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LONG BLOG

Asylum Jam: Let's review some short horror games!

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Asylum Jam is an event put on by Game Jolt, where developers produce a horror game within 48 hours.

With this game jam, Game Jolt is hoping to break stereotypes around mental health in video games, asking developers not to use asylums, psychotic, or traditionally ‘insane’ patients, to try and create a healthier horror atmosphere for gamers.

This is Asylum Jam’s third year, and almost 150 games have been made and posted on the Asylum Jam website.

To help celebrate the event, I decided to play through and write short reviews for a bunch of games from Asylum Jam.

If you’re at all tempted to try any of the games I’ve mentioned, I’ve included links to all of these games.

Project Sin can only be described as a card-based strategic horror game.

The player has three people who are all being haunted by different demons with different attributes. You have a selection of cards along the bottom of the screen that deal damage to different demons, that reload after being used after about thirty seconds. Your goal is to protect the victims by using cards to defeat their demons until the timer runs out.

Not only is this an interesting concept, but it was also engaging to play. The music provided a creepy backdrop, and the stress of matching cards under a time limit made the game tense. I think Project Sin could be fleshed out into a larger game, but what’s here is extremely interesting.

The Future is Coming is best experienced without any warning as to what the game is about. I’ll wait while you go play it.

All good? Great!

The Future is Coming is a game about the stresses of being a student and having to create your “future� based on test scores. You’re given 60 seconds to memorize random facts scattered around your room, and another 60 seconds to fill out your test.

There’s no possible way the player can possibly memorize everything, and the real terror comes from knowing that your limited and helpless actions have consequences. The game references the everyday stress that students deal with in preparing their futures, and uses that to create a relatable sense of dread. Anyone who has attended college or university will be able to relate to The Future is Coming.

Through the Valley of the Shadows is a strange visual experience where the player walks forwards and takes in the creepy and moody environments.

The environments aren’t particularly pretty, but take advantage of gamer sensibility. What seems like an unloaded section of the map is actually a drop off into the next part of the game. Likewise a weird glitchy texture is actually a doorway to proceed. It feels surreal especially for gamers, as the designers took their limited time frame and applied video game flaws to their horror perspective.

The visual style of the game changes a couple of times, and every hollow footstep rings loudly. The audio design in this is to be commended, as it creates a creepy atmosphere that doesn’t rely on jump-scares, but makes the player weary for what lies ahead.

Delirium Tremens might just be the funniest bad horror game I’ve ever played. In the game you play as some who is drunk, running from squiggles.

The game looks like it was drawn by a drunk person, and the game plays like you’re controlling a drunk person. The game ends with you getting in your car and driving until you hit a truck with squiggles on it.

It feels so incomplete and poorly made that it feels intentional, and that’s charming. It also may be a public service announcement against drunk driving.

Inheritance feels like the least completed game I played for Asylum Jam.

It builds up atmosphere really well, with the player walking into a spooky abandoned home. There’s a locked door that the main character notes was never there before, and there’s even an inventory to hold all your items. It feels like it’s building up to some complicated Resident Evil-style puzzle.

And then your dead grandma pops up on screen without any sound effects, the background music continues to play as if nothing happened, and you just sit there staring at your ghost grandma, thinking, “wait… it’s over?�

When a developer has 48 hours to make a game, they need to be selective about what kind of game they can reasonably make. It feels like there was a slightly larger game here, where the inventory would have come into play, but the game just ends abruptly. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to complete a game in 48 hours, but developers should probably make sure their game feels complete before releasing it.

 

Stagnant Light is one of the best games I played for Asylum

Jam.

The game has you swimming towards a destination, lured there by a tantalizing glow in the distance. The water is murky and the art style is gorgeous, and the game is compelling and tense.

As you swim, you’ll see splashes from underwater monsters. They won’t immediately react; instead they’re triggered to chase you from the splashes of your swimming. The faster you swim, the larger your splashes and the monsters will become aware of your location.

The game balances the player’s rush to get out of danger against the danger of being killed for rushing. It’s a beautifully designed mechanic that fits a horror game perfectly. Stagnant Light is, both mechanically and aesthetically, one of the most developed games for Asylum Jam.

 

Dr. U and the Communist Space Monkeys is an allegory for the

perceived invasion of foreign powers in the bubble of our western world.

In the game you are chased by a flying saucer and monkeys firing lasers that seek to kill you as you run off in the distance, but no matter how hard the developer’s try to hide it, you can feel the post-soviet/9-11 themes bubbling underneath the surface.

The monkeys obviously symbolize the way we dehumanize the enemies of the west, which were once communist, but now we’ve boiled into the incohesive term of ‘terrorism.’ In-game you’ll run away against a black-and-white background of American suburbia, highlighting the absurdity of western war-focused culture in a civilian atmosphere.

The shrieking of monkeys quite obviously symbolizes the descent of drone strikes upon unknown enemies that has led to countless civilian causalities over the past decade. The metaphor is so present in every facet of Dr. U and the Communist Space Monkeys, it’s impossible to ignore.

It’s also a mildly interesting endless runner that has nothing to do with horror but at least it’s kind of entertaining.

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About Casus Gamingone of us since 7:55 PM on 10.17.2015

The word 'amateur' is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to me as a human being.

I'm a writer and a video game player, with that last one taking up way too much time out of the first two.

If you like From Software, Persona and have a hard-on for retro shooters and the N64, I think we'll get along.