Tag Archives: Slender

Walking Simulator

This is for day 26 of Blaugust

“Walking Simulator” is pretty bad, somewhat derogatory name but for better or for worse it seems to have become its own category of games lately. These games mostly feature you walking, in first-person view, while exploring an environment. Mechanics are minimal – you may be able to jump or crouch, or interact with some objects, but other than that the games are mainly about exploring an environment.

What makes some of these games great while others can be a giant snoozefest?

Story

Without a whole lot of gameplay mechanics to keep the player engaged, the story really needs to hold up. In these games you’re generally not interacting with any other characters directly and story is mainly told through observation or narration. While leaving things up to the player’s interpretation and being vague can work for some games, a combination of vague story and lack of any action makes for a really dull experience. Like Dear Esther. Snippets of narration were given (as far as I could tell they weren’t even in a particular order), visuals sometimes offered clues but, otherwise, there was no solid story. Just a lot of walking. In Gone Home, on the other hand, the main story is very clear. There are little mysteries around the house that aren’t explained but you do learn Sam’s story.

Goal

Stanley Parable corridor

If the story isn’t strong, there needs to be a clear goal. In Slender the goal is very simple – gather pages, don’t die. In The Stanley Parable your goal is constantly shifting based on your decisions, but you are told quite clearly what to do. In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter your goal is to find (or find out what happened to) Ethan. The games I’ve found less engaging – Dear Esther, Serena, Mind: Path to Thalamus don’t have a clear goal. While Sunset does have a goal, that goal is to clean some rich dude’s apartment.

Tone

Having good tone and atmosphere is good, and having a changing tone is even better. Again, with a lack of action or interaction you need to feel engaged in some other way. The Stanley Parable does this best. Comedy (as long as it is truly funny) is a great way to make something interesting. Then at times that comedy turns a bit mysterious and dark, things get creepy. Then, back to funny! Horror is another way to make a game that is lacking in action engaging. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter had me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. Even among the beautiful, idyllic scenery, there was always a sense of danger and occasionally the unease was broken up by actual scares. Gone Home adds some scary elements without it being a scary game which I think was a good choice.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter cemetary

On the other side of things, Dear Esther had a mildly unsettling atmosphere throughout the whole game but I was unsure why I was unsettled the whole time. Serena classifies itself as a horror game, without including any scares or creepiness factor until the very end. Sunset has a backstory of civil revolution and war but nothing in the gameplay or immediate environment ever really reflects that. It’s tonally even the entire time.

Length and Pacing

This is a big one for me. Not only do I have a love for short games, but I can also only walk around so much. Gone Home is a perfect 2 hour experience. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. The Stanley Parable can be finished in 10 minutes, but it makes you want to go back and try different things. Though Ethan Carter is on the longer side, there’s enough interaction to make that okay.

Sunset would have been a much better game at 2 hours instead of 4.

The Gone Home Factor

Gone Home VHS tapes

While I think many people enjoyed Gone Home, for people of a particular age group/culture/location, it was catnip. I fall into that group. Besides having good writing and telling an emotionally affecting story, this game hit the nostalgia sweet spot. Taped X-Files episodes on VHS! I used to record it every Friday! Lisa Frank stickers, yes! SNES carts lying around, Street Fighter doodles in notebooks, magic eye posters, the Dream Phone board game. So many references to growing up in the 90s filled every room of this virtual house, and each provided a dopamine hit.


 

Do you have any particular favourites in this genre? Or have you played any particularly boring ones?

Creepiest Moments in Games

It’s October, and time for all things scary and disturbing. No I’m not talking about GamerGate (ba dum pssh), I’m talking about scary games. I can be pretty wimpy when it comes to on-screen scares, but I’ve still played my share of horror games. The thing that tends to get to me most in horror games is the sounds. I can handle jump scares or gore, but too many scary noises and I’ll likely need to turn it off and take a break.

Here are some of the creepiest moments from games I’ve played.

Silent Hill – Radio

SH was one of the first horror games I ever played. It was the first horror game I quit after barely an hour because I was too creeped out to go on. Watching the beginning of this video, with less than impressive PS1 graphics and wooden voice acting, it may be hard to believe that this game could be really scary, but it was. That radio sound… /shudder. And it wasn’t just an awful sound, it mean that something was coming.

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly – Laughter

Fatal Frame 2 takes the cake for scariest game I’ve played. Creepy twins, ghosts, a combination of both jump scares and intensely creepy situations. Plus there was a scene with a well, and those have been traumatizing since The Ring. The malevolent, maniacal laugher in this scene was the worst.

Slender – The whole damn thing

This game is intense. I will admit that I’ve never actually played this game myself, but I’ve watched over the shoulders of a couple other people playing it. Well, trying to play it. They both quit before they found all 8 pages. The game environment is very sparse, but that adds to the terror. The worst part is the sound  the game is filled with the sounds of your footsteps, ragged breath, and pumping heart. As you find pages, things get even worse as the camera starts to shake and the creepy sounds go into overdrive.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines – Ocean House Hotel

VtMB isn’t really a horror game (though some of the bugs and character models can be quite horrifying), but it’s definitely filled with creepy moments. The haunted Ocean House Hotel is the scariest part. You’re sent to find something that will exorcise the spirits from the house and you discover the story of a man who went crazy and killed his family (it’s very Shining-like). While you’re going through this, you encounter ghostly apparitions, poltergeists who send objects flying at you, and doors that open on their own.

 Alan Wake – Chapter 1 Nightmare

I just started Alan Wake recently because I figured I should play something scary before Halloween. I’m not finished yet, but so far it’s a lot of fun. It’s very cinematic and no too scary, but the combo of maniacal laughter and being trapped in this scene (about midway through the video) right near the beginning of the game really creeped me out.

 What games creep you out?