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D - The D Stands For...

Posted : 13 years, 7 months ago on 23 April 2010 05:36 (A review of D)

WARP's 1996 [Link removed - login to see] is a 1st-person point-and-click horror mystery game surrounding a young university student named Laura Harris and her deranged father, Dr. Richter Harris, the general director of a hospital in downtown Los Angeles. A tragic shooting has occurred at the hospital, and your father was the gunman. But what in hell's name has caused him to snap? You rush from your university in San Francisco to the hospital and enter it, hoping to find out just that.

Despite this prologue, the plot does not take place entirely in the hospital. Entering the hospital, you are actually guiding Laura into a hell of sorts in which doorways do not open up to offices but to dungeons and other dimensions somehow connected to your father's madness. Laura explores all of these strange rooms, navigating traps and collecting hints here and there before making her way to the top of a tower and confronting her father. But before that, throughout your exploring, you are given the chance to find four hidden scarab beetles that, when located, reveal scenes of Laura's past and the history of her family. While these secret cutscenes aren't necessary to beat the game, collecting them not only explains the motivation behind Richter's insanity but also opens up the game's Best Ending.

Graphically, D is one of the most attractive games in the Playstation catalog. Very few games look as detailed, as carefully crafted, as D. Each room was pre-rendered to be as photorealistic as possible. The characters themselves, however, look bulky and Laura herself looks something like a pre-op shemale with a flare for early 90s fashion. Fortunately, you don't see much of her in the game.

D is essentially built around puzzles. You progress by avoiding traps and solving these mini-tasks until you reach the end, and the game's ending itself is determined by how you solve the last of these puzzles. Difficulty is not much of an issue, but because you are unable to skip the animated movement sequences between clicks, doing something as simple as going upstairs to retrieve a key takes an unjustified amount of time. The puzzles all have only one solution and if you know these solutions, you will be able to breeze through all 3 discs in less than one hour. Three of the four hidden scarab beetles are always in one of two locations, meaning there are only six locations in the game world you need to check. And the fourth scarab is always in the same location. As I mentioned, finding all four scarabs is key to getting the Best Ending, which isn't much different than the game's "Good Ending." There is also a "Bad Ending" which occurs if you fail to find the four scarab beetles and also fail the final task at the end.

[Link removed - login to see]

D was not the first game to offer pre-rendered point-and-click horror ([Link removed - login to see]), but WARP brought it to the next level. It offered gamers the chance to experience the adventure in real-time, as if you were truly in Laura's shoes. It does this simply by not having either a SAVE or pause option. There is an in-game time limit of three hours (which, by the way, you cannot access) and if you go beyond it, you get a gameover. It backed up these innovations with the power of the Playstation, a console much superior to the Sega CD in every way.

You may notice that D is eerily silent. There aren't many loud moments in the story and there's little music to speak of. Interestingly, WARP would later go on to make a game for the Sega Saturn in which you are haunted by a silent enemy: Enemy Zero (1997).

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Also in 1997, WARP would come out with another Sega Saturn exclusive called Real Sound: Kaze no Regret, a unique audio adventure game and first-of-its-kind for blind gamers. This sort of innovation and attention to audiovisuals is truly the hallmark of WARP's games.

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The Note, more like the Footnote

Posted : 13 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2010 07:39 (A review of The Note)

Story. The Note has its charms, but you have to dig to find them. The story is okay. You are Akira, a freelance occult journalist (whatever that is), and you've been hired to find three missing Japanese kids. They got lost playing in an abandoned mansion. You go with Angela, your stupid sidekick who talks to you like you're deaf retarded the whole game. The object is to keep all three kids alive. If you don't solve the puzzles right, one or more may die. Oops, oh well.

Voice acting. The worst. Ever. The actor who acted Paulo was okay.

Graphics. Bad to mediocre. Even on my tiny PSP screen, it still didn't look great. (Most PSone games look incredible on that little screen!)

Puzzles. Decent. The puzzles were not hard, and they weren't easy. Just right.

Control. It's a 3D world so you have full control. You use the square and circle button to strafe which felt unnatural. The shoulder buttons are your action buttons.

Ending(s). Is it worth it? Yes. Paulo is the only cool person in the game, so the ending was alright.

The Note is rare and expensive. If you aren't sure, then I'd say pass. If you are a collector, then definitely pick it up. Like I said, it has its charms but it doesn't really stick out, except for the AWFUL, TEAR YOUR EARS OFF voice acting. It's only one disc and takes five or so hours to beat. Don't expect something wonderful.

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Necronomicon, a chilling terror

Posted : 13 years, 7 months ago on 21 April 2010 07:24 (A review of Necronomicon: The Dawning of Darkness )

Necronomicon: Dawning of Darkness is a point-n-click horror adventure full of creepy environments and characters. You are William Stanton, an archaeologist, who gets pulled into a nightmare by your friend Edgar Witcherley. Edgar is crazy and you must find why. You have to investigate different places and look for clues to progress. Most of the riddles are very clever, but a few are just obscenely difficult. One or two require more trying than thinking, which is annoying since you have to point-n-click to move places. None of the puzzles are easy, but most are good and solvable without a guide.

Graphics. They are good if you play on a small screen, but big screens make it hard to see some items. The Bungalow level is awesome but it is very dark and hard to see things.

Ending(s). Is it worth it? Ehh. I believe the PC edition has two endings, but the PSone only has one. I would say this game should be played for the puzzles and adventure part, not to see a great, long ending.

More. It is two discs and kind of long. But figuring out the puzzles on your own is rewarding since they will probably take a while. It is the hardest game I've ever played so far.

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SILVERLOAD - Early Horror Game

Posted : 13 years, 8 months ago on 3 April 2010 11:10 (A review of Silverload)

Maybe you've read some reviews criticizing Silverload for its point-and-click controls or graphics or that it uses "vampires" in the Wild West, but the truth is, this game is one of the most unique creations released on the PSone. I honestly can't believe I haven't found anything positive about this game out there, so here's my attempt at casting it in a more favorable light.

If you are concerned with graphics it may help to put the game into the context of its release date, which was back in the dawn of the PSone. I played the game recently on a big HDTV and the graphics didn't bother me at all.

The game takes place in a tormented ghost town called Silverload.

If you like challenging games, then Silverload is definitely for you. I rank it higher than Echo Night and Juggernaut in difficulty, but it's not as hard as Necronomicon: Dawning of Darkness. There is a nice feature in the game to check how much you've solved, so you'll know when you've conquered the game 100%. It's truly a great story, thoughtfully written and brought to life by a talented voice actor (the Gunslinger). Some of the other actors are less than great, and one or two are pretty sucky, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a game from this period that had perfect voice acting in it anyway.

I also want to point out that Silverload is sort of a precursor to Silent Hill. Both stories take place in shuttered towns full of creatures and unfriendly characters. Both main heroes are looking for a child who isn't theirs. They both also have a strange connection to the place, which is slowly revealed. There are also a cult and a fanatical leader in both games. All of this makes me wonder if the Silent Hill creators weren't influenced by Silverload. But you can see for yourself if you play the game. It definitely deserves a play and truly belongs in any fan's collection.

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