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Horrifying games

I'm not much for Horror Novels and while I've read lots of Stephen King I've more or less avoided all his scary books. I never saw the point of it. I had however read one of his horror novellas: The Mist which I completely enjoyed.  When I was in Japan, nursing a broken collarbone that kept me indoors for months, I entertained myself playing with the Play Station. I had a couple of games two of which proved to be amazing ones. One was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which had a lot of nostalgia Gothic flavor and the other one was Silent Hill.

Playing Silent Hill was an altogether new experience for me. This game did it right, it felt like you were playing a horror novel or a good horror movie. Before actually reading the Mist, I had heard a radio play done in 3-D audio which was utterly fantastic (and better than the decent movie Frank Darabont did a few years back). Silent Hill felt like you were there. Surrounded by the mists, that rolled off the sea in the little fishing town I lived in. But even better was the sound design, the subtle alarms that sounded in the background seemed to be coming from outside and only when the game was turned off did you realize they were in fact in the game. No other game had created such a feeling of tension that I actually jumped once when a friend knocked at the door.

Silent Hill 2 followed up on the first game and managed to still be scary even though it had more or less the same mechanics. However since then most horror games, like Resident Evil (called BioHazard in Japan) are more action games that derive their tension mostly from scarcity of ammo or from jumping-cat in frame tricks. That is till last year...

Frictional Games a indie game producer which was mostly famous for being one of the few developers at the time that released games for the Linux platform (now many do -- yay!!) came out with their new game Amnesia: Dark Descent.

I had bought Frictional Games' previous games, the Penumbra series and I hadn't been impressed. I bought them on sale and mostly to help the developers. So I had low expectations for Amnesia. Which were quickly blown away.

Amnesia is a seriously scary game. While Silent Hill was the game that made me jump, Amnesia is the game that made me queasy, seriously nauseous and dizzy. And it did it without cats jumping into frames. It achieves it in a few cool ways: you are unarmed and you feel vulnerable for real, then the longer you stay in the darkness the quicker you loose your mind and see hallucinations. And when something really scary happens your character gets vertigo and the moving camera is truly disorienting.   And finally taking a page from the Mist in 3-D Audio it does it with sound. In no other game is the wind slamming the door shut behind you so scary. Footsteps are not only indicative of a monster roaming nearby but also just background noise that seems to keep you on your toes.

Amnesia also uses the limited ammo mechanic but instead of ammo, you have tinder boxes to create light. Light that preserves sanity, while darkness quickly takes it away...

The game itself is a bit of the same old explore and puzzles but it's the ambiance that really creates the game.

This is yet another great indie game, like Braid and Aquaria, available for the Linux (and Mac) platform.


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