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Hi everyone!

Please, call me Tonich. That's what everyone calls me. I live in Nizhniy Novgorod - a pretty large and picturesque city in Central Russia (yep, that's it on the header image).

Currently at the age 30, I am a taught historian, reluctant archivist, occasional tour guide and aspiring composer/musician. I write songs, play guitar and sing (badly) for the art rock act The Heckfish. Oh, and I also play videogames. :)

My gaming habits started with the NES era, and my favourite consoles are Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and PlayStation 2. I'm more of a PC player currently, so why don't you check out my Steam Page?

You can also listen to my music here.

I have been blogging here on Destructoid since spring 2014. Here's a selection of my blogs you can read if you'd like to know me better:

My "Gamer in Provincial Russia" trilogy:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Ten Things About Me

My Top 10 Games List

My call to arms online playing

A musical gift just for you. Yes, I mean you, silly
Following (5)  

The Ballad of Battle Bunnies


         Or maybe it’s The Ferocious Fighting Furries Fable. Whatever you call it, Dust: An Elysian Tail combines the plushiness of anime-style anthropomorphic animals with fast and technical 2D hack-and-slash mechanics. The result is weird and both underwhelming and absolutely adorable.



         Before our warm and fuzzy (or, at least, that’s how I imagine him) friend Solar Pony Django stepped up as my Secret Santa and presented me with Dust: An Elysian Tail, the only thing I had heard about the game was its name. I’d never actually tried to inquire about its genre or what it was about – so all I could do was make wild guesses judging by the title. Was it something indie and melancholically beautiful, Journey-style? Or, maybe, something concentrated on physics and levitation, with particle effects (hence the “Dust” part)? I tried to picture an Elysian tail in my mind. I failed. Actually, I still don’t know what that means. But did I ever expect the game to turn out a vibrant-coloured side-scrolling platformer/hack’n’slash? No sirs and m’ladies, I did not.

         Dust: An Elysian Tail is one huge paradox. Drawn in the distinct Japanese animation style, it was created solely in the West. Featuring a story and characters that would fit in a JRPG, it is unmistakably an action title. Finally, even with most of its characters being cute and furry, the game’s narrative is a couple steps from noir, dealing with topics like death, racism and war. However, while touching on these subjects is certainly commendable, I felt that the touches were rather… unsatisfying, if you know what I mean.


It's time to meet the hero of our story. Even with his hat off I couldn't make out what animal he is -- certainly not a bunny. A capybara, maybe? :)


         The game starts with the titular character Dust (ah, no particle effects, after all) – awakening in the middle of a forest together with a Talking Sword, a Female Flying Furry… Thing and Amnesia – the latter playing a larger role in the story than the first two. “Great”, I thought, "Here come the JRPG tropes”. Then (of course!) I was attacked by a horde of kobold-looking creatures and had to fight them off with the sword, while the flappy little brat was squeaking into my ears… well, at least the combat was solid, and it kept me going.


Aaaaand the award for the Most Annoying Sidekick in Videogames goes to... Fidget the Nimbat!


         So, Fidget. Fidget is… well, fidgety. She’s selfish, cowardly, twisted, bad-mouthed and loud, and at first one might start wondering what was the point for including such an unlikable character, apart from providing comic relief. As the story progressed however, I thought I understood the developers’ intention. You see, with Dust being such an overwhelmingly positive dude – kind and helpful to a fault even when asked to run even the most ridiculous errands possible – he would have been immeasurably bland without a darker counterpart. Fidget often provides snarky retorts and colourless humour on the occasion, as if voicing the protagonist’s darker thoughts he’s just trying to suppress. As a result, we see something that resembles a Freudian personality layers model (total speculation from here, yeah), with Fidget clearly being the Id, Arah the talking sword representing Dust’s super-ego, and Dust himself stuck between those two. Luckily, the dialogues involving Fidget are really witty and well-written, so it does not feel like a psychology lesson.

       As the game progresses we can also witness both characters forming a bond of friendship and becoming more and more influenced by each other's personalities. Actually, my favourite moments in the game are those when Dust himself makes a darker joke or two, Fidget usually being the target… absolutely priceless. :)

      Alright, back to business. After I’d cleared the first location and came to an opening I encountered the game’s first NPC – and had an instant laughing fit. Now, look here.



         Right is Geehan, a character from Dust, and left is Hare/Rabbit from the cult Soviet animated series Nu, Pogodi! (“Just You Wait!”) that I think every Russian is all too familiar with. Guess the years haven’t been kind to the poor little guy. :)

         After I had calmed down, I helped the old rabbit out and then stopped the kobolds from attacking the nearby village, got some obligatory sidequests from its fuzzy inhabitants and ventured out to fight the game’s first boss, struggling with yawning. And that’s when the story made an unexpected twist: it turned out that the kobolds and other monsters weren’t attacking the village because of some inherent malevolence. Some were simply running away from the forest fires and looking for a new place to live, others were looking for water as their springs had run dry... And the boss seemed to somehow know Dust, branding him as a genocidal murderer. Now, hasn’t someone got skeletons in their closet (and, like, literal skeletons)!

        Looks like there’s a war going on between the furry-looking “Warmbloods” and lizard-like “Moonbloods”, and our Mr. Hatted Hero played some important part in it. Alas, our friend Amnesia has gotten to him, the boss is dead, and Arah the Talking Sword, while clearly aware of the whole picture, seems to be in a constant haste, saying stuff like, “It’s not the time, I will explain later”. What in the world can a sword be so busy with, I wonder? :)

         Spoilers aside, Dust’s identity does get revealed eventually, in the penultimate chapter aptly named Revelation – and while I can’t say it’s a particularly extraordinary plot twist, we do receive a satisfying explanation which is, coincidentally, not as banal as I expected it to be. So is the final confrontation with the armour-clad rabbit villain, and the ending sequence… But here comes the greatest issue I’ve had with the game’s story. It's not bad. Actually, it has parts that are really, really great. But alas, it does not go to extremes, nor does it delve into too much details – and thus the overall impression is “just okay”, while it could have been simply astounding, had the developers given the story enough elaboration. It certainly had every bit of potential to become something really special.

         The aforementioned lack of thoroughness can also be found in Elysian Tail’s combat. While pretty solid in itself, it severely lacks variety, and by end-game feels more like a chore than anything else. There are only three combos Dust learns at the beginning of the game: a ground combo, a launcher and an aerial combo followed by a pile driver. The latter is particularly satisfying to pull against enemy helicopters (yep, you read me right) in the final chapter, in which case there’s even a slow-motion effect accompanying it, -- it serves as a nice little touch. The combat also features dodging and parrying mechanics, albeit the window for parrying is so large it’s almost impossible to fail, and quite often I had parries triggered accidentally just by mashing the “attack” button. That said, otherwise the controls feel very tight and responsive, so if you do get hit and lose that 900-hit combo chain you’ve been building it’s nobody’s fault but yours. Oh, did I mention there’s a sidequest for building a 1000-hit chain? Yes, that’s a thing.


Oh, but it seems like Fidget's already got it covered? Okay girl, I'll go get me some tea while you work. :)


         The essential mechanic to building high-count combos is “Dust Storm” that amplifies Fidget’s low-damage projectiles, creating a literal elemental storm that hits everything on-screen and raises the hit counter sky-high. And while there’s a limit for using Dust Storm continuously before it needs to cool down, it’s still relatively easy to maintain it as long as you want, which – provided you level it up properly – can make melee combat practically obsolete. There are three projectile elements unlocked throughout the game, but frankly speaking, I couldn’t quite figure out the difference between them, gameplay-wise.

          Another promising but not exactly thought-out addition is the crafting system. After completing a certain quest, you’ll be able to contact Hailey, a sexy blacksmith rabbit-girl who can craft equipment for you – provided you have the necessary blueprint and materials. Both of these are gained randomly from enemies or found in treasure chests – nothing out of the ordinary. The peculiarity is that you can sell the materials to merchants, thus adding each item type to their catalogue after the first deal. Catalogued materials can then be bought at a premium cost; they restock over time, and it should be a nice little alternative to farming a missing item or two. Note that I said “should”, as throughout the game I hardly ever found myself short for money, so it was practically down to finding at least one of the required material type, selling it and then buying as many as I needed for the best equipment available. Additionally, due to that and the random nature of enemies dropping blueprints, I’ve also found 80 per cent of the existing equipment pretty much worthless: why bother crafting every armour that gives slight stat increase when I already have the blueprint for the best type altogether? And crafted equipment is not recycled in any way – nor do the shops buy it for a worthy price… I think the game would have benefited from something like Mana Khemia's alchemy, with a large, branching crafting system that utilizes old items to create new ones. That would have given Dust some extra depth. Now, I know it's too much to ask of a small-scale indie action title… but a guy can dream, right? :)


Here comes Haley the Blacksmith. Oh, that buttery voice... remind me, why am I stuck with Fidget, again?


         Where Dust absolutely shines though is platforming and exploration. Relying heavily on metroidvania principles, it manages to keep the tried-and-true formula fresh by making you actually figure out the way to most secrets even with the necessary abilities unlocked. The puzzles are cleverly designed and often give the player room for variation (perhaps sometimes unknowingly). It may take you a good few hours trying to find and reach all the secret places. Frankly speaking though, after completing the game with a few secrets left untouched I don’t particularly feel the urge to get back and find them all – but I guess I’m just not completionist enough. :)

         The soundtrack, created by HuperDuck Soundworks,  is also absolutely wonderful, combining heavy layers of atmospheric pads with prominent and dynamic piano tunes. Overall, the music sets the right mood for the game and often smoothens out the narrative’s stand-out parts instead of highlighting them – which adds a certain contrast, yet does not feel wrong... Ah, sorry, I can never write about music without sounding like a bore – so here, better give this tune a listen and let’s pretend I’ve given it a proper introduction. :)



         Okay, it looks like this has gotten much wordier than I’d expected… I need something like a bottom line now, don’t I? Ahem. Dust: An Elysian Tail delivers a solid experience, shining in some areas and a bit underperforming in others. The game’s strongest point however is actually not in any of its elements, but in the way they are put together, and in the sheer amount of love poured into creating it. And when the love is there, any narrative inconsistencies, or cheesy voice acting, or any other minor drawback for that matter feel so insignificant, one can just turn a blind eye on it. It’s what inside that matters, riiight? :)

         Right. So I’d like to say a word of thanks to the wonderful Solar Pony for introducing me to this game, and the sweet Luna Sy for coming up with the whole Secret Santa affair – and to all of you here who hasn’t fallen asleep reading this stuff!


  ...wait, what was that snoring sound? Oh, sorry. Sleep tight, dear reader, sleep tight! :)

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Now, now, don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe games ARE art, and nobody will ever convince me otherwise. Besides the fact that even technically games comprise different forms of art -- i.e. cinema/animation, music, literature, painting and so on -- I think their real artistic value comes with the feature unique to them. Yes, I’m speaking of interactivity. Quoting a good friend of mine, a painting can picture the life of an immigration inspector in a police state. A book or a movie can elaborate on it and show us how he fares. But only by playing Papers, Please can you be the aforementioned inspector and experience the decisions he has to make first-hand.

Nevertheless, despite being the greatest asset of videogames, interactivity (and what comes with it) also becomes the media’s ultimate hindrance on its way to the Big World of Art. Which means that no matter how many awesome, artistic and borderline revolutionary games are created, they will never receive the same treatment as movies and other accepted forms of art – well, at least not in the near future. The reasons? Oh, do I really have to name the reasons? Actually, yes I do – why would I write this blog otherwise? :)


Looks like someone's been busy...


Continuing the “games vs movies” comparison, how long is an average movie? Two hours? Yeah, I guess that’s about right these days – even though I remember the times when movies were much shorter (insert old_man_grumble.mp3). Three hours if it’s something epic or art house. Four if you’re fucking Peter Jackson. Anyway, it’s usually manageable to see it to the end in one sitting. Games on the other hand are usually significantly longer – a three-to-four hour game is generally considered criminally short. And a single massive-scale RPG can rival some of the longest-running TV series in history.

Now, imagine a professional movie critic, maybe even an Academy of Motion Picture Arts (notice the wording?) member. Complete with a two-piece suit, a mustache and a monocle for a +16 respectability boost. And now imagine them struggling through Skyrim with a controller in hand, for hours and hours and hours. Aside from that scene being comical in itself, even if we assume that they’ve agreed to try this weird little toy out as a potential art form, who in their right mind will put in 150+ hours into it just to pass judgment?! No sir, this endeavor would require a geek, and no one else. And – let’s be honest here – geeks aren’t exactly the very image of an art-bearer. :)



Skill Barrier

Another issue preventing videogames from becoming full-fledged, accessible-to-all Art is that they require at least minimum amount of skill to be played and enjoyed the way they were intended. Now, I won’t say other forms of art do not require any effort or preparation. It’s not all “sit back and enjoy the show”. You’ve got to be at the very least educated enough (a Charles Dickens book won’t likely have the same effect on you if you have never studied English history), experienced enough in that particular form of art (you would not be able to fully enjoy, say, Spaceballs if you haven’t seen Star Wars or at least a single space opera movie), and overall develop a taste in it to be able to discern something genuinely talented and innovative from works that are simply pretentious. This is particularly true for more difficult pieces (like Richard Wagner’s operas, James Joyce’s Ulysses or Andrei Tarkovsky’s films, to drop some names) that call for a thoroughly educated, immensely experienced and discerning recipient.

All of the above can be applied to quite a number of modern-day games as well – but there is also the requirement for gaming skills on top of that. To provide an example, let me tell you a story.


What? No, the story is not about MMO. Why are you even asking?


Those who have seen my Top 10 Games blog should already know that I consider Shadow of the Colossus one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) videogames in history. And as a true nerd (at least in terms The Badger fittingly described the lot), I am permanently trying to impose my nerdiness on others – and of course my loved ones are the first to suffer. :)

Once, after a prolonged discussion on the “are games Art” topic with my wife, I decided to introduce her to SotC as a means to prove my point. I gave her the controls and let her ride out to find the first Colossus. Now, my wife is no stranger to videogames, but she isn’t a regular player either; besides she’s used to mouse and keyboard – so obviously she was struggling to get a hang of the PS2 controller. She needed my help climbing the cliffs to even get to the stone giant, and when she finally did the wretched creature just kept stomping on her because she wasn’t fast enough. In the end, she gave up, so I took the controls and finished the battle myself. And while even watching someone play SotC can be immersive, it’s nowhere near the feeling you get when you experience the game first-hand.

So did I get my point across to my sweetheart in the end? Alas, I did not. While she was impressed by the world and the design of the Colossi, her ultimate opinion was “What good is an art form if it seems to ask too much of you just to be able to experience it?”


Different Playstyles, Different Experience

Even if you have passed the “entry point” and garnered enough skill to be able to play, there is still the disparity between “good players” and, well, not-so-good ones. So while a more skillful player might enjoy a difficult game and praise the challenge it creates, those who simply lack the necessary reflexes, experience or patience would dismiss the same game as “cheap” (unless it is cheap). Besides, some games do ask what might seem too much from a player – like putting in puzzles that require wild guesses instead of rational thinking. Or an RPG that becomes unplayable with the build you created – but of course you’ll only realize this after you’ve put a good ten hours into it… That could become frustrating and turn many people away from a game they would have otherwise enjoyed.

I’m sure everyone has heard the never-ending argument between fighting game players. While some may claim they “play for fun” and prefer more tactical approach to achieving victory, others spend months learning and mastering every possible combo, counting frames and whatnot. Still, both sides would say the same thing: “You are playing it wrong!” Yeah, okay, there’s a tricky matter of competitive gaming and e-sports here, but tell me, have you ever heard aspiring, say, pro soccer players say they despise those “noobs” who just want to play some street ball, and the street players refer to pros as “nerds who’ve trained themselves stupid”? :)

Okay, gaming skills aside, there’s also a matter of how you prefer to play your game. And in this particular case, non-linearity – the thing so often cherished by gamers as one of the medium's high points – becomes gaming’s worst enemy. If a videogame offers you a number of different ways it can be played, and you choose only one, can you really say you’ve had a complete experience? I’m not speaking of branching storylines -- as even the gameplay can differ greatly within a single title. 

For one player, Deus Ex would appear a brilliantly planned stealth game, for another – a mediocre third-person shooter. One would say Grand Theft Auto games are a set of relatively boring missions, stitched together by a trope-heavy story about the criminal world, and spiced up a bit by social commentary. Another one disagrees and tells the tales of mayhem in the streets, prolonged car chases when they escaped capture by a hair, and side activities one could immerse themselves in for hours and hours. And guess what? Both would be right.

So how do we rate a game that presents multiple ways of playing? Do we take one of them as “primary” and focus on it? Or do we try to do a little bit of everything, potentially getting a shallow experience? Can we be even remotely objective? I don’t have an answer for this. Which brings us to the next point…

No Objective Means of Appraisal

Recently there’s been a surge in videogames appearing in a number of yearly awards – such as Writers Guild Awards – along with other, more widely accepted media. However, those nominations usually deal with the elements common to both games and other forms of art -- like screenplay, music or voice acting. While that is quite fine in itself, I think it entirely misses the point of gaming – for I strongly believe that the true essence of videogames lies in gameplay. I’ve said that once, and I would say it again: the game mechanics must compliment the story and other non-gameplay elements – and vice versa. Sorry David Cage, but neither technology, nor being cinematic, nor even the mythical “emotion” have anything to do with what games really are.


To me, THIS was one of the most emotional moments in gaming in the recent years


It is here that the catch becomes clear though: there are no widely acclaimed means of analyzing game mechanics. No theory books on game planning or combat. No experts, apart from those who either have been developing games for most part of their lives, or those who have played so much they now consider themselves such (and still both types are labeled as geeks by the general public). No classes that would teach why games should be made, instead of how. Not even a common terminology (and no, words like pwned or noob aren’t exactly terms, scientifically speaking :)). There are no equivalents to concerts, exhibitions or film festivals – and gaming conventions (from what I have heard about them) are nothing more than advertising and marketing events. It’s all sad, really – but even sadder is the fact that this situation isn’t likely to improve anytime soon.

As a result, we are facing a paradox: videogames, while clearly possessing all the inherent attributes of art, are hidden behind entry barriers and lack most of the external features that art is usually associated with and accompanied by. This, in turn, keeps people away and gives them the reason to say games are not art without even trying them out.

There are, of course, more aspects and fine points to this… but I guess that’s a topic to discuss some other time. Thanks for reading!

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         Hi everyone! It’s been quite a while since my last blog, so I thought I’d better write something before you guys forget who I am. :)

         2014 was not an easy year, and a rather weird one for me as a gamer, but if I were to name it Year of Something, it might as well be the Year of Destructoid. Well, actually Destructoid and Steam – but as there’ll be a separate blog about Steam (I think), let us concentrate on the Dtoid part.

         It’s always nice to become part of a community – at least while you’re accepted, – and believe me, I’ve had my fair share of acceptance problems in my life. That’s why I cherish the Dtoid community and the friendships I’ve made here so much. Seriously people, you’re awesome! Because of you, I’ve been able to overcome my multiplayer shyness, and I even met the first seconds of 2015 mounting my friends. On top of a goat. What else could a guy possibly wish for? :)




         So here I’ve prepared a little musical gift for you all.

         Now, let me introduce myself (again) to those who don’t yet know me from this perspective. Hi, I am Tonich, an aspiring composer and the guitarist/singer/principal songwriter of the Russian instrumental/art rock band The Heckfish. Pleased to meet you all (again)! :)



         At first, I was reluctant to use Dtoid blogs for publishing my music, but some of my newly acquired friends (thanks guys!) convinced me that I should go Alphadeus (cheers dude! :)) and present it to you. Besides, LuckRequired has already used one of the tracks for his caption contest, so what the heck – gotta finish the job! :)




         Above you can stream and freely download The Heckfish’s debut EP Immersion. No charge, no questions asked. :)

Funded and produced solely by the band members, the EP was recorded in 2011-2012 and self-released in 2013. Here’s the list of people who have put their efforts into creating the album:

Tonich – Guitars, vocals and keyboards

Anton Travin – Recorder

Anna Gogina – Keyboards

Pavel Ganichev – Bass guitar

Artyom Tretiakov – Drums

Sergei Sorokin – Sound engineering and mixing

Sergei Russkikh – Mastering

Anna Osipova – Cover art


         I really hope you enjoy the music, my dear Dtoiders! Even if you don’t – I’m still thankful to you all. :)

         Your Friendly Neighborhood Russian,


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Hello, my friends and fellow Dtoiders!  It's not often that I use the c-blogs for personal gain, but I've been planning on writing this for quite some time. Anyway, this won't take too long.

For those of you who are new to this blog, I'm Tonich, thirty, coming from the Land of Vodka, Bears and PC gaming. :) I've been playing videogames since the NES era (which started rather late here in Russia), but for the most time I've kept to single-player. Rased as an only child, I didn't have a regular partner to play with, and getting gaming parties with my friends was a rare occasion. 

When I grew up and had a gaming PC and a couple of consoles with online capabilities, multiplaying was still out of the question. Partly due to my really poor internet connection at that time, partly because of the ever-prevailing piracy (which was the only way to keep playing without going broke), and partly because of my personality. You see, I'm really shy around new people, so whenever I try playing with complete strangers I get really tense, thus both bringing my gaming performance down and losing any enjoyment from playing. 

But ever since I've joined this community and found out it's full of awesome people, I feel the growing desire to play with you guys - as some of you have already become friends to me, and hopefully there will be many more yet. I've already made my first steps by playing with Luck Required - thanks a lot, dude. you're awesome! - and I invite everyone and anyone who's interested in playing with me to add me on Steam.

My Steam username is Tonich, I'm the guy with a red panda on the userpic. My time zone is Moscow time (GMT+4, PDT+11, EDT+8), so it might be a bit tough getting together with those of you who live in the Americas - but we'll figure something out, right? :)

Now, a few words about the games I'd like to play with you.


First and foremost, Borderlands 2

I've completed the game twice (solo) and I'm still loving it - but I've always wanted to try out co-op and clear out those pesky raid bosses with a trusty partner or three. :) My snipy lvl53 Zer0 is always at your service.


Russian player, huh?

Let's see if he's any good.

I will be watching.

Sorry, that haiku was done on a whim. :)

Anyway, if you're new to the game I'll gladly start a new character and replay the campaign again with you!

I've got the GOTY Edition, plus the Ultimate Vault Hunter Upgrade 2, but no Headhunter episodes yet. 



I'm also a (rather casual) fighting game player, so I'm always ready for a bout in Mortal Kombat, Injustiice: Gods Among Us and Skullgirls (waaah, no online support for my favourite BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger!). Just don't expect much of a challenge from me if you're a seasoned fighter, okay?



Max Payne 3 and Quake Live are also among the games I'd like to see some friendly faces in. And just this weekend I grabbed Payday: The Heist but haven't tried it out yet, so if anyone still plays it (as far as I know quite a number of Dtoiders are into the 2nd game but I'm still on the fence about getting it), and you've got enough patience to play with a complete newbie, take this kid along for the heist, will you? :)


And of course I plan on expanding my library, so if you you've got suggestions on what we could play together, just say the word! :) 

So, please add me - and either send me a Steam message or leave a comment in this blog, saying what you'd like to play.

 Yours truly,



         Fangs for the Memories? Seriously? Ah, what am I saying – it’s Halloween, how can there be anything serious about it? :)

         I love Halloween – I’ve loved it ever since I started listening to a certain German power metal band when I was fifteen. Even though in my homeland it’s deemed a strange and unworthy holiday and is officially banned from celebrating in Russian schools, I don’t mind embarrassing myself by dressing up and going outside looking like this.


This cute little witch is doing my bidding. So will YOU mortals!

         And funny thing, just a couple days back I’ve been discussing the scariest moments in video games with a friend – so I won’t be going into this community assignment unprepared. :)


         I’m a sucker for a good mystical/horror story, but it’s a rarity that I find a moment in a movie or a videogame that can really scare me. I think I could count all of the experiences like that using fingers on one hand. Well, okay, maybe I’ll throw in an extra thumb. But the moment that definitely took the cake, then smashed it in my face, was the “Room with a Mirror” moment in Silent Hill 3. It was the only time when I was so confused and scared that I ran out of the room (in-game, of course) and had to take quite some time trying to figure out what I had seen – before going back in there just to find… nothing at all. And just because it was a one-time experience for me, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for everyone else, so suck it. You’ll have to play the game yourself. And I’m going to talk about Fatal Frame III: The Tormented, known in Europe as Project Zero 3.




         One of the key elements to scaring the player is surprise. That’s how all the jump-scares work: you’re walking down a dimly lit corridor, everything looks peaceful and the music is soothing – then suddenly you’re face to face with something unnatural or plain disfigured. All of this is usually accompanied by the sound of several violinists having a simultanious heart attack. However if you are aware of the monster and the time of its appearance it will hardly make you jump out of your seat. Same goes for making sudden scares happen too often. But can we make a frightening experience when the player is aware of the monster in the room? Fatal Frame is quite sure we can.

         The Tormented, the third installment in the series puts us in the shoes of Rei Kurosawa – a freelance photographer who is experiencing nightly dreams of being lost in a haunted manor. There she finds a magical camera that can banish ghosts by photographing them. Sounds a bit stupid, doesn’t it? I, however, believe it is one of the most brilliant ideas found in a horror game. What would be your reaction if you were attacked by an angry wraith? I bet it would be turning around and running for your life – and I think no one would blame you. Video games gave us the chance to fight back – but doing so with conventional weapons (even if they are some state-of-the-art experimental gear, they usually still look like weapons) makes the ghost encounter lose its thrill very soon. But it’s a different feeling when you have to stare down the attacking ghost through the viewfinder, focus on it and then take a close-up shot. And here’s what you are going to look at.




         Unfortunately, after a while the impression starts to wear out, and by the end game you'd be routinely snapping pic after pic, concerned more for having a better exp reward than anything. But the first few battles – that would be something else, you can take my word for it.

           Another great thing about Fatal Frame III is how it utilizes controller vibration for building up the suspense. Instead of just rumbling violently – you know, the usual way – the gamepad would gently pulsate in your hands when ghosts are nearby, then give you a single powerful shake as they finally appear. This system is not unlike the famous radio static from the Silent Hill series; both games know just the way to make you feel uneasy without you instantly realizing the reason for it. And that, in my book, is the definition of a good scare.


         Also, honorary mentions go to the following gaming moments:

- A statue coming to life and tearing apart its chest in Clive Barker's Unduying

- Encountering a Bloodsucker for the first time in S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl

- The brief, yet poignant Year Walk for making me feel uneasy about staying in a silent and darkened apartment after I've finished the game.


Thanks for reading - and happy upcoming Halloween! :)

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Lately, I’ve been noticing that quite a lot of stories in AAA blockbuster games of the past few years play out in almost exactly the same way. Sure, there’s no way of avoiding at least a couple of clichés in stories – and I’m sure as heck not saying it’s a bad thing. We need clichés, we love them (oh, you want to argue? Don’t lie to yourselves) – but in these cases it feels like there’s just a bunch of them being shuffled like a deck of cards, and nothing else.

So I turned on my inner vision and tried to peer into the distance of space and time – and here’s the transcript of a note I’ve found stapled to the wall of a certain undisclosed developer’s writers department (on a side note, my vision was rather blurry, probably because I’ve got myopic astigmia and I can’t wear glasses in my spirit form – so I might have missed or misread some points).


Dear Writers!

         According to international surveys, focus tests and publisher commentary, your game script is going to suck if it does not have at least 80 per cent of the following points.


1. Characters



  • A bitchy, crap-talking white male antihero, preferably with a low, gruff voice and a drinking problem (special powers are mandatory!)
  • Wife/lover/family member/stray kid, who dies at the start of the game and later appears in flashbacks
  • A mentor/experienced comrade (bonus points for having them killed mid-game)
  • A comic relief character (must stay alive throughout the game - it's the only exception! Okay, dogs, too)
  • A villain who shares a love/hate relationship with the protagonist
  • A probable love interest who either dies or has other circumstances that prevent her from starting a relationship with the hero

 2. Plot Devices

  • Death of the protagonist’s lover/important family member/whole family for subsequent guilt issues
  • Death of the most likable character (bonus points for making the protagonist kill them)
  • Angst
  • Amnesia
  • Betrayal
  • Conspiracies
  • Revealing the hero’s dark past that he does not know or want to remember, explaining his personality and/or powers
  • Revealing that the protagonist is not who we think he is
  • Revival of a character considered dead
  • A second villain appearing or being disclosed for who they are in the last hour of the game
  • Any other plot twist
  • Ambiguous moral choices


3. While Collaborating with Game Planners

NOTE: ALL of the following points are mandatory, your game is not a game but an outdated piece of shit if it has not got them.

  • Shooting
  • Explosions
  • Chases
  • Free running
  • Flashbacks (really good for filling loading times. Use them. Abuse them)
  • Private military companies
  • One-liners
  • Cliffhangers (both figurative AND literal)
  • Turrets with unlimited ammo (if it’s medieval fantasy, catapults of crossbow turrets will do)
  • Fetch quests and other distractions


We also regret to inform you that due to our Writing Robot Development department needing additional funds, starting next month your salaries will be cut by fourty per cent. Please understand.

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