With the Halloween season just behind us, I thought it best to look at a couple of games that have that ‘scary’ theme about them. Be warned: they couldn’t be more different! One of them deals directly with that most beloved (to some) of holidays and is quite whimsical and funny, as per its developer; the other is pure dark, psychological horror and is as far from light-hearted as one can get, and is definitely NOT for kids.
Costume Quest, by Double Fine Productions, a ‘traditional’ RPG
That’s right, the company of the legendary Tim Schafer, developer of one of the greatest 3D platformers of all time and a really awesome puzzler (Psychonauts and Stacking, respectively) have developed an excellent little RPG (role-playing game) inspired by little kids on Halloween night! You play one such little boy (or girl), whose quest is simply to gather candy! It gets a bit more complicated when real monsters kidnap your sibling, forcing you to enlist help from your pint-sized peers to rescue her.
The conceit here is that (in traditional turn-based combat) the childrens’ costumes draw upon the power of their imagination, to the point that a simple robot-like costume transforms our hero into a real giant robot! Similarly-transforming costumes exist in the game, and a lot of the fun is in collecting them all!
Besides the trademark Double Fine humor you’ll find in the (unfortunately silent) dialog and surroundings, a welcome callback to old-school RPGs exists in collecting, exploring and battling which you’re sure to love! Five out of five!
Sanitarium, by ASC Games, a classic graphical adventure
In the same breath as a light-hearted romp through a suburban neighborhood, I take you now to a dark, disturbing quest through several locations in this much older, classic game, not available through Steam but through GOG.com.
In this disturbing horror title, you play the amnesiac, Max, who steals a car and soon loses control of it, crashing it off a cliff and ending up in a strange asylum. Besides finding that your face is severely burned and bandaged, you meet several … disturbed occupants who serve as shaky, unreliable exposition.
There also exists a strange, beautiful (and living?) angelic statue, which (once you find a way to unlock her) somehow serves as a key to all the other locations you’ll visit in your journey to regain your memory and find out just how these places you visit are significant to you, solve the inhabitants’ problems and hopefully regain a semblance of normal life.
Being an older game, there are several issues to take into account: though the pre-rendered graphics are quite good, the resolution is lower than most modern games, the voice-acting is almost uniformly bad, and Max’s pathfinding (you control him with the mouse exclusively, and he always goes in a straight line to where you point and hold down the right mouse button) is fairly non-existent. Still, I would definitely check this game out, and give it four out of five stars.
If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted, funny romp through a typical Halloween neighborhood, to go with your pure psychological horror, feel free to check these games out! While the former is good for “bite-sized” play sessions, the latter draws you in with its dystopian, disturbing atmosphere and will keep you playing for quite a while, if you’re into that sort of thing.