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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - The Original Zombie

Posted : 11 years, 10 months ago on 16 January 2012 06:23 (A review of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein & Bram Stoker's Dracula (Double Deal))

This retro review is for the 1994 Psygnosis/Sony Imagesoft Sega CD version of the little-known horror game Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which was also released by Bits Studios/Bits Corporation Ltd. for the Sega Genesis and Super NES in the same year.

Lately, I've been digging silent films and one thing I've noticed is that you really don't need more than 90 minutes to tell a great story. Actually, most of the movies I've been watching clock in just around 65 minutes. Of course, I don't mean that games should only run for about an hour for you to get something out of them. But sometimes the "less-is-more" effect pays off in great dividends when it comes to games. Why games? I don't know. It's totally snobbish of me, I know, (and feel free to call me out on it in the comments) but I just feel that gaming in general is so over bloated with fancy gadgets, and gimmicky shit and HD graphics and remakes that I just want games to go back to one- or two-sitting storytelling basics. Rant over. Feel free to hate.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, I have to say, is not without its faults, though, or even its glitches, but it somehow managed to hit this sweet zone of difficulty and playability. The game loosely follows the famous novel and a few of the movie adaptations so there's nothing too surprising in the plot.

You play Frankenstein's monster, simply called "The Creature," and take control right after you wake from death. You guide the limping Creature around Dr. Victor Frankenstein's laboratory searching for various items in a side-scrolling style environment to make your escape into the town of Ingolstadt and beyond (Geneva, Augsburg Forest and more). Moving around these environments is in isometric 3D.

As the Creature, you have a choice: you can brute force your way through the seven levels or you can collect items that help you progress while avoiding fights. The battle system is no more than a 2D fighter (think Street Fighter II) but the controls are difficult to work with. Your arsenal: Kick, Punch, Jump, Duck, Block and your special move (Down, Down-Forward, Forward, A), a charging headbutt attack. The enemies, especially Victor's wife Elizabeth, are over-the-top hard to beat. So, your best strategy is to figure out how to get by all the characters and wildlife without entering a battle (that's right, you can fight animals, too).

Essentially, there are only about 6 fights that must be fought to reach the end, but you can pick many more if such is your inclination. I don't believe it affects the ending one bit. Your inventory is at the top of the screen (see below) along with your life meter and an icon that lets you know when you can pick an item up from the environment. You collect various food items that heal your life in explore mode but somehow this doesn't translate at all to your life bar in battle mode. Life you lost in one battle carries over to the next one, so unless I missed something, you have one life bar for all fights. But as far as items go, the Creature drops clues as to where to use them.

Life gauge, inventory, take icon...that's about as complicated as it gets

There are only 7 levels in the game (but some are repeats) and task management is definitely not a problem unless you have the memory of a goldfish. You'll know what to do and if you don't, you can always smash your way through. Ultimately, the Creature wants to confront Victor because he has become lonely as an outcast. He tells his creator to make him a companion, someone to share his zombie eternity with. And you'll just have to see how things end in the game.

Actually, as far as I know, there are two endings to Frankenstein. It might be because I've read the novel so I knew more or less the kind of ending that was awaiting the Creature, but the game really did capture the feeling of the novel in the end.

So despite some glitches (check out gamefaqs.com for a playable walkthrough) and a few funny lines of dialog, this was a surprisingly good game I definitely recommend.

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A Fun Game...If You Don't Take It Seriously

Posted : 12 years ago on 27 November 2011 04:36 (A review of Ark of Time)

Sorry, another retro-review:

There are a lot of ways to describe the 1997 Project 2 Interactive/I.C.E. European-exclusive PSone title, Ark of Time, but "great" isn't one of them. I will say that the game is "good" but sort of in the sense of "so-bad-it's-good," which, depending on your taste, can be either bad or...well, good. Let's start with the basics:

At its core, Ark of Time is a 2D point-and-click puzzle game delivered in what amounts to a steaming shitmound of a plot. Clickpoints are scattered throughout the screens and you must collect, combine and use items in various exotic locales to progress up this shitmound. Nothing fancy. Nothing shmancy. The game is sort of like Broken Sword except without any of the charm, voice talent or value. You might say that Ark of Time is Broken Sword's ugly, slightly retarded little sister, who nobody really knows of because everyone's ashamed of her. Here's why.

Doesn't he look like Jean-Claude van Damme?

You are American jockhead sports writer Richard Kendall whose only mission in life is to love football and remain ignorant about everything else. Yet your slavedriver of an editor somehow sees past the glaze in your empty, doll-like eyes to something he mistakes for potential and decides to send you to the Caribbean to find a missing professor. This particular professor happened to be on a quest for Atlantis when things went terribly awry on his expedition. Now it's up to you and no one else to follow the cookie-crumb trail of clues and rescue the professor and his pixelated shemale assistant, Helen. So, right off the bat, the plot is boring and stupid. But it gets much, much better...

You see, even though your paper is in London, you, your editor and practically every white person in the game is (for some reason) supposed to be American. The problem? How do you say? Imagine a bunch of English guys trying their bestest to sound Jersey...it's an uncanny travesty against the human ear and frankly a slap in the face to guidos everywhere. In fairness, there are other ethnic groups that receive their customary slap in the face: Mejican, Arab, and of course Pirate. But the best performance is easily at the end when one man alone bravely acts the parts of three characters, including a woman. All in all, I think there were about 20 characters in the game but brilliantly only 3 voice "talents." ([Link removed - login to see])

As far as the puzzles are concerned, they were actually deece. They're harder than I was expecting but they're also very tedious, requiring you to fly Richard across the Atlantic to and fro to retrieve such rare and indispensable items as Empty Jar. But I've already mentioned that the premise of the game is inane. A handful of puzzles were so random that I had to resort to internet walkthroughs (gamefaqs.com) and cheap bourbon, with equally happy results. And even though I believe the game is a bit too long for its own good, don't worry; the ending is totally not worth it, especially since there's actually no time travel in this game despite its title.

In closing, if you could imagine such a thing as a "B" video game (as in "B" movies) then actually you are imagining a game that's better than Ark of Time. But as long as you don't take it seriously, Ark of Time is good for a laugh here and there as you make your way through a train wreck of dialog and impersonations performed mostly by one person. Certainly, you'll be laughing at it, not with it.

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A Game About A Game...And They Both Suck

Posted : 12 years, 3 months ago on 12 August 2011 10:43 (A review of The Ring: Terror's Realm)

I can only imagine the kind of frustration Sega executives felt when their most innovative console yet, the Sega Dreamcast, slowly died in a pile of horrible titles. There was really no reason for this. After all, even successful systems like the Nintendo Wii are steeped in shovelware games. Sadly, Sega exited the console scene with the Dreamcast and left us with "gems" such as Tycoon/Infogrames' The Ring: Terror's Realm to remember all the good times.

Basically The Ring: Terror's Realm is based on the idea of alternate worlds; you spend half of your time in one "normal" world and half in a "distorted" mirror world with certain rooms or items available only in one or the other. This is a conceptually innovative premise that would be revisited later in Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004) and Fatal Frame III: The Tormented (2005). However, these later Playstation 2 games have something The Ring lacks: polish. Granted, The Ring is from earlier in the generation, 2000 to be precise. But even so, a few simple fixes in the game's controls, music and dialog and a bit more QA would have gone a long way in making it a more enjoyable experience. Then again, how much should we expect from games based on movies that just came out? Especially a movie like Japan's 1998 Ringu. (More so than today, Japanese horror was probably viewed more as a "niche" genre than a standalone kind of horror, as far as the big screen goes.)

A self-proclaimed "survival horror," The Ring: Terror's Realm is part military action and part office shenanigans. A perfect blend of blah and meh. The game is about a video game called [RING] (yes, "RING" in brackets...don't ask me why). [RING] isn't just the latest MMO shooter though; it's also a computer virus; and it's a mutant smallpox virus. And it's also the spirit of a dead Japanese woman. But wait, if you call in the next 10 minutes, it's also a gate to an alternate dimension. Maybe we're the ones in the video game and the video game is reality! Well, in a cramped nutshell, that's the plot of this game. It's about as coherent as a dog's fart.

Some references to the incident in Japan and the girl who was stuck in the well for 30 years (think of The Ring, which came out 2 years after this game) are made throughout the game in typical file type items and in some conversations. But does any of it come together? Not whatsoever. The antagonist in the story wishes to "control" the virus for some reason. So he exhumes the body of the cursed woman from Japan. Then all hell breaks loose at the CDC (which is where the game takes place, by the way). People are turning into ape and lizard creatures. And your job, as Meg the salarywoman, is to investigate the cause of everything. Maybe it's linked to your boyfriend's death yesterday.

As if the writing and story itself weren't bad enough, the voice acting is a tragedy. But it gets better. There are only about six songs in the entire 8-hour game. And I have to say the music really is the cherry on top of this shitcream pie.

I thought maybe I'd enjoy the game more if I didn't take it seriously. And actually, that helped...a little. It does sort of have a "so-bad-it's-good" quality at parts, just without the campiness and cheese you've come to love in your favorite B-movies. Honestly, I don't think their goal was for you to have a laugh. Reading the back of the game case really shows how seriously they expected gamers to take it.
Terrifying and intricately woven plot keeps you on the edge of your seat
fully interactive 3D environments immerse you in the mystery and horror

So it's kind of a joke. The game has stilted controls that get you into all kinds of trouble. It does have four changeable camera modes, but you must set this in an options menu. Not to mention, the menus take an extraordinary amount of time to load (which is something I realized we take for granted in most games). Because of all this, The Ring: Terror's Realm is sometimes unnecessarily difficult and frustrating. Hard for all the wrong reasons.

If you do fight (and chuckle) your way through the game to the end, a wonderful wtf ending awaits you. It is ironic that this game is about a game that kills people, because I sort of wanted to die playing it.

Winning game quote:
Meg: Then I need to find a huge monkey. and restore power in the electrical room?

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Not Too Much of a Struggle

Posted : 12 years, 3 months ago on 11 August 2011 04:25 (A review of Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within)

*Note: This is my Amazon.com review for this book. It's not a plagiarism. Unless you think it's possible to plagiarize yourself. Personally, I've tried, and it's just not possible.

I'm a big fan of the Clock Tower series, and this was the only one I hadn't gotten the best ending for sans guidebook. This guidebook will definitely get you to Ending A; however, it has some glaring errors. There are two endings, H and E, that are simply wrong in this book. The format of the book looks very nice until you start using it. Basically, the guide is only written for Ending A. To get the other endings, you'll have to refer to a separate portion of the walkthrough, but as I mentioned, two endings are completely wrong. So be prepared to cross-check it with an Internet guide if you want all the endings and unlockables. If the authors had included something like a flowchart to know when you could save before branching to alternative endings, then that would've saved hours of time.

The maps are definitely useful. The pages are beautiful and glossy. And there are plenty of wide screenshots. I was on the fence about getting this walkthrough, but I just could not get Ending A on my own. To be honest, Clock Tower II is a ridiculous game full of random tasks. The guide is useful in skipping the hours of gameplay you'd spend dying and retrying. It also is useful in pointing out where medpaks and pistols are for when you're in a bind.

Unfortunately, Ending A is the only ending worth getting in this game. The other endings are basically just ways to die: no cutscene, no continue, just game overs essentially. So you're not missing much if you don't have all the endings. An in-game story guide unlocks once you get all 13 "endings" and it explains a little bit of the story, but leaves some gaping plot holes for you to consider and ask yourself why you spent the last four days of your summer break playing this game. I would just suggest finding a free guide online to finish this Clock Tower, because it is not worth forking up the dough for an overpriced guide.

*Edit: Two more things I forgot to mention. The guidebook has a page of "secrets" such as different costumes and a blue amulet and infinite ammo. These are button combos you push at the title screen and they work. The other thing is that there are a few pages at the end devoted to the original U.S. release Clock Tower (the one with Scissorman). This extra walkthrough is short but complete, so you really get two guides in one.

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A Remarkable Survival Horror You Should Play

Posted : 12 years, 3 months ago on 11 August 2011 01:52 (A review of Deep Fear)

In 1998, Sega Enterprises came out with a game for their latest gaming console, the Sega Saturn, that Americans would have loved as much as, if not more than, Resident Evil. It was action-packed, only moderately difficult and had a great military-sci-fi storyline. Think of the movie Alien, except at the bottom of the sea. Yeah, we would have loved it. Except it was never released in the United States. This game, Deep Fear, is a 3D, survival horror that takes place entirely underwater. Not only must you fend off parasite organisms, but you must do so in the cramped quarters of submarines and engine rooms, in barracks and laboratories, and you must do this while keeping an ever vigilant eye on the air quality of your surroundings. Because the fear is not only in the monsters you face; it is also in losing precious oxygen. This is Deep Fear, a game that could only take place at the bottom of the sea. It all goes down on a sort of naval command post, submarine dock, research facility. Something has introduced a horror onto the Big Table, as the facility is called, and suddenly crewmen, researchers and experimental animals are turning into monsters. Sounds cool? It should. It's part Alien, part Deep Blue Sea, and part Parasite Eve. Of fucking course it sounds cool.

You are John Mayor, a former Navy SEAL turned civilian, who is the Big Table's search and rescue chief. The Naval C.O. depends on your expertise when the Big Table finds itself in an emergency situation. You'll be doing rescue missions and underwater ordnance disposal, but things quickly get ugly when monsters burst onto the scene. Your mission then becomes frantically protecting the Big Table personnel.

Throughout the game, you explore various areas of Big Table, searching for items essential to your current objectives. You'll notice the game controls somewhat like a Silent Hill game (however, Deep Fear is compatible with the Sega analog controller). And the monsters are essentially zombie organisms, as in Resident Evil. And much like Resident Evil, you will know a zombie is in the area by the sounds it makes before you can see it. All of this creates a very familiar gaming atmosphere, and I mean that in a positive way. Deep Fear has elements you can find in many other great survival horrors, but in many ways it is better. It has more action than Silent Hill. Better controls than Resident Evil. A more coherent story than Parasite Eve. And more so than these three games, Deep Fear strikes the perfect balance of difficulty and playability. Lots of save and reload chances. If you are used to challenging adventure games, you might find Deep Fear to be a bit easy. But let's just say you won't be breaking any controllers over this one.

The story is engaging, the characters have interesting back story or side story, and there are lots of little touches here and there that lend authenticity to the environments and story. In other words, although the game is science-fiction and perhaps futuristic (I mean, it's an underwater military base we're talking here), it is believable and it is plausible, and this makes the game very enjoyable to play. By comparison, I believe the Silent Hill series suffers terribly from this. Silent Hill stories are head-scratchin' awful. Deep Fear, on the other hand, is really a good cinematic plot.

So I've gone on about how great this game is. Why not a perfect 10/10? Well, there's one thing you will not fail to notice about Deep Fear, something that nearly ruined it for me: the voice acting. While Resident Evil showed that a game could succeed despite horrible voice acting, no game should have ever used that as an excuse. The male voice actors just didn't take the game seriously enough, and while the main character's performances improved throughout the game, by then it was too late. (The voice actresses, on the other hand, were decent.) The problem, I think, (besides the mid-90s video game industry still maturing into a full production industry) is that most of the roles are supposed to be American, and all of the voice actors are English. Yeah, the result is a disaster. I'm sure they were directed to "act tough, act cavalier...act American!" so they all tried to sound like Texan cowboys and it almost sank the fucking ship.

Luckily, there is enough to enjoy about Deep Fear that you can forgive this flaw. As I wrote in the beginning, this game never reached American shores, which is a damn shame. Deep Fear could be standing today where Resident Evil is standing. Could it have spawned a franchise, complete with Hollywood adaptations? Who knows. Maybe. But as they say "coulda, woulda, shoulda."

It wouldn't be much longer before 3D worlds, complete with draw and controllable cameras, would come to dominate both adventure and horror games.

*Note 1 : If you have a U.S. Saturn and really want to play this game in English, you can. Here's how. Buy a legit U.K. copy from someone willing to ship to the U.S. Check eBay. That's where I got mine. Make sure you have a working Action Replay Plus cartridge. You'll be able to play through the first disc. At the disc change, put in Disc 2 and it will give you a "disc not readable" error. That's okay. Just reset your Saturn (don't turn off power) and back up your save. Then start Disc 2 from the rebooted Action Replay. Just keep in mind that the U.K version of Deep Fear (the only English version ever made) is friggin rare and expensive if complete.

**Note 2: Someone patched Deep Fear to work with NTSC systems in a collection called Lost & Found. It's Lost & Found Vol. 3. But you need a modded Saturn to play the game this way. So watch out! Don't get ripped off!

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Surprisingly Awesome Gem for SEGA CD

Posted : 12 years, 4 months ago on 8 August 2011 10:21 (A review of Mansion of Hidden Souls)

Note: This review is for the SEGA CD game. There is a different game of the exact same title for the Sega Saturn. [Link removed - login to see]

There are only a handful of games that come to mind when I think of Sega CD horror games: Bram Stoker's Dracula, Frankenstein, and Night Trap (heh heh) for instance. Decent games, but nothing revolutionary. (Frankenstein actually is quite good).

The Mansion of Hidden Souls, however, introduced a type of horror gaming that would become popular, although short-lived. It's the first-person point-and-click adventure, where you move your character from clickpoint to clickpoint, unable to change the motion sequences between clicks. Once at a clickpoint, you can turn your character any which way and investigate or manipulate nearby objects. It's a simple formula, and not entirely original (think of Uninvited for the NES). But we're talking 3D now! The Mansion of Hidden Souls brought you into a three-dimensional mansion with music and with real voice tracks. And it did this in 1993, two years before Clock Tower reached Super Famicom in Japan and three years before Resident Evil came to be. Exploring a haunted mansion is certainly nothing new to horror games; just look at Alone in the Dark (1992), Uninvited (1991), and Maniac Mansion (1990), just to name a few. But this style of gameplay had yet to be explored in pre-rendered 3D. So this game brought something new to the table in the early days of horror gaming, and its graphical influence can clearly be seen in Resident Evil.

The story is simple and involves your sister, who wanders into a haunted mansion because she wants to be a butterfly. The human ghosts trapped in the mansion have all become butterflies, and you must do what you can to stop your sister from becoming one too. You will explore and pick up items in various rooms, collecting hints from various characters, until you reach the hidden chambers of the mansion. The story wraps up very nicely in under 5 hours and there are only a few ways to actually kill yourself. Difficulty is not an issue. And if you were pressed to put this game into a genre, you might say it's a PG-13 "horror" game, more or less. It suffers graphically by today's standards, but I'm sure back in the day, this game was cutting edge.

You may have a sense of familiarity in the mansion (the foyer, mostly), because it looks eerily like the iconic mansion in the first Resident Evil, although, as noted above, this game is several years older. It took me a while to recognize the similarity, but it's there. I don't know if this is coincidence or something else, but I would bet money the RE designers played through this game (which, like Biohazard, is originally Japanese). The Mansion of Hidden Souls even comes complete with the tick-tocking grandfather clock in the main room, which is infamously familiar to RE fans. This would all make for interesting game history, but as far as I know, it's just conjecture. After all, plenty of Japanese games take place in yakata or "Western-style manors" and a lot of them have the same basic layout. Still, it is interesting to see it there in 1993.

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Terrible Remake of a Decent Game

Posted : 12 years, 4 months ago on 8 August 2011 09:52 (A review of The Mansion of Hidden Souls)

Updated: 22 May, 2013

The Mansion of Hidden Souls was a 1993 Vic Tokai release for the Sega CD. It was a fantasy adventure game with elements of horror predating both the Resident Evil and Clock Tower series. Like RE, Mansion is pre-rendered and voiced-over, and like Clock Tower, you are a child exploring a large manor. Clearly, these elements would become mainstays (and cliches) of the survival horror genre, but back in 1993, it was new ground. And for its time, The Mansion of Hidden Souls (Sega CD) wasn't all that bad graphically.

The Mansion of Hidden Souls for the Sega Saturn, however, is a different game, with different characters in a completely different story. The Sega CD version, which I also have reviewed, was about a boy and his sister wandering into a haunted mansion. And the Sega Saturn version I'm reviewing here was about...well, I'm still not sure what the hell it was about. I guess you could describe the Saturn version as a remake of the SCD version, but a horrible one. (Graphically, this is an ugly game.) There is only one short level, and your tasks make little sense.

The entire story, which you can beat in less than two hours, is a whodunnit with one predictable twist. Once you solve this 5th-grade level mystery, you are magically transported to a place called "the sanctuary" where two hitherto unknown characters are suddenly introduced as cosmic forces that keep the Mansion in balance. There is no reason for anything in the plot. And really, there is no reason for this game to exist.

Again, the Sega CD version of this game from 1993 is actually quite good, and it does have a coherent story with multiple environments and better puzzles. If you'd like to read my review for that game, [Link removed - login to see].

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A Perfect Horror Masterpiece (*Almost)

Posted : 12 years, 4 months ago on 8 August 2011 04:35 (A review of Enemy Zero)

Enemy Zero, developed by WARP in 1996, is a science fiction survival horror game for the Sega Saturn. You will notice, undoubtedly, that it was heavily influenced by one particular horror movie. You are Laura Lewis, a shellshocked space traveler waking from cryogenic sleep because of an emergency. Your memory is fuzzy, perhaps because of the sudden jolt from deep sleep. You only know that something horrible has happened, and an organism is now loose on the ship. The game begins on Disc 0 as you watch (on video phone) this alien organism kill the ship's engineer, Parker.

Your ship, The Aki, has seven crew members, including David, the ship's co-captain and your love interest. Your mission is to reestablish communication with the rest of the crew before the invisible monster does.

And that's exactly where Enemy Zero excels. The alien on board, called Enemy Zero (or E0), is invisible. You cannot see it. You only hear it when it is right on you. And one touch from it will kill you. Your only salvation is the VPS, a sort of hot-warm-cold detection system of beeps that serves as your early warning system. The frequency of these beeps increases the closer the enemy approaches, louder and faster. Still you won't see anything. Your best bet is to either wait for the enemy to make its attacking sound (which is your cue to fire your gun) or turn and run the other way (assuming there isn't another alien in that direction, too). As you can imagine, this fills Enemy Zero with an intensity most horror games only dream of.

In addition to the above first-person combat mode, there is a point-and-click room mode. This mode is exactly like D, WARP's earlier game. The environments are extremely detailed, and you move Laura slowly between click points. The rooms are free of monsters, so this part of the game is strictly for puzzles and cutscenes. And the game again excels in this department. Plenty of scenes, dialog and challenging puzzles. Further, Enemy Zero is extremely detailed and easily the best looking of WARP's D series (D, Enemy Zero, and D2). Simply, it is immaculate, graphically far superior to any PlayStation or Saturn game I have ever seen. This is probably in no small part due to Fumito Ueda, the lead animator. Who is Fumito Ueda? You probably know of him, even if you don't know his name. He's the mastermind behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Those are his babies, and the finesse of his animation really shows in Enemy Zero.

The music for this game was composed by Michael Nyman, who wrote the soundtrack for The Piano. There are deep, ambient tones during the detailed room mode, which really adds to the tenseness of your more mundane tasks. There are gentle piano pieces for the cutscenes, just perfect for the dialog (which is pretty decently acted, too). The music really flows with the game, and never tries to outshine it or clash with it, which is something horror games in general suffer from.

I would say that Enemy Zero is a perfect horror game except for one thing. It is fucking hard. It is so fucking hard. You are given a limited number of saves and loads in the game. So you cannot simply restart from the last savepoint to retry something. You are literally penalized for loading your save files, and you can get to a point where your voice recorder (save/load item) no longer has enough battery power to load your record. That means you lose your save file. That's right. All your progress gone. That is pretty unforgiving. The aliens are unforgiving. Every map, though detailed and beautiful, is a fucking labyrinth. The guns are weak to useless. And the game's difficulty actually mounts toward the end, so that once you beat an exhausting part and think you're close to the end, you actually have three or four more tasks, each harder than the previous. Enemy Zero is almost the most perfect horror game I've ever played, but it is obnoxiously hard. And I played it on NORMAL.

Winning Quote of the Game:
Kim: When it comes to taking on the enemy in combat, I know what to do. Tell me, do you know what the most crucial thing is? It's to stare your enemy in the eyes and never, EVER look away, just like taking care of a baby. That's right.

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Lunacy (Sega Saturn)

Posted : 12 years, 4 months ago on 6 August 2011 05:11 (A review of Lunacy)

Atlus (May 31, 1997)
Two Discs

Lunacy is a pre-rendered, first-person point-and-click adventure along the lines of WARP's D and Enemy Zero, also for the Sega Saturn. You play as Fred the Traveler who begins the game as an amnesiac locked in a prison cell. You are given a way out by Anthony, a strange resident in the town who happens to be imprisoned with you. You spend much of your time exploring the Misty Town, navigating narrow passageways, forests and various buildings. The layout of the town is quite confusing, and because there is no way to change your perspective, a map will greatly help. Luckily, the game comes with a printout map, which is included as part of the manual. There are also some FAQ writers on the Internet who have made their own maps.

The Misty Town is the first of the game's two only levels. And you spend lots of time taking Fred from place to place collecting various items from people and the environment in a very linear sort of treasure hunt. One event or conversation will trigger an item somewhere else in the level that you can now collect. Unfortunately, these events must be triggered in a preset order. Knowing where the items you will need later in the game does you no good, since you will still have to perform the necessary tasks in more-or-less the same order. This feature of the game, while trying to sync your puzzle-solving with the character's, makes Lunacy feel tedious. For example, at some point you are given a can of oil and later encounter a rusted door. But you cannot use the oil to fix the door until you trigger a separate conversation in which another character tells you "Yep, that oil will fix just about any rusted door." In other words, you may find yourself stuck in Lunacy even though you know the correct solution to a puzzle.

Altogether, there are just over a dozen characters in the story. Three are villains, including Lord Gordon, who is the tyrant of Misty Town. Gordon is obsessed with finding a passage to the City of Moons, a dreamlike paradise, although his motives are unclear. As you explore the Misty Town, you get a sense for why Lord Gordon seeks the City of Moons.

The game's second level is this City of Moons, and while a huge level, it is structured and rather systematic. It is here where you finish unraveling the secrets of your past. There are numerous puzzles and tasks to perform, including saving the town folks from terrible deaths. You see, the City of Moons is not exactly a paradise; it is full of deadly traps, so you have to collect the correct items at the correct times to keep all of your friends alive.

In all, these tasks aren't too difficult. And the two levels are somewhat short. The entire adventure can be played in about 5 hours. The ending of the game is quite satisfying given the short play time, and you'll leave your seat really appreciating the cold villainy of Lord Gordon.

Unfortunately, the characters are not developed in much depth. There could have been and should have been more flesh to their bare-bone interactions. (Most conversations are nothing more than a few short sentences followed by the NPCs abruptly walking off screen.) The story itself is a little confusing, but the environments more than make up for it. Graphically, the game did appear a bit pixelated and dithered at times, but this grainy quality of 1990s-era games sort of adds a nice eerie feel to everything. At least I think so. Otherwise, it looked quite good. Not to mention, its soundtrack was far better than expected.

Lunacy wraps up its own story nicely, and I'd say it's a big helping of adventure with a garnish of horror. A short and decent game.

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Take the Guesswork out of Collocations

Posted : 12 years, 5 months ago on 4 July 2011 04:30 (A review of Dictionary of Collocations (English-Arabic))

Precision is key. Translation involves more than furnishing a literal string of characters that "equate" some string of characters in another language. It is hardly ever a one-to-one science. At least that's my opinion. And if I was wrong, then we could all just use Google Translate to study Japanese, Korean or Arabic. Countless are the instances in which literal translations are unintelligible gibberish.

This book here tries to help bridge the "understanding" gap in otherwise common ideas between our culture (American and English) and Arab culture. It takes phrases from our language, ascertains the meaning and selects the appropriate terms in Arabic to convey that meaning. Sometimes the translations are more or less literal. Often, they're not.

This book is immense. As the title states, it is for English-to-Arabic, so it's not surprising that its main audience is Arab. You can find this 1500+ page juggernaut, if you're interested, online for a reasonable price.

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