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nekobun avatar 11:54 AM on 01.17.2013  (server time)
Byte-Sized Boo-galoo: more indie horror for even less money

Some of you may recall my foray from last month into the realm of free, horror-themed downloadable games. If not, you can read it here. I've been working my way through some more, and here's what I think of the latest batch I've played.

I mentioned The Theater at the tail end of my previous article, as I had played the worse of two versions of the game. Now that I've played both, I can confidently say I'm only slightly less disappointed. Based on a piece of creepypasta by the same name, The Theater is supposed to be a forgotten title from 1993, even though at least one of the two versions floating around was clever enough to model the posters in the lobby after those for films released in the past three or four years. Basically just a repeating loop that will, at some point between trip 2 and trip 400, start getting weird, this is such a waste of time that I'm not going to bother linking either take on it. A quick scrounge of YouTube will cough up several playthroughs should you truly be interested, many of which have links to the games so you can check them out yourself.

The Briefcase follows in the footsteps of other Slender-esques, in that it involves collecting items in an unfamiliar place, with something roaming the area that doesn't want you collecting them. In this case*, however, there's only one item to collect (the titular briefcase), and it's more about the escape than the acquisition. This game is, much like the satchel you're after, very brief, but it changes up the "find crap and run" formula enough to be worth investigation. Those prone to poking around areas to make sure they haven't missed anything may find their first playthrough being The Run, as the game's solution lies in the environment, but it's nice to see some variety of thought when it comes to this influx of first-person horror indies.

Flash game Cellar Door plays like a fairly traditional point-and-click adventure, set in a dilapidated building riddled with jump scares. Your objective is to collect several marbles before meeting a hidden time limit, at which point you will, appropriately, lose your mind. While not the greatest scare-fest, Cellar Door proves frustratingly clever when it comes to hiding the marbles you seek, and that, if nothing else, will keep you coming back to try and clear the game. Its creators, Progressive Games teased a follow-up after the game's ending, entitled Cellar Door Purgatory, but have run into some delays finishing it. Rest assured that I'll be giving Purgatory a shot as well, once it's ready.

Inside is less of a game than an interactive experience, and while it suffers from some rather low-grade in-game modeling, playing Inside offers some surprisingly decent jolts. Trapped in some sort of mansion or castle, your quest is to find your way out, a task that becomes more and more pressing as you bear witness to atrocities that seem to have occurred around you, and encounter some peculiar goings-on yourself. It's not amazing, but I give this game kudos for spooking even my ridiculously jaded self once or twice, so I'm going to say you should give it a try.

My most recent play on this list, Magnesium Ninja's Ascension, ditches the first-person trend to join games such as Lone Survivor and Home in the realm of 2-D, sidescrolling horror. As Atticus, a maintenance man for a mysterious, partially subterranean facility, you're forced to search for your daughter and your friend who was watching her after the power cuts out and things start going terribly wrong. With a well-detailed pixel art style intercut with hand-drawn story sequences, Ascension is a throwback to more classic survival horror, where powerlessness was the name of the game and combat was a last-ditch option. Even your flashlight use is something to worry about, and not solely due to battery consumption. It's not a very long play, given I managed to finish in one two hour session despite having quite a bit of trouble finding some items mid-game; that's my only complaint about Ascension, really, in that some of the key items you need to proceed are barely visible against the environment and are in no way highlighted, so a fair amount of mouse wiggling may be required to complete things.

While I'm here, it's worth mentioning that both Ascension and Imscared (which was featured in the first article) are highlighted in The Free Bundle, a new bundle (of sorts) that's trying to highlight free titles that people may've overlooked. All the games are downloadable individually, right from the main page, and there are also links to the games' homepages should you feel like donating a bit to their creators.

Also on the topic of horror, the crew behind Slender Man's Shadow, Dark Pathogen, have finally gotten around to releasing the "secret project" they announced in the middle of last year. All of the Slender Man's Shadow stages have been re-created using the Unity engine and gathered into a single executable, thereby bringing the entire, Eight Pages inspired collection to Mac and Linux users, where the original levels were PC-only. In addition, the new version adds a couple of extra levels: the long-teased Carnival stage, and a festive, albeit belated, Christmas Special level.

The bad news, if there is any to be had, is that this package is not free, but it'll only run you $6.99 for the combo platter. It's on Steam Green Light as well, so if you've already enjoyed some of the earlier levels (which are still free to download for PC at their homepage) or want to snag the free demo (which features Sanatorium, the original SMS stage, and the Christmas Special) and like that, feel free to give it some upvotes. If you'd like a bit more information on these Slender spin-offs, I already covered them in this article and this other article a couple of months ago.

Well, that's all I have for this round, but rest assured, there are more cheap scares to come. After all, I play (supposedly) spooky things every night on my channel, though the series may be making a move elsewhere in the near future... Keep an eye out for an announcement to that effect, as well as on this cblog for more frugal frights.

* - That "case" pun was absolutely unintentional, but you best believe I left it in there on purpose once I noticed it.

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