Operation Backlog Completion 2017

Mar 302015
 

Among-the-Sleep

One of the many video games I’ve backed is Among the Sleep, a survival horror game from the perspective of a two-year-old. With a premise like that, how could I not be interested? The finished game came out last May, and I finally played it.

Among the Sleep is the sort of atmospheric horror game that blurs the line between reality and imagination. How much of what you see is real? Is it just a nightmare? These questions tossed me into a twisted world, an unsettling dreamscape composed of bits and pieces of the real world.

I’ve noticed that survival horror games have an odd tendency to use particularly beautiful environments, and Among the Sleep is no exception. Several of its locations had a striking, haunting beauty.

Among-the-Sleep-screenshot

I spent the first hour or so suspecting the strange happenings and warped locations were just the child’s frightened interpretation of the world. This, combined with the initial jump scares, led me to believe there was no real danger, making the game creepy rather than scary.

Then a monster killed me.

Much like when I played Master Reboot, I learned the hard way that the monsters stalking this nightmare world were legitimate threats. Suddenly the game was a lot scarier. This tension remained throughout the rest of the game, and I couldn’t look at those “harmless” jump scares the same way again.

Even so, Among the Sleep never reaches the heights of terror as a game like Amnesia or Alien: Isolation does. It’s a short game, only 2-3 hours long, and forgiving checkpoints keep the tension from escalating too high. Most of the puzzles are simple, and only a few areas achieve the maze-like nature common to survival horror. However, the psychological elements give it an unsettling tone that lingers after the overt scares.

I would compare its storytelling to that of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The more you play, the more you realize the game blends real-world fears with its nightmarish monsters, and that is Among the Sleep’s greatest strength.

If you’re interested in an atmospheric psychological horror game and don’t mind a shorter, simpler approach to survival horror tropes, take a look at Among the Sleep. And if you’ve already played it, share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


Buy Among the Sleep from Steam

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Mar 272015
 

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Tales series, which began in 1995 with Tales of Phantasia in Japan. Bandai Namco’s 20th Anniversary celebration includes the release of Tales of Zestiria, my most anticipated game this year.

Tales-of-Zestiria-logo

Tales of Zestiria came out in Japan on January 22, and it’s due out in the West sometime this summer. It is considered a tribute to the series’ history and described as a return to Tales’ roots.

I’m still a newcomer to the Tales series. Watching the Tales anniversary video made my video game backlog cry out in pain.

So far, Tales of Xillia is the only game in the series I’ve completed. I loved it so much I decided to play the rest of the series, starting with Tales of Symphonia.

Tales of Symphonia is shaping up to be my favorite game.

Ever.

So, newbie or not, Tales news gets me pretty excited. But in addition to the impending release of Tales of Zestiria, Bandai Namco promised “massive surprises” to celebrate the anniversary with.

Massive surprises? What could they be? My hopes range from the plausible (Western release of a previously unlocalized title or a new compilation) to the highly unlikely (here is your Symphonia prequel!), but as long as they aren’t Japan-exclusive, I’m excited to learn more about these “massive” Tales surprises.

What do you hope they are?

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Mar 252015
 

The_Letter_gameIn July 2014, a Wii U game called The Letter appeared in the Nintendo eShop. This horror game received terrible reviews, but also gathered a few fans who defend it as a worthy atmospheric experience.

Since The Letter was pretty cheap and I’ve enjoyed “bad” survival horror games in the past, I was willing to take a chance on it. I set it aside for a while, in part because my Wii U wasn’t hooked up to my TV.

Last week, when I learned an update gave it off-TV support, I finally played it.

Well, I started it. I have to admit, I didn’t finish it, even though it’s only a couple of hours long. Maybe it gets better later on, but I didn’t have the patience to find out.

People have described The Letter in various ways, often calling it a “walking simulator” like Dear Esther, although it does have some gameplay. Here’s how I’d describe it:

You might be familiar with the free survival horror game Slender. It has a simple premise. You must walk through the spooky forest and find the scattered pages, while avoiding death at the hands of Slenderman.

Now imagine that concept without Slenderman.

The Letter dropped me into a creepy environment with the directive to find scattered letters and objects in order to advance. Even by survival horror standards, I’d hesitate to call these puzzles, since it was largely just “find all the things.” It felt spooky at first, but after I wandered around looking for the random objects I needed to collect, I just got bored.

I’ve since looked up the story, and I don’t feel I missed anything great. Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

Survival horror is a niche genre, and I’m all in favor of developers taking risks with it. The Letter wants to be a creepy, mysterious game, and that’s great–except it didn’t work. If you’re looking for atmospheric horror on your Wii U, check out Master Reboot instead.

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