Hi, I'm Chris, though I've been going by nekobun and variants thereof for so long, I kind of answer to both anymore.
While I've kind of got my own thing going in the realm of indie coverage, at least in the form of playing through (and streaming) (and writing about) the huge backlog I'm developing of games gleaned from various indie bundles, I try to keep my more mainstream, game-related features here, as well as opinion pieces on the industry at large, out of mad love for the 'toid. When I'm not rambling here or trying to be clever in comments threads, you can catch me rambling on Facebook and my Twitter, and trying to be clever in the Dtoid.tv chat.
Now Playing: 360: Halo 4
SNES: Secret Of Mana
Dbumps in the Night is my weeknightly stream of scary/spooky games; here, I'll be doing complementary articles on my impressions of what I've played.
I spent my evenings this past week with the five known freeware game takes on the tale of SCP-087, also known as The Stairwell, from the SCP Foundation. The original SCP-087 and alternate take SCP-087-B are the two best known of the family, but three more games, all basically reskins of SCP-087-B, can be found in the wild under the names SCP-087-C (Circus), SCP-087-G (Gaben), and SCP-087-E (REDACTED). It's a testament to the power of the original story that several games have all taken on the same tale, and being a relatively recent convert to the wonders within the SCP wiki, it was nice to see how different gamemakers handled the material.
Much like with oft-covered songs, the original version tends to be the best, and so it is (in my opinion) with the original SCP-087 game. The first game based on The Stairwell does a great job of keeping things straightforward, and true to the source material, featuring just a titular stairwell and nothing else, looking as if it were pulled directly from the image on the story's page. While the simple gameplay, consisting of little more of walking down seemingly endless stairs and, beyond that, having the useless ability to jump, may turn off some, this original SCP-087 game manages to spook a lot with very little.
One of the key things to SCP-087's spook factor is that, while you know you'll inevitably run into the mysterious face that lurks down the stairs, you have no idea when, and it's on a random floor every single time. My very first run actually took me 182 flights into the depths before I caught sight of anything, but when it did... still remember that chill. The face you encounter also seems almost directly taken from its article of inspiration, and it's this visual continuity with the source material that leaves me loving the first SCP-087 game the most.
I actually played SCP-087-Bbefore its predecessor back in the day, while trying to track down SCP Containment Breach, another game based on several other SCP stories, and I'm a bit more mixed in my opinions of it. In some ways, it improved upon the formula presented in SCP-087, taking the limited light penetration and seemingly interminable floors of its older brother, and expanding simple staircase landing into full chambers of several varieties, to help mix things up a bit.
The chambers are shuffled every playthrough, but there are only a few types, so it becomes fairly easy to predict the optimal path through most of them after making enough runs. The only things left to worry about, then, are the pitfalls found on one side or the other of certain forked paths (which will kill you just as readily as the depths' elusive denizen), and the entity's occasional, sudden appearances on floors prior to the final one. The former, however, are detectable by looking at the floor and stopping before you fall into one, and the latter are avoidable simply by backing up and around the corner from whence you came until the entity's tell-tale sound effects fade and your vision in-game clears.
Even with these elements of predictability, SCP-087-B does a more consistent job of building up tension. Whereas SCP-087 merely had a few instances of shadows sweeping across your vision occasionally during your trip down, -B adds flashes of glowing eyes or a demonic take on a Cheshire smile that pops up briefly in your field of vision from time to time, as well as a more oppressive, ambient background soundtrack, and distorted voice clips warning you, "I'm right behind you," or "Don't look at me." My personal favorite spook, which gets me every time and even in the derivative versions, despite having played them countless times, is the sudden, brief appearance of an effigy of your eventual assailant in one of the first corners of one of the levels, an appearance you can't avoid and is in your peripheral vision just enough to make you seriously concerned about your well-being.
SCP-087-C takes the spookiness built up in -B, and replaces the lot of it with silliness. Featuring audio clips from Dumb & Dumber, Harry Potter, and a version of I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts on constant loop, -C's nickname of "Circus" is rather apt.
As if the audio tweaks weren't enough, the creep in the depths is decked out in bright, rainbow colors, dropping its menace level to a minimum while simultaneously making it that much more visible in that aforementioned corner scare. It also lacks those pitfall forks, or at least, I don't recall encountering them while playing this one, so it's much easier to get the final, unavoidable fate that awaits you if you make it to floor 35.
The next SCP-087 game is designated -G, which stands for "gaben," and is not, as some more astute gaming fans may have already noticed, something in a foreign language. Rather, capitalize the right letters, and "gaben" becomes "GabeN." Swapping out crumbling brick edifices for test-chamber walls inspired by the Portal games, SCP-087-G is a tribute to Gabe Newell's trolling nature.
This time around, the audio clips are more frequent, and feature Gabe Newell extolling things such as Half-Life 2: Episode 3, all while a tiled skin of his face has become the new default outfit for your lurking nemesis. Even more a joke than the prior SCP-087, SCP-087-G is worth a few runthroughs, despite not being particularly terrifying, just to hear all the soundbytes they crammed in there. That, and I always enjoy a rousing rendition of Somebody's Watching Me, which plays, albeit very softly, as background music.
And, finally, we have SCP-087-E, bearing the subtitle (REDACTED). No, it's actually "(REDACTED)," the subtitle itself has not been removed. In all honesty, I was pretty disappointed by this entry. In what seems to be an attempt to up the scare factor of SCP-087-B, the wall textures were made just a slight bit brighter, the soundbites used are louder and drawn from established horror sources, and, for whatever reason, the brief visualisations of your pursuer in certain hall corners, as I mentioned make me jump every time, were altered so that a doppelganger of him stands, half-lodged in the wall, and follows you with eyes hidden behind a creepy mask but can't move, rather than just being a brief burst in the corner of your eye.
It fails pretty much across the board, and feels phoned in, if not inexplicable in respect to several of the alterations. I'm still wondering why, exactly, someone thought it necessary to change the entry door that locks behind you when you begin to a vault-style door. Given all the effort that went into redecorating, you'd think whoever put this version together could have at least bothered to alter the introductory text, still directly from an earlier release of -B, just a bit.
One element from the story that none of these games address, and I wish they would, is the sound of a crying child that seems to be coming from 200 feet or so below whomever is descending the staircase, but never seems to get closer (save for in one report); it seems like it'd add that much more atmosphere, especially if descending enough floors actually did start to increase its volume. Additionally, I'm disappointed there are no encounters with the apparition where it approaches from behind, again like the third exploration report in the SCP file. -B and -G both have situations where you can get trapped between the bastard running at you from behind and a pitfall, but that's the closest any of the games come, and it's not any more impactful than any of the other scares. Small complaints, however, as on all other fronts. the first two 087 games do their job pretty well.
For those who'd like to play any of these themselves, I've collected links to places you can download all of them below, whereas the links on earlier mentions of the game titles lead to my playthrough streams of them on my Twitch.tv channel. If nothing else, check out the first two, and by all means, check out the story behind them (already linked), as well as some of the other delights the SCP Foundation has to offer. Some of them, like my personal favorite, SCP-097, will give you chills even without a game to play by yourself in a darkened room.