Thursday, 6 July 2017

XBLIG Special - Buy before it's bye!

(With only a couple of months left until you can no longer purchase Indie games on 360, I decided now would be a good time to remind people that there is some good stuff hidden away among all the crap! So here's a few posts merged together from Blog Of Stuff recommending some spooky selections!)

There are literally thousands of games available on Microsoft's Xbox 360 that a lot of people will never have played or even considered. Some gamers looking at the Indie Game section on the dashboard will see games you can buy for 69p/$1 and automatically dismiss them as being pointless rubbish that's not worthy of their attention. Other's will look at the fact that some of the most popular games just involve minimum gameplay and badly-animated, big-boobed, scantily-clad girls and again think that the Indie section of Xbox is to be avoided. And there is a lot of pointless, sexist and just plain rubbish stuff floating around on there....

But there's also a lot of great games! Some of which are a damned sight more entertaining & innovative than a lot of the full price releases on the console....some that are totally unoriginal and steal stuff from other places, but are still a massive load of fun! But it's finding these games that are worth playing that can be tricky! So I've decided to give a mention on the list to 10 horror-themed titles that I've considered good enough to buy, and once Halloween is over I might let you know about some other games that are worth a lot more than the few pennies the creators are asking for them!

Bloody Death 

Remember when FMV was the future of gaming? Almost every game that came out at one point in the nineties had some sort of live-action element in it! And then it just sort of fizzled out and went back to pixels & polygons....Well, thankfully a group of Italian (I think?) game developers decided that we needed anew Night-Trap style game and provided us with this little gem!

It's obvious right from the start that English is not the first language of the stars of this game...a slaughter takes place at "Quite River" which was surely meant to be "Quiet River"? Maybe not, maybe it is quite the river! Anyway, the rather blood-soaked tutorial introduces you to the Quick Time Event controls you'll be using for the entire game. Yes, it's just a case of bashing buttons as they appear on screen while you watch a really bad horror movie, but what a great bad-horror movie!

Our heroine escapes the slaughter, and we join her 3 years later as a couple of friends join her and her boyfriend for a night of booze and Xbox! Unfortunately, in true schlock-style, the killer from Quite River has tracked her down and phones to let the group know he intends to murder them all! You have to try and keep them alive by using the aforementioned QTEs...

The acting is terrible, the script hilarious and sometimes you'll successfully manage to hit the correct combination of buttons only for the character to be horrifically murdered anyway, but it all makes for a hugely entertaining 20 minutes or so play, and the fact that they've even attempted to resurrect FMV games is to be applauded, as is the fact you can pick it up for £1.99! If you love cheesy, so-bad-they're-good horror movies this'll be right up your street, and as a fan of such fare I highly recommend you download it immediately! 

Hell's House

Look! It's the star of  Bloody Death Francesca Mamo in a sort-of sequel! This one has our star wandering around a Haunted House, and again you have to QTE your way through the game as you try to stop her dying horribly! This one doesn't have a lot of fact I can't actually remember if there's any talking at all, so it's not quite as funny! It does mean that the acting doesn't seem quite so bad too though, so we may see Francesca in a Dario Argento movie yet!

Anyway, it's another fun little interactive movie and again worthy of the £1.99 it asks for the pleasure of sitting through it!


Dead Pixels 

This one is a great retro-style side-scrolling shooter that has you trying to make it to freedom across a town filled with zombies! It's got a brilliant Grindhouse-inspired intro, and groovy music throughout! You can stop at shops to sell items you pick up along the way and purchase health packs, ammo & guns, and there are  several types of zombies to try them out on! The zombies will drop extra cash too, but try not to die as you pick it up before it disappears!

Dead Pixels is packed with references to zombie movies & games, and there's some free DLC that adds a survival mode, and another set of levels that changes gameplay a bit to keep you on your toes! Both of these extra DLC modes come with their own great intros and it makes for quite a large package of stuff to play through! It's awesome and could quite easily have been an Arcade release....And yet it's yours for 69p/$1!


Midnight Bite 

Draku's parents have flown off on vacation, but they forgot to stock up the fridge before going, and so it's up to us to guide the little vampire through a stealth action game so he can snack on the villagers, quench his first and emerge unharmed when his parents return!

You'll have to evade the guards, who have Metal Gear Solid style lines-of-sight, and hide in the occasional box to avoid being seen. If you keep your eye on the guards, you'll get to know their patterns, and you can slip past to the villagers! Once you get to a villager you can feast on their blood, and when you've got them all you'll move on the next screen via a magic mirror exit. Soon, extra dangers are added to the mix, like cats that'll wail if they see you and garlic that'll slow progress even more!  

It's a fun little puzzler with a cute style that'll appeal to any little monsters that happen to be lurking in your own crypts, as well as anyone who generally loves sneaking around as a bloodsucker! 


I Maed A Gam3 W1th Zombies 1nit!!!1 

This game is as much a music video as it is a Robotron-style twin-stick shooter! You battle to survive hordes of zombies, picking up various power-ups and trying to last to the end of the creator's 15-minute or so song about the very game you're taking part in! It's a game with zombies in it, for goodness sake! What more do you need to know!? Go spend your dollar!


Saturn 9 

Sent to a suddenly silent spaceship to find out what happened to the crew, you discover that things have gotten a little out of hand and some sort of creatures are running riot! This might not sound like the most original set-up for a game, but Saturn 9 was a pleasant surprise when I discovered it!

Taking influence from games such as Fear, Dead Space Eternal Darkness, this first-person survival horror has hallucinations making you question just what is really happening, and what's in the protagonist's head. These occur when your character is running out of oxygen, which you'll need to keep topping up. Locked doors provide some password hunting and puzzle solving, and you'll need your wits about you to work some of these out.

The atmosphere of the game was really surprising to find in an Indie title, with the constant breathing coming from your character as they move around the incredibly dark levels in their spacesuit and the diary logs left by the crew creating a truly spooky environment..

Again, it's worthy of reaching a larger audience than the one XBLIG has, and like a few other games here it looks like you'll soon be able to get it on Steam too! It's well worth a look, especially for under a quid!


Three Dead Zed 

This is a great side-scrolling platform adventure, where you play the role of a zombie spliced together from 3 different types...the Classic, the Sprinter & the Brute! Switching between the three types will get you through the puzzle filled levels, as you dodge various blades and saws and other hazards...

 The Classic can climb ladders & push buttons...the Sprinter moves quickly & can bounce up between walls that don't have ladders and the Brute is the muscle of the three and can break walls & platforms & pick up heavy items and move them to make platforms..

A strange voice that has directed you to freedom from the lab you were created in, tasks you with removing tin-foil hats from cats also trapped in the lab..but who is behind the voice? And what are his motives? It'll be a load of fun finding out, and despite a few tricky moments and pixel-perfect jumps etc., this should keep you interested long enough to reach the end!


Vital Force 

Basically a budget Project Zero / Fatal Frame, Vital Force sees you play an eight-year old girl who wakes up in a subway station, with no memory of how she got there and only her phone to help her find her way out also quickly becomes apparent that the station is populated by spooky Japanese-style ghosts, so she'll need to use her phones camera  & torch functions to try and combat those too!

Health packs & batteries are scattered around that'll keep you and your phone topped up, as you spend around an hour battling beasties & trying to escape, and for 69p you should be pleased with the scares on offer here! Well worth a purchase!


Twin Blades 

The presentation of Twin Blades is a little higher than you'd expect from most Indie titles, and the price reflected this..being a few pounds instead of the usual 69p-£1.99..but it's actually pretty pointless me telling you this, as apparently it's no longer available for purchase! If you haven't already downloaded it, you'll no longer be able to play it, as it has disappeared for some reason from Xbox, Windows phones & iOS!

It's a side-scrolling hack'n'slash affair, that quickly becomes repetitive but is charming enough in its design to keep you playing a bit longer than you probably should. You play as a nun trying to stem the flow of zombies invading your homelands, and buy weapons such as ice-guns & flamethrowers to aid you along. These can be upgraded by picking up the coins that the progressively tough zombies drop, and cashing them in via a priest back at the start of the world map...

The ever-increasing difficulty and zombie types and a neat little challenge mode keep me going back to this, and although it's far from perfect it's a real shame that it's no longer available to buy. Hopefully it'll resurface someday, or even better...get a much improved sequel, although as the studio responsible seems to have to disappeared too, this seems unlikely....


Zombie Death Quota 

Another game I've played way more than I would have thought, Zombie Death Quota takes Minecraft's looks, spruces them up a bit, and adds a shoot-em-up style gameplay..which has you scrambling to collect boxes whilst blasting or avoiding the oncoming hordes! You need to survive long enough to be rescued by a helicopter at the end of each level...
Whenever you use a flamethrower, you get a nice blast of Heavy Metal which makes you feel like a total badass, and there are lots of other weapons which you get as you move through the levels, which helps keep things a little less repetitive..

It's a simple idea, but done wonderfully! None of it is very original, but somehow it all adds up to make a highly addictive little game! And it even adds special objectives once you've completed a level, so you have an excuse to replay them! Another game worthy of your cash then, as is.....

ZDQuota II - Ghost Dogs 

...The sequel! Which is pretty much exactly the same, but this time you can bring a friend! Oh, and there's the freaky, jumpy undead ghost hounds to deal with now too, which adds a little extra spice to the pot..

And this time, it's dubstep instead of rock that blasts your eardrums when you fry things with the flamethrower! So you see, it's a totally different game! Well, different enough to spend another 69p anyway! ;-)


Monsters (Probably) Stole My Princess 

Another simple premise with snazzy presentation for this last indie recommendation! In this, you play the Duke, who seems to have misplaced his princess! It was (probably) those bloody Monsters! So the Duke sets off to reclaim his love, and terrify the monsters (probably) responsible for her disappearance!

Gameplay involves trying to touch as many platforms as possible, and then bouncing off the monster three times before it reaches the top of the level. For every platform the Duke touches, a combo-counter increases..but if he touches the same platform twice, the counter resets and the bonus is lost!

Trying to improve your combo & therefore score is the hook for this game, but the charm of the graphics, the wonderful music and the humour of the story will also have you coming back time after time to try and beat your previous scores! Go buy it immediately! 


Medieval Zombies

This game plonks you way back in days of yore, facing hundreds of the undead as you search crates and hunt for better equipment to destroy them with, whilst also trying to keep your fellow AI zombie fighters alive. As you can see, the graphics are somewhat rubbish, but this gives the game a certain appeal...

Unfortunately, it also gets very, very repetitive after the first 10 minutes or so. Somehow, despite it's obvious crapness, I still really like Medieval Zombies, but i can't really recommend it or you'd think I'd gone completely mental!


After Dusk

Ah! This is a bit better! In After Dusk, you, as captain of a starship, answer a distress call from a Space Station to find out what went wrong and maybe claim some salvage. Once you get there though, you find things have gone a bit bitey-bitey, brainy-chompy Dead-Space-style, and the space station crash lands onto a nearby planet! Skulking around the dark, you fire up generators to keep the light-fearing nasties at bay and try to get back to your ship and get away from all this death!

It's quite a groovy little game, with some nice light effects (your bullet lights up a trail as it shoots off towards the nasties), some decent platformy-puzzlements and a suitably unsettling soundtrack. Well worth a go if you're looking for a good creep around in the dark....


Dead Kings

I really like this one! Apparently a sequel to game called Bloody Checkers (which focused a lot more on playing checkers, obviously), this one has you creeping about a castle at night looking for loot and battling dead kings and queens by examining their paintings and then taking on their challenges, which come in the form of a few mini-games like Breakout, Asteroids or, indeed, checkers...

You'll also struggle to keep your candle alight to see where you're going and access the paintings, as various ghostly happenings occur to scare you pantless and put out your flame! This game oozes atmosphere, and was quite a surprising find for me on XBLIG...It reminds me of Dark Souls, the old TV series Knightmare and a random crappy-but-good covergame you'd get on the front of an old Spectrum mag! Definitely give this one a go for a unique blend of freakiness this Halloween! Oh, and you can bring a friend for a co-op playthrough too! So yay! 


Press X To Not Die 

Another one of these Live-Action-Video style games now, that everybody thought was the future of gaming back in the early nineties. This one actually tries to be funny, unlike the ones I reviewed earlier in the post, and it sometimes succeeds. 

As you've probably guessed from the title, the game consists almost entirely of QTEs and you have to bash the buttons at the right time or you'll fail whatever task you happen to be doing. If QTEs are a personal bugbear of yours, you'd better steer well clear....

Plot-wise it seems pretty similar to Sean Of The Dead, with you trying to get to your girlfriend and escape the random outbreak of whatever virus is causing people to go a bit doolally and violent! Like I said, there's a few laughs to be had, and it's just about the right length for you to not get bored of just pressing random buttons. So yeah, again worth a go if you're after something a bit different....


Demon House

Lastly today, we look at the rather okay Demon House, where you wander around a spooky mansion in FPS mode, trying to put a stop to an evil scientist plans for world domination using an army of undead creatures and robots!

It's fairly standard budget FPS stuff, but has a nice spooky atmosphere with lots of Haunted House style creepiness, and decent enough AI that it's pretty enjoyable to roam around. You'll also need to find keys hidden in secret areas to open doors so there's a fair bit of exploration too! It's pretty decent for the price you'll pay, so I recommend you give it a go.


So there you go...for under £20 a whole load of stuff to keep you busy for hours....but with only a short time left before some of them disappear perhaps for good!

Remember that a lot of these games are available on other platforms such as mobiles, PCs and PSP..and also that if you're still not sure about spending cash on them, Xbox allows you to download a trial for every single one, so you can sample them before you part with your pennies!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Werewolves Of London (ZX Spectrum, Amstrad, C64)

Werewolves Of London (ZX Spectrum, C64, Amstrad) :

Cursed by a family of Gypsy yuppies, this game has you hunting down every last member of that family and killing them, in a bid to cure yourself of an evil, lycanthropic affliction that sees you become a werewolf by night! You have to munch your way through London to get to them..but be careful of the police as the more you kill, the more will be after you!

You can collect various items to help you in your quest and if you eat people as a werewolf, you can find some useful stuff like train tickets which will let you into the Underground, or keys to let you enter the park. Members of the family of fiends who cursed you can be found by keeping an eye out on the bottom of the screen. A cross will flash when they are near and they are easily distinguishable from the other randoms walking around as they are always clad in black.

Inevitably, you'll end up in jail before you find all eight of your enemies. The key to success is to store items in your cell that will help you escape, like a file to open the window or a torch to see in the dark sewers. A manhole cover lifter gets you into these smelly tunnels so best keep an eye out for that too!

There's loads of fun to be had prowling around London's parks, sewers, rooftops and Underground, preying on helpless civilians and armed police alike! Finding a family member always induces a slight panic as you strive to get them before they escape and legging it from the policeman with the keys who locks you up can also be a right laugh ....

The game can be a bit glitchy in places, and suffers quite a bit from slowdown when a lots happening on screen. Unfortunately, the original Spectrum release also came with a bug which meant the game couldn't be completed. But thanks to the wonders of modern science, a bug fixed version can now be obtained from World Of Spectrum meaning you can finally be free of the curse after all these years! Hurrah!

You can get the fixed version here...

But yeah, it's still well worth a'd have to be howling at the moon to not try it at least! 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Shadowman (PC, N64, PS1)

Shadowman (N64, PS1, PC) :

The Nintendo 64 was often wrongly regarded as a machine for kids, whilst the PS1 was the choice for the older gamers. People complained that there were no decent games for the mature player on Nintendo's machine, and the general cuteness of it's games put a lot of people off...but then along came Shadowman, a game based on a comic by Valiant!

Described by a few magazines as "Zelda's Evil Twin", Shadowman had plenty of swearing and gory, gruesome bits! It saw you play the part of Mike LeRoi, an unwilling latest addition to the line of Shadowmen...a group of Voodoo warriors blessed by the dark gods with supernatural powers, which they used to protect their tribes from threats crossing over from the undead plains known as Deadside.

The latest threat to the world is a chap calling himself Legion, who has gathered up a group of serial killers and built a huge place called Asylum in Deadside, which will enable all manner of nasties to creep over the divide into Liveside. As Shadowman, Mike is able to travel between both worlds, and must collect Dark Souls, evil energy that Legion plans to give to his many minions to make them powerful. As you collect these souls, you gain more power which helps in the fight against evil..

You collect lots of different weapons, some of which have both a Liveside and Deadside equivalent. A cool feature is being able to wield a different weapon in each hand, giving you more ways to battle the baddies! The game does play a lot like some twisted Ocarina Of Time and you can tackle it in a similar non-linear fashion so long as you have the right equipment to make it past certain obstacles.

The boss battles are great fun, and see you making trips back to some nasty, dark Liveside locations...the fight with Avery Marx as he stalks you in the dark with night vision goggles being a personal favourite! All in all, it makes for an atmospheric, freaky game that I personally think is a must-have for any N64 collector..

The game is also available on PS1 and PC, but having never played either of those versions, I can't say whether they're any better or worse....

The game did get a PS2 sequel, Shadowman - 2econd Coming which was okay but not a patch on the first. It seemed to lose a lot of the atmosphere of the first game but I suppose it's still worth checking that out too..which I may just do at some point in the future, right here on the blog!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, Megadrive/Genesis)

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, Megadrive/ Genesis) :

Or just plain Zombies in the UK.....this is a perfect game for Halloween! You fill the shoes of either Zeke or Julie as they take to the streets to battle all manner of horrors that for reasons unknown, have suddenly decided to launch an all-out attack on humanity! Using everything you can lay your hands on, you fight your way through waves of pretty much every classic movie monster (oh, and giant babies!) until a final confrontation with the evil Dr. Tongue who seems to be the mastermind behind this evil uprising....

The game is filled with references to classic B-movies, and if you know your stuff you'll know what weapons work best on what creatures...(Silver kitchenware against werewolves, Fire extinguishers against the Blob-type things, etc.)... Various potions can be used too, turning you into a monster that can break through walls or giving you invulnerability for a while. It's a huge load of fun, especially if you find someone else to play it with as one of you can sometimes get transformed into a zombie or a monster and lose all control as you chase down your buddy!

Weirdly, there a few differences between versions...the US version has no blood in it, and any red stuff has been turned to purple gloop! But, it does have chainsaw wielding lumberjacks which the PAL version deems too violent and replaces the chainsaws with axes (which are obviously, way less violent!?!?!?) Oh, and Americans seem to be fine with eating neighbours too! Anyway, go give it a try if you've yet to sample it's spooky superb-ness! And we'll try to forget about it's horrible sequel-that-wasn't-really-a-sequel, Ghoul Patrol....

Monday, 27 February 2017

Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion (PC)

Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion (PC) :

Before John Romero and the Carmacks started the whole FPS craze with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, they developed this fun little platform shooter! A sequel to an earlier platform game, Dangerous Dave, this has us take control of Dave as he enters a haunted mansion to look for his brother Delbert!

Armed with a shotgun, we travel through 8 levels of spooks and traps, blowing baddies apart into bloody chunks and leaping over various walls and obstacles, opening doors to reach further into the depths of the mansion.The enemies are a nicely varied bunch, with Frankenstein Monsters, Witchy-looking little imps, spiders, slimes and others all out to put a stop to Delbert's rescue.

Good job then that you get decent control of your gun and are able to aim it at different angles to help dispose of them before you come a cropper! But useful though the shotgun is, it will require reloading...something which you better remember to do after blasting every few fiends, or you'll end up witnessing one of the many animated death scenes that pop up in a nice little panel every time you pop your clogs....

It's a great little platformer and heaps of fun! The feel of the shotgun feels strangely familiar if you've played Doom too, even though the games are in different perspectives..which is a bit odd! But yeah, find a copy of this if you can and you should find yourself suitably pleased!