Pixelated Horror: Lone Survivor and The Last Door

In the past year I have been turned on to video games that are independently developed.

What is it that turns me on about indie games? Mainly it’s the fact that I find the games I am truly looking for coming from the indie guys.

I am not as old school as mario, but I am very attached to my days sucking the tit of the very first playstation.

As each generation of gaming comes to pass in the mainstream, I become less interested. This is because newer games stray farther away from what originally got me into gaming in the first place.

I am a big fan of survival horror, puzzle solving type games. Or games that immerse you into atmosphere in general.

I think that is why I found these games I am about to blog about so interesting. They borrow heavily from some classic horror games, while totally immersing you into the dark world in which they hail.

(Some Spoilers Ahead)

So first we talk about…

LONE SURVIVOR

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Lone Survivor is a 2D survival horror game developed by Jasper Byrne. It borrows really heavily from Silent Hill in a very non apologetic kind of way. And to that I say GOOD.  As far as I am concerned Konami and Silent Hill have been regurgitating the same old garbage since Team Silent left the house after Silent Hill 4. So,  playing this is almost like playing the Silent Hill I have been waiting for, for so many years. An ORIGINAL take, free of Pyramid Heads.

Even though it borrows from Silent Hill in atmosphere and mood, it still holds it’s own candle in many ways. The gameplay and dynamics are pretty damn original, and are true to the survival horror genre.

You must forage for food and eat regularly to keep up your health and vitality. You can combine food items to make a more energy efficient snack, and some items you can’t eat until you find another item needed in combination. Such as a can opener to open your canned goods.

Some other cool survivor horror elements include having to use your ammo and health rations sparingly. The bullet to monster ratio is very one sided, just like it should be in any good survival horror (Resident Evil take note…)

Oh yeah, and Lone Survivor is pretty fucking trippy too.

Most of the dialog is so bizarre that  it has you scratching your head.

Not to mention you can take different pills before you sleep, so that you can meet up with weird entities in dreamland who help you out by giving you different kinds of rations (depending on what pill you take) ect.

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Some other ways this game delivers the survival horror goods is how it uses location based puzzle solving, sending you back and forth between a series of locations in order to find different pieces to the puzzle. This immerses you into the game in a solid way, making you familiar with you surroundings. It even gives you a map (which will remind you of your first trip to the school house in Silent Hill).

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One more thing to touch on before I move on is the art direction. This game is pure pixelation. You can tell that  Jasper Byrne was gun ho about making this game a pixel fest, and it works extremely well.

Even though at first your brain is kind of like “Where the fuck is the definition?” you will be surprised with how well your noggin fills in the blank spaces. After playing for a few minutes, it wasn’t hard to really take in the entire atmosphere. This game probably would not have the same appeal if it wasn’t pixel art. It adds to that grainy raw atmosphere I crave in a horror game such as this.

And oh yeah, it has monsters in it.

I will leave you with the trailer.

Follow Lone Survivor on Facebook HERE

Visit the official website and play the demo or purchase the Director’s Cut HERE

Ok so, next on the pixel horror fest list

THE LAST DOOR

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Okay I just started playing this game, and boy oh boy am I excited about it. (Special thanks to that guy tooth_eye for suggesting this game)

The Last Door is a Point and Click Horror Adventure game.

First thing that excites me (horror elements aside) is the modern approach that the development team (Game Kitchen) took on the production of this game.
1. They used the crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter to partially finance it.
2. They are releasing it in episodes, which is awesome.

Because of this production’s nature (crowd-sourcing), you get to see a more intimate relationship between the fans and the producers.
From what I can tell, they even let either their beta testers, or project backers write some of the object descriptions. At this point I’m not sure which (beta or backers?).

So the production itself is extremely organic. They release an episode and get feedback which directly effects the production of their next episode.

Now let’s get into the game itself.

As I said earlier, The Last Door is a point and click horror adventure game. It is puzzle oriented. And just like Lone Survivor, it uses location based puzzle solving, sending you around the same locations until you have milked it for every mystery it has to offer.

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Speaking  of locations, the atmosphere is Gothic and Lovecraftian in nature. That fact alone is enough to make me wet.

This game is also uber pixelated, leaving very little definition to your character and his surroundings. But like I said before, your brain fills in the blanks beautifully, and you play through it just as easily as you would most high def games that currently run on the newest of graphic engines.

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This game is much more story oriented, which is something I enjoy. There is a solid plot unfolding as you get further into the game. It is revealed in both dialog and through notes and memoirs found throughout your locations. That is a classic survival horror move.

The story is of course full of mystery and horror, fans of Poe and Lovecraft will get their kicks.

Anyway, I am only into Episode Two (of Three) thus far. Only because I am a cheap bastard and cannot afford to donate to gain access to the third episode at the moment. But, as soon as I can I will, because this is something worth funding.

The first two episodes are free to play on their website.

Here is the trailer.

You can play the first episodes and donate to the cause HERE

And you can follow The Last Door On Facebook HERE.

Now I will say this, and this is in relation to both games mentioned in this post. The fact that both of the indie developers opted to use pixel art is significant.

It allows you to use your imagination, and what the game lacks in definition, your brain fills it with something usually more horrifying than any graphic can portray. Especially in dark areas.

Whatever, I am just trying to say that the pixel art works for these games more than it works against them. It is a style all on it’s own, and lately it is becoming more acceptable which is cool. I know I enjoy it. I also enjoyed it when I played the indie game Anodyne earlier this year as well, it worked to the same effect.

So, take note guys and gals. Support your underground and independent developers. They have ALOT to offer.

Technology has given us the gift of collaborating directly with those who produce media for our own enjoyment. Do not take that for granted. Help fund indie projects when you can spare the money. Especially if it’s something that you wouldn’t mind playing.

These guys are putting out games I WANT TO PLAY.

And on that note…

TUNNEL VISION: The Music of Erich Zann (Lovecraftian Fan Fiction.)

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***Tunnel Vision is a column that takes a look at underground and indie films and film making.***

Tonight I wanted to sit back and watch a nice horror flick. I was surfing through Netflix and started watching a creature flick called storage 24. I was a good hour into it when I decided that I was watching the same old regurgitated bullshit and that the film was not even worth my time. Thus I hit youtube in search for something ripe and original from the underground.

This is what I found: The Music of Erich Zann

I am a huge Lovecraft fan. I am also a big “fan” of Fan Fiction when it is done right. There is nothing cooler then watching some one take an Idea and give it further justice.

The Music of Erich Zann is originally a H.P. Lovecraft short story. It happens to be one of his only stories I have not gotten around to reading. So I cannot really tell you for certain if they were loyal to the story, but I can tell you that they were loyal to Lovecraftian atmosphere. This short is pretty damn creepy.

Now when I say “they” I might as well say HE because there was a writer/director involved by the name of Jared Skolnick. So I guess he was in charge of continuity right? A group of people worked on this film, which I can only assume was a college project because the ending credits end with the Fairfield University insignia.

This is the synopsis from the youtube channel.

A young student of metaphysics is forced to take the only lodging he can afford, a crumbling and decrepit building in a strange part of the city. Every night, he hears strange and unusual music coming from the room above him, music he cannot describe and cannot ignore.
He finds that the music above is being played by Erich Zann; a mute and eccentric German man who plays at night in a local orchestra. Fascinated by the man’s genius, the student tries to befriend Zann and understand why such a great talent chooses to live in such squalor. Eventually, Howard learns of the secret behind Zann’s music, one too terrifying to imagine.

When I started watching this movie I assumed I was watching a story from Lovecraft’s own time period, the 1920s or the 1930s. For the most part, it seemed that way. I was thrown off balance a little ways in when I realized that the story actually took place during modern times. It was the subtle clues such as the tennis shoes and bic lighters. And later on the transit. I was kind of disappointed in this fact, mainly because they already successfully transported my brain there (In the 20s or 30s). But hey, this wasn’t enough to even come close to ruining it for me.

They did a great job with lighting, and camera angles for the most part. The “steady” cam style shots were not all that steady. But part of it may have been the image stabilizer in the camera itself. The motion shots looked like it was shot using a camera with a cmos sensor, which is notorious for not handling movement smoothly.

The sound design could have used a little bit of work. The music was great, but some times it didn’t blend well. BUT! I know how hard it is to create a movie with excellent sound design. It is no easy task. So it didn’t really take away a whole lot for me.

It may sound like I am complaining, but I am not. I actually enjoy these little “faults” because it gives the movie character. As far as I am concerned this movie is Youtube gold. It is exactly what I am looking for in underground films; something I can sit through and enjoy.

This movie’s running time was 38 mins. This is impressive. That is a lengthy amount of footage for such a small project, so I know these guys must have put alot of time into it. And it’s even more impressive that it was good enough to keep me watching for the whole 38 minutes.

The acting was pretty good too. The lead character didn’t always convince me, but he definately came off as a Lovecraft lead. The old man who played Erick Zann did an outstanding job at being creepy. And the old landlord was probably my favorite actor out of the bunch.

Over all, I really enjoyed this movie. It is underground gold, with a whopping 2 thousand youtube views.

It was dark, creeping, enjoyable, and worth my while. And, it carried the good ol macabre vibes from early Lovecraft classics. And even the cosmic hopelessness of his later classics.