Mythos story, it’s not what you see, but what you don’t, and knowing that what you see could be far worse, not having them front and center is almost okay. What isn’t is that you never really feel like they’re close. They don’t provide the looming intensity of knowing that insanity lies just around the bend, and the couple you DO see are almost cartoonish and not really that intimidating.

Sound-wise, again, the background noise is great. The subtle sloshing of waves when you’re on the beach, the groans and echoes of the mental asylum, the ominous chanting when infiltrating a cult’s secret lair… all good stuff. Music is minimal – except for the lovely copyright strike-inducing radios in a couple of areas – and not intrusive. The voice acting, though… ugh.

Our hero is the best of the lot, which isn’t saying much, but at least he reads the lines like a normal human being. The problem with him is that he’s also the voice of Jonathan from Vampyr, with a similar overall design and attitude. I spent half the game mocking him for being in the wrong game and wondering why he was lamenting his sanity instead of eating rats.

The others are varying degrees of bad, from Groundskeeper Willie feeling lifted out of the Simpsons, your cop buddy sounding like the worst combo JFK/Joker impression ever, and the Mysterious Woman trying to sound threatening and seductive but coming off like a bad Neptunia NPC. The generic NPCs all seem to have the same voice actor, and they sound like they’re trying to portray someone who’s performing a bad Russian accent who in turn is attempting to mock a Boston accent. While channeling their inner Wishmaster djinn on top of it.

Controls are… okay. There’s not really anything to be said, there; given that the game is essentially a glorified walking simulator, it just needs to be competent, which it is. A button to run, one to duck, one to search, and one to flick your light on and off. It’s all you need, really.

Story wise is where the game shines – even if it does have a few plot holes that are never explained, or even lampshaded with “Because you’re crazy, yo” – with a properly Lovecraftian slow burn building up to final madness. (Especially fun is, if you’re been poking at the things you shouldn’t, you’ll start getting dialogue options on R’leyhan) There isn’t much one can say about it without spoilers, but anyone reasonably well versed in Lovecraft or the Mythos can probably guess the broad strokes not too far in, and find the joy in watching it play out and seeing their guesses proven right or wrong.

All in all, the story redeems the poor character graphics and voices to a great degree. The backgrounds are great, and the controls are serviceable. So why say it’s not worth it?

Length vs. cost. At $60 you’re looking at 6-7 hours if you poke every corner on your way to the end. 4 or so if you’re speedrunning. About 12 hours, give or take, for a Platinum on a game that costs $60 and is half broken isn’t exactly good value in my mind. If the game was $40? Oh hell yes. At $30 it’d be considered freaking amazing. But $60 is just too high. Wait for a sale, or Redbox it.

The Call of Cthulhu is worth answering, yes.. but wait for the collect cost to come down a bit, first.

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07
Nov
18

Twitestinal Blockage

Twitter is an interesting place. Reminds me a lot of the digestive system, really; throw a bunch of stuff in, let it churn in heat and acid for a while, and hope something nutritious comes of it.

But it’s like that in another way; to be crude, a lot of what comes out is just shit. Now, that’s not all bad; gotta get rid of it to keep functional, after all. But some folks, like some eaters, have a problem. They’re all blocked up. So they keep jamming the same thing in, until they’re stuffed to the brim with it, but then due to blockage, they never actually get rid of it or try anything else. That can’t be healthy.

I’m talking about the folks – and there are likely hundreds, if not thousands of them at this point – who just slap blocks on people for no discernible reason. It may be that the blockee followed someone the blocker doesn’t like, or “liked” a YouTube video, Tweet or Facebook post that the blocker didn’t like (or one that was made by a person the blocker didn’t like), or maybe just because. But one thing I’ve noticed is that it is very rarely due to something the blockee directly said or did in relation to the blocker.

It’s fascinating, really. What’s more fascinating is how folks of this particular stripe enjoy playing the victim and claiming that nobody wants to listen to them or have rational discourse with them. Neglecting to mention, of course, that they slap that block on so many folks before those folks are even aware of the individual that it would be impossible for the people they seem to want to reach to actually hear the message or discuss it. Frequently, the only people allowed to follow such individuals are those who already subscribe to the same worldview and are typically already aware of the blocker’s ideology and personality and are in line with it to a greater or lesser degree.

Continuing with the poop analogy, one notes that someone suffering from intestinal blockage spends a great deal of time in the loo, attempting to pass said blockage. I also note that many modern bathrooms, being covered in tile, tend to provide excellent acoustics. Not unlike an echo chamber, eh?

I really think the “block” feature needs an overhaul. Sure, there’s reasons it’s there – abusive commentary, doxxing, criminal stalking, all things to be avoided – but the way it unilaterally says “you can’t see what I said, neener neener neener,” especially when one may be interested in learning about a public or semi-public figure’s opinions and attitudes on things seems rather foolish. Especially because such individuals wield it like some form of sterilizing club, ensuring that they don’t have to interact with anyone who just possibly might disagree with them while simultaneously ensuring that those potential fence sitters or genuinely curious individuals who like to hear both sides of something will never be able to. Further, it seems really counterintuitive; “I am on the interwebs to explain my philosophy, religion, political stance or social commentary to the masses! But I only let people who already agree with my stance on those things see it!”

Er, wot, mate?

Anyway. Only crawled out of the hole for long enough to vent my frustration in this department. What’re your opinions? Is a complete ability to both silence and blind your potential dissenters a proper way to deal with the internet, or should some changes be made? What should those changes be? Drop your thoughts down below! I’m back to my nebulizer and scouring Twitter to see who else might have decided I am unworthy of their knowledge…

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16
Oct
18

Breaking Dreams

Something I – and many other artists, I imagine – struggle with is the feeling of worthiness. That my ideas matter, or might be of interest or value to someone else. I can’t speak for everyone of an artistic bent, but that feeling is compounded for me by numerous mental issues.

I do tend to believe that artistic folks tend to have a greater incidence of mental illness, but that’s probably a topic for another day.

But those issues pile up, combine with self-esteem problems, and the constant wondering if the work is good enough and the desire for input so you don’t feel like you’re creating in an echo chamber.

That’s when I get the most discouraged. I’m sure I’m not alone, here. You have what sounds like a really cool idea. You need a little input, or an opinion, or maybe just a sounding board to talk it out with so you can clarify it in your own head. You go to a loved one, a friend, a message board or whatever, and before you’ve even finished articulating whatever it was, someone whips out a hammer and crushes it.

Now, those people may not have known what they did. They may not have done it maliciously, or even meant to be harsh at all. But in my own depressed, fragile, constantly doubting mind that quick dismissal is like a knife shoved between my ribs. It kills discussion regarding that idea, and frequently reverberates through later ideas, shattering them before they even have a chance or form or subjecting them to “well, the last one didn’t fly so why bother with this one?”

For those like myself, those rejections and dismissals become grains of sand around which black pearls form, tended and brooded over for years after the fact, often receiving far more attention than the idea that led to them until they are so large there is no room for any actual creativity. It’s not healthy, but it’s true. Again, I’m pretty sure I can’t be alone in this line of thinking.

Two that I remember: While mulling over Ioudas and where it needed to go, having started with the premise that the concept of “sin” was a type of “energy.” Attempting to determine where that energy would need to go, and how one would ultimately get rid of it, I commented “So Jonas would have to fight literal, physical manifestations of the Seven Deadlies.” I got that far before I was cut off. I had more; images of what those sins would mean to Jonas, how those manifestations would be dealt with, almost a whole story complete and ready to go. Before I could do so, however, the person who I was speaking with said “Oh, the Seven Deadlies. Really fucking original.”

Ioudas has been sitting at 25% complete since then; about three years. Every time I open the manuscript and think about working on it, I hear that voice again and slam the iPad shut, snarling.

The other was in reference to “Little Miss No Name.” Now, she’s fared better than Ioudas, with actual progress occasionally being made, but she hasn’t had the exposure she deserves because of it, and the greater world hiding behind her remains a few scraps of paper at the bottom of the desk because of it. Someone asked what I was working on and I said “It’s a story about a doll who…” Instant cut off.

“Sounds like crap. Like Annabelle. Who gives a shit?”

That person then went on to explain how a real good story would involve JFK time-traveling and killing dinosaurs, which really puts in the wheelhouse of “Consider the source,” but that’s never been my specialty. It left a scar, one that I still pick at and worry at, and rub salt into, far more than any of my physical self-mutilation injuries.

One can always go back to “grow thicker skin” commentary. Certainly an option. But that’s not something that magically happens, or makes every previous wound just vanish.

So if any of you out there are close to an author, a painter, a designer, a creative of any stripe, and they start sharing an idea… please, for just a second, pause and consider your response. I’m not saying you can’t be negative… maybe even mean. There are times when we need those things. But there’s a difference between negativity to a bad or malformed idea and offhand dismissal without even knowing the nature of the idea, and the latter is what rankles me and leaves me awake at night, brooding over the grim treasures spawned from such dismissals.

If you have a creative in your life, let them finish their thought. Ask a question or two, if only to give the impression that you were actually listening. Don’t just break out a verbal hammer and crush it straightaway or – worse – throw up a wall and walk away without a thought.

Please.

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13
Oct
18

13 Great Horror Games

Tis the season to be spooky; in that vein, I thought I’d share some of the games I love playing at this time of year, as well as some upcoming games I’m particularly excited about. 13 of them, to be exact; what better number could there be? If you’re a gamer who’s into the season, I think these are worth checking out… assuming you haven’t already.

Go on; try a few of ’em. What are you? Chicken?

Silent Hill 2

Of course this starts the list; the granddaddy of psychological horror, frequently touted as one of the best in the genre. While I’m not 100% certain of that claim, I do call it my second favorite game of all time (#1 is Metal Gear Solid 3), and think it still holds up today. As a bonus, unlike a lot of games on this list, it can be played on modern consoles (it’s available in HD Collection format for PS4 via PS Now, and the 360 version is backwards compatible with Xbox One) so there’s plenty of opportunity to check it out.

If you’re unaware of the basics, James Sunderland is a man grieving for his wife who died three years ago. Then one day he gets a letter from her, claiming she’s waiting for him in their “special place” – Silent Hill. With nothing better to do, James heads out to see what in the world is going on. If you’ve somehow gone this long without the twist being spoiled, do yourself a favor and play through the game without looking it up; the emotional punch when you find out is amazing.

Resident Evil 7

Resident Evil has had a few bad years, admittedly. While I don’t hate 5 and 6 as much as some folks – I think they’re decent action games, just not very good Resident Evil games – 7 serves as a properly terrifying title, switching out a lot of genre and series staples for a first-person view and a much more small-scale terror. The boss designs are properly disgusting, and the level of characterization behind the Baker family is amazing.

The DLC leaves a bit to be desired, but given the Gold edition with all of it included runs pretty cheap – and is frequently on sale on both the PSN Store and Xbox Marketplace – you might as well pick it up.

Alien: Isolation

Serving as a far better part of the Alien series than Prometheus or Covenant could hope to be, Isolation follows the troubles of Ellen Ripley’s daughter as she makes a trek to a soon-to-be-closed mining station that has picked up the flight recorder of the Nostromo. Looking to find out just what happened to her mother, Amanda soon finds that the flight recorder isn’t the only thing that’s made its way onto Sevastopol, and what follows is 20+ hours of hide-and-seek against possibly the best AI opponent ever seen in gaming. The game is truly tense and frightening, and one frequently is sympathetic to Amanda’s heavy breathing and desperate demeanor as you see the xenomorph’s tail dragging across the floor inches from your position, praying that it doesn’t notice you and move in for an appropriately cinematic and gruesome one-hit kill.

The other great thing about the game is that it absolutely nails the retro-futuristic look of the original trilogy, something the newer films can’t seem to handle. It’s available on damn near everything, last gen and next, and tends to run under $20, so there’s no real reason to miss out on it.

The Suffering

What happens when you take a bog-standard third person shooter, then inject it with heavy-duty horror elements and some of the best lore in horror gaming short of Silent Hill?

Magic, that’s what. The Suffering isn’t great on the mechanics scale, though it isn’t bad, either; its just average. What sells this title is the monster design – in the original, they’re all based off of methods of torture and execution used in the prison setting, while The Ties That Bind applies the concepts of inner-city death and strife – and the characters. Dr. Killjoy is both menacing and hilarious, and Horace manages to be horrific, threatening, and sympathetic all at once. The sequel falters a bit, but is still a decent game; still, if opportunity presents itself, check it out. One hindering factor is the game isn’t playable on any current systems; the PS2 version hasn’t made its way to PS Now, and at last check the Xbox copy doesn’t work on Xbox One, but if you’ve got a BC PS3 or an original Xbox lying around, check it out.

Fatal Frame III

The Fatal Frame series has fallen on hard times, it seems; the fourth installment was never released in the west, while the fifth is only available as a download on the ill-fated WiiU. Given the trend of WiiU games getting ported to Switch, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a compilation, but in the meantime I still have the original trilogy to keep me busy.

Fatal Frame‘s premise is simple enough: enter a haunted locale armed only with a camera (and maybe a flashlight. Sometimes.) Try not to die, figure out why it’s haunted, and try to complete whatever ritual went wrong to seal all the hellbound souls back where they belong. Fatal Frame games do a great job of emphasizing the helplessness and isolation that makes psychological horror work, the ghost designs are all unique and suitably disturbing, and the locales all give off the appropriate level of “Hell naw.” Of the three, Fatal Frame III does it best, while also offering multiple characters and giving you “breathing room” segments in the “normal” world. At least until that turns hostile, too… You can snag it (and the first two) from PSN on PS3 for pretty cheap; sadly, the PS2 and Xbox physical copies tend to be pretty pricey, though not terribly difficult to run down if you take that route.

Mary Skelter: Nightmares

Mary Skelter is a little difficult to explain. It’s primarily a first-person dungeon crawler, but it also incorporates some elements from dating sims, management sims, and visual novels. The basics are that you’re essentially trapped in a living dungeon – with moods and appetites that you can go against or attempt to sate, changing the layout and encounters – attempting to climb to the top and find a way out. Along the way you’ll recruit a band of twisted fairy tale princesses, who have a nasty tendency to go berserk, turning into ultra-powerful (but psychotic and just as liable to murder each other as the monsters) Skelter forms. That gives it an interesting risk/reward mechanic and requires a lot of planning to balance battles, giving it a more strategy vibe that doesn’t seem immediately apparent… at least until the first time one of your party members goes berserk, kills everyone else, depowers, and then gets one shot by the boss you were fighting.

The difficulty and style is very similar to early Persona or Shin Megami Tensei titles, so if you’re into those, check it out. The graphics and music/sound are beautiful dark fantasy fare, and each party member has a special skill used to deal with environmental puzzles. Only downside is it’s for Vita, so everyone may not have a chance to check this out, but a sequel just came out in Japan (and includes the original as a bonus) for PS4, so hopefully they’ll hop across the pond.

Dead Rising

Dead Rising isn’t an intellectual, scary, deep, or serious game. But it is a very entertaining one. The basic premise (of the first three entries, anyway) is “Here’s a big place full of zombies and random stuff. Grab the random stuff and bash zombies. Have fun.” The sheer number of outfits, items, weapons, food and potential combo weapons, along with the size of the environments mean there’s plenty of variety in the zombie-bashing, and if you feel like following the plot, helping the survivors and fighting the deranged psychopaths, there’s even more entertainment to be had.

That being said, try to stick to Dead Rising 1, 2, and Off the Record. 3 and 4 aren’t bad games, but they lack some of the charm of the first three, and are much more linear and pressing you to move forward instead of just having fun. With the exception of Dead Rising 3, you can get them on just about every system, both last and current gen, and except for Dead Rising 4, they generally are less than $10.

The Binding of Isaac

Just for clarification, I include Wrath of the Lamb, Afterbirth, Afterbirth+, Rebirth, Antibirth and all the other mods and DLCs under this heading. At the core, they’re all Isaac, and they’re all great. Take the mechanics of Zelda and Rogue, spray paint it in blood and poop jokes, and wrap it up in a story that deals with religious zealotry and child abuse, and you have Isaac. Very much a “just one more try” sort of game, the randomized items and runs – as well as the insane variety of modifiers and items, not all of which are beneficial to the player – provides an almost infinite amount of replay value. I’ve spent almost as much time on Isaac as I did in World of Warcraft or Diablo 3, and more than on my old PS2 Star Ocean 3 perfect save file on the quest to 100%, and I’m still playing it even after “completing” the game.

Isaac is fairly inexpensive, running under $20 in most cases, and is available for just about every platform, so there’s really no reason to miss out.

The Darkness

Jackie Estacado is a mafia enforcer possessed by (or possessing) The Darkness, a primal force of chaos, hunger, and evil. When his uncle makes the mistake of trying to kill him, it leads Jackie on a bloody rampage of revenge, putting his hell-granted powers to good use as he literally tears his way through the local Mafia.

What gets it on this list? The game captures the visual style of the comic book incarnation, drenching everything in a sense of nihilistic hopelessness and will to surrender to chaos. It also has some surprisingly well done emotional moments between Jackie and his girlfriend Jenny, which turn the dials to 11 when the inevitable happens. Jackie is a monster of a man, even without the Darkness, but it does an excellent job of humanizing him in some ways… and the moral quandary when a remorseless hitman begins questioning his own actions is fascinating.

The sequel is also worth playing – and the art style, voice acting and gameplay are better in many ways – but the story and presentation of the original – plus watching television with Jenny – push it a teensy notch higher in my opinion.

Deadly Premonition

Do you like Twin Peaks? Do you like murder mysteries, ghosts, insanity and delusions hiding beneath a goofy (and poorly executed, in many instances) exterior? Then you need Deadly Premonition.

It takes a lot of heat for the bad B-movie voice acting, the bizarre behavior of protagonist Agent Francis York Morgan, and absolutely atrocious controls, but if you can get past all that, you will find yourself embroiled in a surprisingly entertaining and engrossing tale of supernatural horror that’s frequently just as focused on day-to-day things like putting gas in the car and remembering to shower and change clothes so people will actually be willing to talk to you as it is on the zombie blasting.

Whether it’s a “so bad it’s good” game a “rough but good” game or just an oddity, Deadly Premonition is still something worth playing. Try to grab the Director’s Cut for PS3 or PC if possible, as control tweaks make it a lot more playable than the 360 original, but give it a look either way.

Honorable Mentions

Didn’t want to go into too much detail, here, but some other suggestions to put you in the mood: Alan Wake, BioShock, Prey (the 2016 one), Splatterhouse, Still Frame, Perception, Dementium: The Ward, and Alone in the Dark (1, New Nightmare or Inferno. Avoid the others.)

I also said I’d throw in some upcoming titles that I’m looking forward to, so here we go!

Death Mark

Billed as a psychological horror visual novel, everything I’ve seen so far looks intriguing. Plus it’s coming out on Halloween! I’m getting conflicting reports on whether this is going to be cross-platform or not, but its definitely on Vita and there may be a PS4 version floating about.

Call of Cthulhu

There was an old FPS on Xbox called Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth that was pretty decent, but from all reports this has little to do with that game outside of being based in the Mythos. Supposedly drawing more from the pen-and-paper game and focusing on semi-open world exploration and multiple solutions to problems at hand and with a sanity system that is supposed to finally top Eternal Darkness‘, Call of Cthulhu is looking good, and also lands on Halloween. That just leaves me the dilemma of if I’ll be huddled in the corner with the Vita or glued to the PS4 on that lovely day.

Ghost Theory

This is a lesser known title. A Kickstarted indie adventure title, Ghost Theory claims its going to be a more “authentic” ghost hunting game, based on allegedly real haunted locations and with “true to life” investigation methods and tools. It looks to be taking a less sensationalized and more grounded view, which could work against it – leading to an ultimately boring title – but I have high hopes that it will do well at instilling atmosphere and creeping dread.

Sadly, Ghost Theory isn’t going to make it in time for the holiday; current target release is December. But still, looks good and I can’t wait.

What about you folks out there? What spooky games do you think celebrate the reason for the season? What horror titles are coming up that you’re looking forward to? Let us know down below!

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10
Oct
18

Achievement Unlocked

Remember, once upon a time, when people played games for however long they wished, then stopped, put them away, sold them, or traded them in as the whim took them, and there was no pressure on the whole thing?

I do… and sometimes I miss it. But more often, I find it hard to get into games that aren’t somehow rewarding my obsessive completionist tendencies. When the Xbox 360 first launched, I stared at the Achievement system with narrowed eyes and open suspicion.

Years later, and I have trouble motivating myself beyond doing the bare minimum in my Switch and PSP games, because I don’t feel there’s any reward in it. There’s no little bar next to my name that says “100%,” “1000/1000,” or with an icon of a gem or a Platinum Trophy.

I end up playing games for longer than I enjoy them, or playing games for no reason other than to add to an arbitrary score or level. My Name Is Mayo is on my PSN ID for this reason, and Madden ’06 and NBA 2k6 lurk somewhere in my Xbox Gamertag as well. We don’t talk about Avatar: The Burning Earth.

But why? What is it about hearing that “Ping!” noise and seeing that I’ve just done something that only 3% of people playing the game bothered to do that makes me feel like its worth doing, even if I long ago stopped enjoying the game I was playing to do it? (I’m looking at you, Last Recode Platinum. Take your Books of Ryu and put them where the sun don’t shine.)

I think it’s a feeling of empowerment combined with the idea that I can point someone else at it and say “See! Look at my shinies! I did something!” When you’ve had most other avenues of accomplishment closed to you, temporarily or permanently, its important to point to something and say “I did this.”

But what’s different about earning the full score in Quantum Break vs 100% completion of Hyrule Warriors? I think it comes back to being able to share it, to contemplate that someone, somewhere, may be impressed with your pitiful accomplishment. No one can tell that I have wasted 300 hours of my life in Hyrule Warriors without having access to my Switch or without me doing obsessive screencaps. To be fair, I’m guilty of that, too. But on the other hand, everyone on PSN can potentially see that I am one of the 0.54% who have 100% finished The Binding of Isaac on PS4. (Yes, I am obsessively proud of that one.)

Speaking of which, if you want to see my PlayStation accomplishments, here they are. Sad, isn’t it?

What about you out there, fellow gamers? Are you for or against the accomplishment-tracking present in most modern games? Why? Do you feel like its enhanced or reduced your enjoyment of those titles with it? Let us know down below!

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10
Oct
18

Flash Fiction: Cold

I hear my daughter, calling me to her room. She says she’s cold.

She died in the fire three years ago.

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