Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Town in Kingdom Hearts: A Very Square Halloween

Happy Halloween!  It's time to celebrate the scariest holiday of the year, pop in a creepy game (if you need some help choosing, feel free to pick a game that I've covered this past month), turn off the lights, and prepare to be scared!  Today we're going to look at a game that isn't very scary at all (wait, what's going on?!), but is still fitting for the 31st of October.  That game is Kingdom Hearts, and more specifically we're going to look at the Halloween Town level which is based off of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

For the uninitiated, Kingdom Hearts is a game that combined characters from Square-Enix games with those of Disney films.  It sounds very odd, but it made for an awesome adventure.  Besides, who doesn't want to see Donald Duck kick some ass?  Each world you visit is based off of a Disney film, such as the underwater city in The Little Mermaid, the jungle in Tarzan, and Agrabah from Aladdin.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Castlevania: The House That Dracula Built

Very few games can encapsulate the spirit of Halloween better than Castlevania.  A journey through a gigantic castle filled with all sorts of monsters and creepy scenery, which concludes in a showdown with Dracula?  The only way this could be anymore Halloween-themed is if it had a set of decorative Jack O'Lanterns scattered throughout each castle.  Today we're going to cover some of the monsters that our vampire-hunting protagonists encounter in the Castlevania games.

In these games you'll find the usual suspects in fantasy horror games/media, such as zombies, skeletons (so many different types of skeletons that it's not even funny), and bats.  Since these are so common in other games, let's discuss some other enemies that are less abundant outside of Castlevania.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Creepers in Minecraft: Evil Self-Destructing Terrors

Today we're going to talk about the most brutal, most annoying, and most popular enemy in Minecraft: the Creeper.  Truly these creeps enjoy creeping around and causing massive amounts of damage to you and anything you've built.  Nothing drives home the point that you shouldn't leave your safe area at nighttime like one of these monsters.

Creepers are the most unique enemies in the game.  Whereas monsters like giant spiders and zombies are based off of popular fictional creatures, you'd be hard-pressed to find something in other fictional works that looks and acts like a Creeper.  They're basically armless beasts with four legs and a large head, with a face that appears to have a permanent expression of sadness.  I'd be sad too if my only means of defending myself was to use a suicide-causing exploding attack.

Monday, October 28, 2013

ReDeads in Zelda: The Nintendo Take on Zombies

Zombies, zombies everywhere!  At least that's what it seems like when it comes to videogames (and more recently, television shows).  The Legend of Zelda games are no exception due to their own form of zombie: the ReDead.  Today let's observe this undead (does being re-dead technically count as undead? hmm...) monstrosity that Link must face.

ReDeads made their first appearance in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and what a first appearance it is.  Link finds himself in an underground tomb of the royal family of Hyrule (located in Kakariko Village's graveyard), and comes across a large room filled with zombie ReDeads.  In fact, the majority of ReDeads are found in tombs, as well as Hyrule Castle Town after Ganondorf sacks it.  It wouldn't be appropriate to have this super-disturbing enemy hanging out on the sunny beach of Lake Hylia, now would it?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Berserker and Kryll in Gears of War: Heart-Pounding Action

When you think Gears of War, you're likely thinking of nonstop action, extremely gory chainsaw fatalities, and in the case of the later games in the series, awkward drama moments.  If you've played the very first entry in the series however, you'll also remember that Gears once had some truly scary and stressful moments.  For those of you who jumped into the world of Sera during the second or third Gears games, this is going to be a quick introduction to the Kryll and Berserkers, two of the most feared enemy types in Gears of War (I know there's a form of Berserker in Gears 3, but it's watered down so it doesn't count).

Marcus has a rough night ahead of him.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stalkers in Half-Life 2: Grotesquely Recycled Human Beings

Half-Life 2 is great at describing a worst-case scenario about first-contact with an alien species, or in this case multiple alien species.  Here you won't find aliens expressing greetings from far away star systems, in Half-Life 2 humanity is still dealing with the aftermath of a seven-hour war with the Combine after they first teleported onto Earth.  That wasn't a typo, the war with humanity literally lasted seven hours before humanity had to surrender, giving you an idea of how powerful this enemy is.

In previous articles, I've covered some of the horrors that arose as a result of alien species mingling with earthlings, such as the zombies and the town of Ravenholm where you first encounter them in abundance.  Today we're going to look at another disgusting result of the Combine invasion, which are Stalkers.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Boos in Super Mario: The Not-So-Friendly Ghosts

Today let's take a look at one of the most recognizable enemies in the Super Mario series: Boos!  These ghastly enemies serve the purpose of adding a bit of supernatural elements to Mario's adventures, as if giant sentient mushrooms and evil turtles weren't supernatural enough for us all.

By ghost standards, Boos have a somewhat cutesy look that we've come to expect from Nintendo.  They basically resemble a rounded marshmallow in appearance, with two short stubby arms that seem to have no purpose other than to cover their eyes.  These ghosts usually wear a frown, and cruise around with their tongue stuck out of their large mouth.  Also they have large (and sometimes spiky) teeth sticking out of their upper jaw, probably as a last-ditch effort to make them look threatening.  Starting with Super Mario 64, Boos emit a high-pitched giggle when Mario's around.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Planes of Oblivion in The Elder Scrolls IV

Today we're going to look at an in-game location that is as close to Hell as you're going to get without playing Doom 3.  I'm talking about the Planes of Oblivion in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  In this game the main threat is an invasion of horrifying monsters from the realms of the lava-filled Oblivion.  The monsters are able to teleport to the land of Tamriel through the use of huge "Oblivion Gates" which appear in numerous locations throughout the land.  Of course these gates work both ways, allowing you to enter the Planes of Oblivion, and face the horrors within.

An Oblivion Gate.  Sauron would be proud.

The Planes of Oblivion are a sight to behold; it is truly a hellish atmosphere.  The sky is blood red, and filled with gray and black clouds which are fitting for a world that seems to be constantly burning.  You'll encounter pools of lava, as well as seemingly endless oceans of lava (so much for taking a nice cool swim).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Enderman in Minecraft: Disturbing Block Thieves

It's time for a nighttime trek into the world of Minecraft, to behold another of its horrors.  As you all know, this game world is extremely punishing if you decide to venture beyond the confines of your well-lit, well-fortified safe zone.  With that said let's carefully observe the most unsettling creature in the game: the Enderman.

The zombies, spiders, and skeletons in Minecraft aren't very threatening to look at, but it seems that special effort went into the Endermen to make them look pretty disturbing and creepy.  Their extremely long and thin limbs look alien in appearance, but rumor has it that they are based off of Slenderman.  Due to their pitch black skin, their large white expressionless eyes stand out like a sore thumb at nighttime.  Also, they tend to make a disgusting gurgling noise while they stroll about.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Skulltulas in Zelda Games: Webs of Horror

Leave it to the creators of the Legend of Zelda games to marry two things that freak people out: spiders and human skulls.  What do you get when you combine those?  Skulltulas of course!  Let's take a look at this monstrous arachnid's appearances in some of the Zelda games.

The reason these spiders are called Skulltulas is because they tend to have a human skull-shaped pattern covering their backside.  They can range in size from small dog to holy-hell-it's-bigger-than-a-horse.  One thing they all have in common though is a taste for human flesh, since they will ruthlessly attack Link whenever he's in the area.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Team Fortress 2 Halloween Events: Spooktacular Fragging

Every October, Valve Software gives a special treat to all the gamers who love the spirit of Halloween.  This treat is the annual Team Fortress 2 Halloween event.  I must say, whether you love Valve or hate them, you have to admire the fact that they're still supporting TF2 all these years after its 2007 release date.  So let's dive in and look at all the awesome features of this event.

Back in 2009, Valve initiated their first Halloween event in TF2.  They released a new king of the hill map called Harvest, as well as a Halloween-themed counterpart called Harvest Event.  The event map is set at nighttime with various visual touches to get you into the Halloween spirit.  These include jack-o-lanterns scattered around the map, tombstones, and re-skinned health kits which are now represented by candies and cauldrons.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Count Batula: Conker the Squirrel Meets Dracula

It seems I can't stop talking about Conker's Bad Fur Day.  The game contains such a diverse set of parodies that you can't help but find one or two levels that you will remember forever.  Seeing as this is the month of October, let's take a look at the chapter of the game called Spooky, and its main antagonist: Count Batula.

Well, Grabbed by the Ghoulies had a vampire chicken, so why not a vampire squirrel in Bad Fur Day?

The chapter starts off with Conker taking a nighttime stroll and encountering Gregg the Grim Reaper.  There's a brief conversation involving zombies, which Gregg hates worse than cats because they are undead, apparently some kind of insult due to his job occupation as a reaper.  Gregg then gives Conker a shotgun and directs him to a zombie-filled graveyard, motivating the ever-greedy Conker by telling him he has a rich relative in the area (he neglected to say anything about that relative being a vampire though).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fatal Frame: The House of Camera-Shy Ghosts

When you think of survival horror games, probably what comes to mind are Resident Evil and Silent Hill.  No matter what series you're thinking of, you likely associate the genre with zombies, which are the most widely used enemy type in survival horror.  Well how about we look at a survival horror game that contains absolutely no zombies at all, or even monster nurses?

What we're going to cover today is Fatal Frame, a game where the only enemies you'll encounter are ghosts, and plenty of them.  But how do you kill something that's already dead?  Well obviously you defeat them by using a camera, right?  Okay, maybe that isn't the most obvious weapon, but that's what made Fatal Frame a unique game, it was all about battling spirits using the magic of a viewfinder instead of the brute force of a shotgun.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Dead Hand in Ocarina of Time: Nightmares for Everyone!

As I've said many times, the Zelda games contain many horrors that make you question if they should be played by kids.  Every once in a while this series will contain a monster that is so grotesque and disturbing that it looks like it belongs in a Resident Evil game.  Today we're going to look at one such monster: a boss from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time called the Dead Hand.

Immediately you'll notice that the Dead Hand is not a very pleasant creature to look at.  It looks like a blob of fat encased in pale white corpse-like skin, covered with patches of blood for good measure.  It has two stubby arms with apparently no hands attached (you'd think that would contradict its name, but just wait and see), and a hunchbacked posture. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Skilled Skeleton Archers in Minecraft

In previous posts I've talked about the zombies and spiders in Minecraft, so why stop with just those two monstrosities?  Today we're going to look at another servant of Minecraft Hell (or wherever these things spawn from), the skeleton.

Just when you thought Minecraft wouldn't be able to add anything more threatening than a door-busting zombie, or relentless wall-climbing spider, the game introduces an enemy with a long range attack.  Skeletons are very dangerous due to the bow and arrows they are equipped with, which they are quite skilled at using.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doom 3: Hell Unleashed On Your Nerves

If you've played Doom 3, then you've known what it is to be scared.  This game is packed with so many jump scares and tense moments that by the time you reach the end credits you'll probably notice a few gray hairs sprouting up on your head.  Today we're going to take another trip back to Mars and face the minions of Hell one more time as we explore the terror of Doom 3.

But first a little background on this series.  The original Doom is a true classic, with its revolutionary graphics (by 1993 standards that is) and thrilling first-person perspective.  Doom's popularity is considered by many to be solely responsible for the boom in first-person shooting games.  In this game, you play as a space marine stationed on Mars who is trying to fight back an invasion of the demons from Hell.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Creepy Castle in Donkey Kong 64

Donkey Kong 64: You either love it or hate it.  Some people love it for the large levels that allow for tons of platforming action, some hate it because of the repetitive objectives and mini-games on each level.  Whatever you feel about this game, you have to admit that it does have some pretty stylish levels.  Today we're going to look at one of the last levels in the game: Creepy Castle.

As you've already deduced from the name, Creepy Castle takes place on a massive castle.  The game sets a nice spooky mood as soon as you arrive here; you start outside the castle at nighttime, during a thunderstorm.  Seeing flickers of lightning while rain pours down on you constantly is definitely a nice touch.  A bonus is the extremely catchy song that plays when you are outside the castle, which in my opinion is some of the best music in the game.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Altered Beast: An Old-School Trip to the Underworld

It's time for some classic beat-em-up action!  Altered Beast was originally an arcade game back in 1988, and was later ported to consoles.  In this game, you play as a Roman Centurion who is resurrected by Zeus in order to save Zeus' daughter Athena from an evil god named Neff.  How's that for a mish-mash of mythology?

Anyway, as you side-scroll your way through the five levels in the game (yes, it's pretty short), you can obtain power-ups which cause the Centurion to "power up" as the in-game voice states (every single time you pick one up, it's actually pretty funny to hear).  After collecting three power-ups, the Centurion will transform into a level-specific beast, such as a werewolf or a bear.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Regenerators in Resident Evil 4: Unnverving Terror

Today let's ramp up the scare factor a bit by looking at what I consider to be the scariest creature in Resident Evil 4: the Regenerator.  This is truly an unsettling beast, and makes most of the other enemies in the game seem as scary as a Muppet on Sesame Street.  Grab some first-aid sprays, here we go!

The terror has only begun.

A little background on Resident Evil 4: the "zombies" in the game aren't zombies at all.  They are merely humans who are infected with a parasite which takes complete control of the host's nervous system.  The infected humans sacrifice intelligence and freedom of choice in favor of greater strength.  This is similar to the Headcrabs in the Half-Life games, except the parasite is internal as opposed to the skull-biting Headcrab.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Great Moments in Jump Scares: Bioshock

The original Bioshock is known to be the scariest game in the series.  Its creepy atmosphere and even creepier enemies make for some wonderful moments of pure jump-out-of-your-seat fear.  In this article, we're going to look at some of the notable jump scares in Bioshock.  Keep in mind that this is by no means an inclusive list of all jump scares in the game, just a few that I find to be the most memorable.  So sit back, turn off all the lights, and enjoy!

The Morgue

Let's start off by talking about the morgue level in Bioshock.  A place with mass storage of dead bodies?  You know the developers couldn't miss out on this golden opportunity to give you a fright. Upon entering the storage area, you'll find that it's dimly lit, with giant blood splatters on the floor, and corpses lying on tables.  Towards the back of the room, you'll notice the shadow of a Splicer projected on the wall, but you can't see him since he happens to be standing around a corner (see below pic for clarification).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: A Horrifyingly Awful Game

Today we're going to look at a game most people shudder to think of: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the NES.  It's notorious for being a terrible game due to bad controls and other monstrous elements that we'll dive into in just a bit.  Buckle up folks, and try not to pay too much attention to Robert Louis Stevenson rolling over in his grave.

Just the cover art itself is terrifying.

The game starts out like any other side-scrolling game you've ever played: simply make Dr. Jekyll walk towards the right side of the screen.  What begins as a peaceful stroll through town quickly takes a turn for the worse, as you quickly realize that everything is out to get you, and I mean everything.  Random guys wearing top hats will walk up to Jekyll, drop a bomb in front of him, and then take off running.  Gravediggers will throw dirt at Jekyll, while cats attack his legs.  Even the birds are out to get this poor guy, bombing him with bird droppings.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Grey Childen in Silent Hill: Pint-Sized Terrors

It's about time for another visit to Silent Hill, don't you think?  Today let's push through the fog and go back to the days of the Playstation 1, and the delightfully hideous town in Silent Hill 1.  The game starts off with the protagonist Harry searching for his adopted daughter in the strangely abandoned town, where his search eventually brings him to an equally abandoned elementary school.

Class is most definitely not in session.

It is in this school that we experience one of the signature events in the Silent Hill games: the transition into an alternate dimension, where the town is even more horrifying than before.  After this transition the most disturbing horrors come out to play, and Harry now finds the elementary school to be inhabited by monstrous, child-shaped beings called Grey Children.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Evil Moon in Majora's Mask

Usually when you think of a full moon, what comes to mind are werewolves, or people going crazy and doing stupid things.  But what happens when the scary thing isn't caused by the moon, but is actually the moon itself?  What we get is the ever-present threat from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the moon.

First of all, any moon with a face on it is bound to look creepy, but the monstrous face on the Majora's Mask moon looks like it was custom made to enter your nightmares.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Grabbed By The Ghoulies: A Hauntingly Fun Experience

Today we're going to take a trip into a haunted mansion, no not the one at Disneyland!  I'm talking about Grabbed by the Ghoulies for the original Xbox.  This game was the first Rare title to be released after Microsoft purchased the studio, and one of the last good Rare games to be released before Microsoft ran them into the ground (but that's a story for another day).  Scattered throughout the game are various items that will give you Rare nostalgia, such as paintings of Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie.  In some rooms you explore, you will even hear a slightly modified version of the theme song from the Creepy Castle level in Donkey Kong 64.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Devious Spiders in Minecraft

I hope you don't have arachnophobia guys, because today we're going to talk about the gigantic blocky spiders in Minecraft!  Spiders are just one of the many terrors that spawn during nighttime (or in dark caves) in the game world.  Though they may look relatively harmless when compared to, say, zombies or skeleton warriors, spiders are not to be underestimated.

You'll know there's a spider in the area when you hear its signature hissing sound.  By that point it is likely heading in your direction, so it's best to be on your guard unless you're already sitting in a secure location.  Once you see their glowing red eyes, it's usually too late to avoid a battle.  Spiders attack by jumping at you, and presumably biting with fangs that you'll have to use your imagination to see.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Visit to Ravenholm in Half-Life 2

A while back I wrote about zombies in Valve games, and part of that article covered the zombie-like creatures in Half-Life 2.  Since I've already talked about the zombies themselves, how about we take a trip to Half-Life 2's peaceful, scenic town of Ravenholm, where you'll find the largest concentration of horrors in the entire game.

Ravenholm used to be a mining town before the Combine invaded, and was later converted into a refuge for City 17 escapees.  It was connected to the main base of the human resistance (Black Mesa East) through a series of tunnels for convenient and secretive access.  Things were all peachy (well as peachy as they can get with alien overlords enslaving humanity and destroying everything) until the Combine discovered this town of refugees.  The Combine proceeded to "shell" Ravenholm, by bombarding it with capsules containing the zombie-creating creatures called Headcrabs (see my previous article about Valve zombies).

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Mutant Descendants in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

No one can deny the success of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.  Its large-scale levels, set mostly in ancient ruins full of hazards and treasures, feel like a throwback to the Tomb Raider games as well as the Indiana Jones movies.  And just like Lara Croft and Indy, Nathan Drake encounters some elements of the supernatural on his adventures.

Drake has no idea what he's in for.
About 80% of Uncharted consists of exploring ruins and gunning down rival treasure hunters.  For the most part, the ruined temples and other various structures look incredible, yet wildly implausible (I seriously doubt some of these giant structures could have been built without advanced technology).  Despite this, the game feels like it is grounded in the real world, and a few hours into Uncharted you'll think you've nailed what the atmosphere of the game will be like.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Ghostly Poes in Zelda: Ocarina of Time

What's Halloween without a good ghost story?  Well how about this: once upon a time in the land of Hyrule, a hero named Link encountered many ghosts on his journeys.  The ghosts are called Poes, and in this article we'll be looking at their appearances in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

In Ocarina of Time, you will encounter Poes all over Hyrule, but their main haunt is the Kakariko Village graveyard.  If Link is foolish enough to start disturbing the graves by pulling back their headstones, Poes will appear and begin patrolling the graveyard.  These ghosts are all pretty similar in appearance, wearing a hood which hides all facial features except for their glowing eyes, and carrying a lantern.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Zombies in Minecraft: The Blocky Undead

Ah good old Minecraft, the addicting sandbox game where you can build anything, provided you're fine with using lego-style blocks.  The game includes a day/night time cycle, and whereas building a masterpiece in the morning can be a peaceful experience, nighttime is when the game decides to unleash its horrors upon you.  You wouldn't think that a game like this would include hordes of undead zombies, but it does....yes it does.

Appearance-wise, the zombies in Minecraft aren't too threatening (there's not too much a graphics artist can do with limited blocks), but once you run into one in the pitch black, you will be afraid.  You can usually tell when a zombie is around by their distinctive moaning sounds, at which point you should have your sword equipped for battle.  In terms of combat, zombies will attempt to melee you to death (sadly the graphics don't allow for detailed flesh-biting animations).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gregg the Grim Reaper: A Funny Take on Death

Today let's continue our adventure into Halloween-ish gaming experiences by talking once again about Conker's Bad Fur Day.  Oddly enough, this game does have some elements that would fit in great with Halloween, despite being very humorous.

The first time you die in the game Conker is sent to the afterlife, where a gigantic hooded shadow slowly approaches him, speaking in a booming voice and claiming that Conker is dead.  However as this imposing figure steps into the light, we discover that he's a short little grim reaper speaking into a megaphone to produce the threatening voice.  The megaphone breaks as soon as the reaper becomes visible to Conker, revealing that the little guy has a hilarious squeaky voice.  And this is how we are introduced to Rare's version of Death: Gregg the Grim Reaper.

Death has never been this laughable.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Horrific Nurses of Silent Hill 2

It's October once again, and that can only mean one thing: Halloween is in the air!  This month in Strange Moments in Gaming will be dedicated entirely to spooky gaming, so let's get started!  Today we'll be revisiting our favorite fog-and-monster infested town: Silent Hill.  More specifically, the nurse monsters in Silent Hill 2.

As you all know, each Silent Hill game custom tailors its monsters to reflect the psyche of the game's protagonist.  In the case of Silent Hill 2, we encounter hordes of monstrous nurses which are representative of protagonist James' terrible memories of his wife's fatal sickness.  These nurses have so many horrifying features that just remembering a play-through of this game is enough to give you the creeps.