It's Halloween time. And you know what means. It means it's time for all manner of spookery! At least I assume that's what it means. I'm from Australia and Halloween is frowned upon over here, so I wouldn't really know...
But that shouldn't stop the fun! Nor should it stop the spookery! So I went on google and did a bit of research. It seems that Halloween is primarily about these things:
So, in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, I've got a deliciously devilish double feature for you. Two games whose contents are sure to scare you witless. Two games that house horrors so horrifying I daren't even speak of them.
Yes, even a cursory exposure to these unspeakable terrors would send the soundest of minds into a spiral of madness.
You've been warned.
First up is Eldritch, a roguelike inspired by the seminal (and spooky!) works of H.P. Lovecraft. Eldritch sees your character combing through dungeons in search of ancient artifacts with which to seal away an encroaching demonic presence. An enviable task, to be sure. Along the way you must hunt for artifacts (the game's currency) as well as weapons and spells to aide you on your deadly descent.
The game is tense, fun, and adapts to many varying play styles. Wanna be stealthy and dodge all potential foes? You can do that. Wanna go in guns blazing and mow down your hellish opponents? You can do that too.
One of the best things about Eldritch is it's chilling sound design. A creepy ambient hum and equally creepy incidental music is punctuated by the bloodcurdling shrieks of nearby enemies. I'm not ashamed to admit that on several occasions the music had me starting in shock.
The big takeaway from Eldritch though, is the success of the Lovecraft-ian elements. Why are there not more games inspired by Lovecraft? There are hundreds of board games that adopt his atmosphere and tone, but only a handful of video games. It's a travesty!
Next up, is Catachresis.
If there's one thing that my lifelong obsession with horror movies has taught me, it's that the only thing scarier than a haunted house is a possibly haunted house. In other words, the scariest things are the things we can't see. The first half of Catachresis nails this idea.
Catachresis is the story of a paranormal investigator, Jeff, who is sent to deal with some bizarre happenings in a neglected warehouse. That's about all I can tell you without ruining the story but, needless to say, things quickly take a turn for the occult. They also quickly take a turn for the Lynch. That is David Lynch. There is no actual lynching in the game, as far as I know. Which, frankly, is a missed opportunity.
This is why I love Catachresis: One section sees you walking through a seemingly endless field. The grass slowly gets higher. The music gets increasingly intense. The game starts playing Eternal Darkness-esque tricks on you. Was that a word that popped up in the background? You could have sworn that was a pair of eyes in the bushes. The tension builds and builds and builds. Something is definitely about to jump out at you.
This style of "slow burn" horror is orders of magnitude more scary than a big ugly demon spoiling the tension with a shitty jump scare.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about Catachresis is the way it creates exceedingly likable characters in a very short time. The dialogue - funny, charming and incredibly economical - sets up Jeff and his ghost busting buddys as interesting people you might actually like to hang out with. You'll grow to admire them over the course of the game, making makes their perilous situation even more gripping.
Unfortunately, the experience begins to drag near the end as the opening's subtlety is ditched for the aforementioned Lynch-ian weirdness. The final scene, however, is a sight to behold and well worth sticking around for.
So those are the two indie games I've been playing in preparation for Halloween. I'll also be replaying the Mad Monster Mansion level in Banjo Kazooie. Because dat music.
But what about you? What are some spooky games you'll be playing to get into the spirit of All Hallows Eve? Will you opt for the jumpy terror of something like Eldritch, or the psychological terror of something like Catachresis?