The Halloween List Pt. 6: Horror-Themed PC Games (2001)

This is a continuation of the multi-part Halloween List series that covered 1986 to 2000. There have been so many horror or Halloween-themed games over the years that only a multi-part article can encompass their sheer volume. In fact, horror-themed PC gaming has been going on for some time, beginning with text adventures and continuing with the action-adventures that we play today, although I must admit that 2001 looked a little quiet compared to other years for the genre…

Today is part six- 2001…

Visit part one here: The Halloween List Pt. 1: Horror-Themed PC Games (1986-1990)

Alone in the Dark 4: The New Nightmare (Infogrames, 2001). Edward Carnby returns with updated graphics and a new mystery to solve. This is a good adventure game, but not a great one. As with all games in the series, there are the appropriate level of things of ghoulish nature, with the ability to play Carnby or his female partner, Aline Cedrac.
Clive Barker’s Undying (Electronic Arts, 2001). Anytime a writer of horror fiction and a director of one of the classic horror movies of all time (Hellraiser) lends his name and talents to a PC game, chances are good that the result will include some uncomfortable or downright frightening moments of gameplay. The Covenant family have unleashed a curse that threatens to bring forth the Undying King, and it’s up to the player (as Patrick Galloway) to prevent the cursed family from destroying us all.
Evil Dead: Hail to the King (THQ, Inc., 2001). Ash is back, and this time on the PC! It seems the Book of the Dead has once again brought forth the demonic and undead hordes, and it’s up to Ash to save the world. The thought of playing Ash was awesome, especially with Bruce Campbell provided his voice to the game, but poor graphics, bad gameplay, and little imagination made this game a bargain-bin-at-best stinker.
Jekyll and Hyde (DreamCatcher Interactive, 2001). Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a Victorian era study of the duality of human nature, fraught with nuance and psychological terror. This game is an action-adventure game which requires you to assume the role of Mr.Hyde, to rescue Dr. Jekyll’s kidnapped daughter. There are zombies, but I wonder if the zombie is really the game itself, as it seems to lurch along at an unfinished pace.
KISS Pinball (Gathering of Developers, 2001). You know the list is weak when you have to include a pinball game to bulk it out a little. All the KISS members are here: the Starchild, the Beast, the Demon, and the Celestial, as you use a pinball table to fight the Dark Lord. It’s hard to mess up a pinball game, so you have to give the developers credit for making both pinball and KISS dull simultaneously.
The House of The Dead 2 (Activision, Inc., 2001). The popular Dreamcast game by Sega comes to the PC, two years after its original release. It’s pretty much the same game, with hordes of zombies to eliminate, as well as an autocamera that sometimes drives you mad. Even at the time, this game seemed dated.
Throne of Darkness (Sierra On-Line, 2001). Set in Japan during the Middle Ages, you play one of the Seven Samurai ( the Leader, the Archer, the Brick, the Ninja, the Wizard, the Swordsman, and the Berserker) tasked with killing a demon overlord whose minions include hordes of the undead. This is a RPG that has a strong Diablo II influence (which is not a surprise considering how many developers worked on both games).

That’s it for now. See you next year!


The Halloween List Pt. 5: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1998-2000)

Today is the fifth and final (for now!) installment of this series on the retrogaming roots of the entire horror PC game genre.  There’s been so much to look at, with absolute must-play classics on one side of the gaming spectrum to some absolute dogs on the other.  And, of course, there are a variety of horror motifs, from eerie suspense to out and out giblet producing action.

Today is Part Five – 1998 though 2000…

Visit Part One here: The Halloween List Pt. 1: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1986-1990)
Visit Part Two here: The Halloween List Pt. 2: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1991-1993)
Visit Part Three here: The Halloween List Pt. 3: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1994-1995)
Visit Part Four here: The Halloween List Pt. 4: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1996-1997)

Black Dahlia (Interplay Productions, 1998). Based on both the Torso Killer serial killings in 1940s America as well as the events surrounding the early years of World War II, this adventure game is both a little known and hard to find gaming masterpiece.  A dark tale of history and the occult, with genuine actors (not the game designers’ family) and Hollywood-class production values.  This is a must-play game!
Blood II: The Chosen (GT Interactive, 1998).  This time the action/adventure series is set 100 years after Caleb took out the CABAL.  Still lot of gore, some large levels and a cool techno soundtrack make this a decent follow up to the original. As for the gore factor, somehow the designers managed to increase it over the original.
Grim Fandango (LucasArts Entertainment, 1998).  A true forgotten classic, this game is viewed as the last gasp for LucasArts adventure games.  The story revolves around a bureaucratic SNAFU in the Mexican Land of the Dead, which Manny, the main character, must discover the reasons for to save the skeleton of his dreams.  Whacky, imaginative, and fun!  (A little more detail on this game can be found here: Forgotten Classics: Grim Fandango (1998).
Morpheus (Piranha Interactive, 1998). Another adventure game, this time taking place on an apparently abandoned luxury liner stuck in the Arctic wastes.  What happened to the passengers, and what does that have to do with the visions and ghostly appearances you experience?  Another great adventure in the Myst-style of play.
Of Light and Darkness: The Prophecy (Interplay Productions, 1998).  The Apocalypse is nigh, and it’s your job to stop the Dark Lord from damning Humanity before the Clock of Judgment strikes its final note.  Most of the game revolves around redeeming an assortment of spirits by learning what their sins were, then matching up a colored Orb and an ancient artifact to release them from their sin.  A bit too New Age for my tastes, but your mileage may differ.
Sanitarium (Dreamforge Entertainment, 1998).  Max wakes up in a padded cell of an insane asylum, with no memory on how he got there.  Who is he and why is he there?  And is what he sees around him reality, or is it all in his mind?  A great psychological adventure game thriller worth playing!
The House of the Dead (SEGA, 1998). In a very common theme, you play a special operative sent in to wipe out a zombie infestation and rescue the foolish laboratory staff that shouldn’t have been messing with life and death in the first place. Some interesting attack modes from the level bosses show that the designers wanted to have a little fun with the zombie plague game genre.
Zombieville (Psygnosis Ltd., 1998).  A shooter with adventure game overtones that involves a journalist investigating a military base that seems to specialize in creating experimental weapons that also appears to be currently overrun with zombies.
Aliens Versus Predator (Fox Interactive, 1999).  There are three races to choose from in this action shooter: Aliens, Predators, or Marines (Humans), with each requiring a different style of gameplay due to their strengths and weaknesses.  Play as the Marines and you’ll spend ever moment on edge, wondering where the next attack will come from.  Bonus points playing as the Alien race and eating corpses to gain health. Awesome.
Dracula Resurrection (DreamCatcher Interactive, 2000).  Another adventure game wherein the entire plot centers around the hunt for Dracula and saving the girl, but, in this case, the game play is well-executed.  360 degree movement with static Myst-like screens give players a better feel for the playing environment while they solve the puzzles that will lead them to their ultimate victory over the vampire lord.
Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned (Sierra On-Line, 1999).  The third game in the series sees the Schattenjaeger hero team up with his assistant in Rennes-le-Chateau, France, to learn the mystery of who kidnapped the baby son of  a local Prince, and why.  Great atmosphere and dialog, as the game was once again written by Jane Jensen.
Nocturne (Gathering of Developers, 1999).  You play a highly-skilled monster hunter with a half-vampire partner whose job it is to come out at night and hunt down and terminate the creatures that prey upon humanity.  This was a beautiful action game to play when it came out, with an intriguing premise, but some quirky controls made gameplay harder than it had to be.  A good amount of gore, though.
Planescape: Torment (Interplay Productions, 1999).  Not really anything horrific in this game, but the fact that you play what is essentially a hero (or villain) who keeps waking up in the Mortuary whenever he dies, and that the undead are found throughout the game, it at least deserves a mention.  Besides, it is quite possibly the best RPG ever made, and gives me an excuse to point to another blog entry on it: magisterrex Retro Game of the Week: Planescape: Torment
American McGee’s Alice (Electronic Arts, 2000).  Lewis Carroll’s classic tale takes a very dark turn as Alice returns down the rabbit hole to discover Wonderland in ruins, with horrors and madness holding sway over its denizens.  Alice must learn what has happened, who is responsible, and how to fix it.  Amazing visuals make this a must-play game!
Blair Witch, Volume I: Rustin Parr, Volume II: The Legend of Coffin Rock, Volume III: The Elly Kedward Tale (Gathering of Developers, 2000).  Three separate games taking place in 1941, 1886, and 1786, respectively, but kind of the same story told throughout, as bad things are happening to the townfolk, someone has to go investigate, and the woods are the ultimate destination for everything to culminate in.
Hellboy: Dogs of the Night (Cyro Interactive, 2000).  It’s Mike Mignola’s comic classic come to the PC screen in this third-person perspective action shooter game that takes place in Hellboy’s early years as a BPRD investigator.  A fellow agent has gone missing in Czechoslovakia, and as Hellboy investigates further, sinister forces are revealed, extending right into the depths of Hell itself.
KISS: Psycho Circus (Gathering of Developers, 2000). The Coventry, a band on the bar circuit, find their latest gig closed up and seemingly abandoned, only to be offered the chance to attend a special circus in town.  Turns out it’s the Psycho Circus, and the four need to assume the roles and powers of the Demon, the Starbearer, the Beast King, and the Celestial, which are, of course, the cosmic powered alter egos of KISS.  A pretty cool first- person shooter set in Todd MacFarlane’s comic book universe!
System Shock 2 (Electronic Arts, 2000).  A case where the sequel is so much more than the original, this time you wake up alone in a state-of-the-art faster-than-light spacecraft that should be bristling with passengers and crew.  A masterpiece of sci-fi survival horror!
The Devil Inside (Cryo Interactive, 2000).  OK, sit down, this one needs some explaining. The hero, Dave Cooper, is possessed by a female demon, and ironically he happens to be starring in a TV game show called The Devil Inside.  The show is staffed by escaped spirits from Hell, including Jack the Ripper as the host.  And Dave needs to shoot zombies to win the game. Still there? Great!  One thing you can’t take away from this game is that it has an original premise, but the game itself is good, but not great.
The Forgotten…It Begins (DreamCatcher Interactive, 1999).  An adventure game where your character is seeking to solve the mystery of your friend’s recent disappearance, and finding himself drawn into a world of voodoo and an ongoing battle of good versus evil.  Interestingly, this game was supposed to be the first of a seven game series, so some of the story’s mysteries remain unanswered as they were was scheduled to be unveiled in the later releases, which never came.
The Typing of the Dead (Empire Interactive, 2000).  Trapped within a house filled with gruesome creatures and flesh-devouring undead, you have only one weapon: your keyboard.  It’s a typing tutorial that uses zombie attacks as motivation for you to type various phrases that pop up on the screen.  Do them correctly and the monsters are defeated. Make too many errors and you’re brain food.
Vampire The Masquerade: The Redemption (Activision, Inc., 2000).  Set in White Wolf’s horror-themed role playing universe, this role-playing game casts the player as a vampire who must survive from the Medieval era to the present day, gaining power to destroy the master vampire that is your greatest enemy.

The Halloween List Pt. 4: Horror-Themed PC Games (1996-1997)

It’s Day 4 of the look at the roots of horror-themed PC gaming, with previous entries examining the period between 1986 to 1995, sorted by release date.  These are the games that came before the Left 4 Dead 2 and the like, and are the retrogaming roots of the entire horror PC game genre.  Some games are sheer bloodsplattered action shooters, others atmospheric adventure games with the sense that something awful is around every corner, and there are many variations inbetween.

Today is Part Four – 1996 though 1997…

Visit Part One here: The Halloween List Pt. 1: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1986-1990)
Visit Part Two here: The Halloween List Pt. 2: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1991-1993)
Visit Part Three here: The Halloween List Pt. 3: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1994-1995)

Alien Trilogy (Acclaim Entertainment, 1996).  It’s time to play Lt. Ripley in a first-person shooter that has heroine killing any alien she finds: drones, facehuggers, dog aliens, and even the Queen.  The game takes place in locales found in the first three movies.  Sounds a lot more fun that it actually is.
Amber: Journeys Beyond (HUE Forest Entertainment, 1996).  An adventure game with a Myst-like game engine, but involving ghosts and a haunted mansion.  Roxy is a paranormal researcher using a new experimental device to seek out ghostly activities. When she mysteriously vanishes during her experiments, her friend Joe must enter the mansion and discover her fate.
Bad Mojo (Acclaim Entertainment, 1996). It’s not everyday you run across a game that transforms your character into a cockroach and sends you on a quest to restore your humanity from the cockroach point of view.  This game has been described as Kafkaesque, and that would be accurate. Freaky!
Caddy Hack (Virgin Interactive, 1996).  It’s a 9-hole miniature golf game, but with a horror theme.  Lots of twisted humor and one or two gruesome scenes (like the Voodoo Baby).   This game was repackaged by a different publisher in 1998 and retitled as “Slice ‘n Hook”. (Yes, the image is for the re-release!)
Harvester (Virgin Interactive, 1996). You play Steve, an amnesiac stuck in Harvest, a small town from the 1950’s,  filled with extremely odd, bloodthirsty folk. You need to escape, but also need to discover why your memories are missing.  The two are connected…but why?  Gruesome and creepy at the same time, with lots of adult situations.
Mummy: Tomb of the Pharaoh (Interplay Productions, 1996).  A rather bland adventure game wherein you play a corporate investigator looking into why a mine in Egypt has stopped producing.  The workers claim that they woke up a mummy and now it’s terrorizing them.  Vast quantities of squandered gaming potential here.
Quake (id Software, 1996).  A true 3-D shooter, this game is included on the list for the various zombies, ghosts, and other undead that show up in some of the levels.  I never thought Quake beat Doom for level design – maybe it was all the bland colors they used.
Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh (Sierra On-Line, 1996).  Sequel to Roberta Williams’ classic horror game, but sans Roberta Williams, and not nearly as fun to play.  The story revolves around Curtis, a 30-something with a horrific past and a mysterious present.  Curtis must discover why people around him keep dying, and how that connects to his father’s illegal secret experiment for the very corporation he now works for.
Zombie Wars (Microforum International, 1996).  This arcade shooter sequel to Alien Carnage involves the player making their way through various levels absolutely abounding with zombies.  The ultimate foes are aliens who have a zombie manufacturing base that needs to be destroyed. Wait…what?
Blood (GT Interactive Software, 1997).  Well, the game is aptly named as I doubt you could find a game more gory than this one prior to its release.  A first person shooter with plenty of crazed cultists and undead that keep getting up after you think they’ve expired, this game is a classic.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (Activision, Inc., 1997).  Sometimes you get a bad deal from life, and that’s what happens to Kain, a noble who not only is set upon and killed by bandits, but is also raised from the dead as a blood-thirsty vampire by a secret cabal bent on using him to rule the world.  Kain is a killing machine, one who needs blood to survive, and whose on vitality leaks away as time passes without him getting it. His quest for vengeance and sheer body count make the game for mature gamers only!
Clock Tower (Human Entertainment, Inc., 1997).  Taking inspiration from an 1845 story about the Red, Long-Legged Scissor Man, this frightening adventure game involves a group of orphans who are adopted by a benevolent woman, only to then to be chased down and slain by a psychotic man wielding a giant pair of scissors as a weapon.  Actually, that’s kind of freaky, isn’t it?
Flesh Feast (SegaSoft, Inc., 1997). Another greedy corporation makes a careless mistake and an island paradise shortly becomes the center of a zombie outbreak.  You control one of four characters (or all four by giving orders to the other three to follow), as you try to avoid becoming a zombie snack, rescue any other survivors, and stop the outbreak before it can spread.  This one could have been Left 4 Dead, but somehow just didn’t connect with gamers.  Still, any zombie game featuring golf clubs and chainsaws as weapons can’t be all that bad!
Realms of the Haunting (Gremlin Interactive, 1997).  Another adventure game set in a haunted house, but this time the house is built over an ancient Satanic temple.  The player’s job is to prevent the end of the world by visiting other planes of existence and learn of the true underpinnings of reality.  Full of quasi-mystical, New Age wordplay, which is scarier than the plot.
Resident Evil (Virgin Interactive, 1997).  A special operations team is sent in to investigate a series of odd deaths in the outskirts of Raccoon City, only to be trapped within a mansion filled with the walking dead…and worse.  A classic PC game in the survival horror genre!
Shivers 2: Harvest of Souls (Sierra On-Line, 1997).  The second game of the Shivers series, this time taking the action out of the museum and into Cyclone, a small deserted town in the American southwest.  You’re supposed to meet the rest of your band there, but not only are your friends missing, so is the entire town.  Clues are found by solving puzzles as well as watching music videos, which was somewhat unique.

The Halloween List Pt. 3: Horror-Themed PC Games (1994-1995)

Horror-themed PC gaming has been going on for some time, beginning with text adventures and continuing with the action-adventures that we play today.  Some games use psychological suspense with a foreboding atmosphere, while others go for a gruesome gorefest.  It’s no surprise that there are as many variations of horror-themed games as there are in horror movies.  This series looks at those games (sorted by their release dates), and made before 2000, because after all, this is a blog about retrogaming!

Today is Part Three – 1994 though 1995…

Visit Part One here: The Halloween List Pt. 1: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1986-1990)

Visit Part Two here: The Halloween List Pt. 2: Horror-Themed Games PC Games (1991-1993)

Alone in the Dark 3 (Infogrames, 1994). Edward Carnby is called to find out what happened to a film crew missing in an Old West ghost town built over an Indian burial ground that was once renowned for the murderers living there. Maybe not the best place to
place a movie set, but maybe the producers were strapped for budget space. Unfortunately, Carnby’s old friend, Emily, was part of the crew, and he must rescue her or discover her fate!
Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Tale of Orpheo’s Curse (Viacom New Media, 1994).  Based on and using the same actors from the cheesy Nickelodeon television series, this game uses Full Motion Video to tell a tale of a haunted theatre, the Mad Magician Orpheo, and the mystery that surrounds them both.  If you were a fan of the show, you’ll love the game.  If you thought the show blew chunks, the game won’t impress you, either.
Doom II (id Software, 1994).  The unnamed Marine has cleaned up Mars, but after returning to Earth discovers that the demon hordes have already arrived.  It’s time to clean up another mess before Hell on Earth becomes a reality.  Similar in gameplay to the first game with a few new nasty surprises around darkened corners.
Night Trap (Digital Pictures, Inc., 1994).  Five girls disappeared without a trace after attending a party, and now the owners of the house have invited five more! This was a Full Motion Video (FMV) game that originated on the Sega CD, with the player stuck trying to save the lovely young ladies while staving off the vampires that want to drink their blood. Oh yeah, the house is basically one big trap, too.  Run, bad actresses, run!
Noctropolis (Electronic Arts, 1994).  The Batmanesque Darksheer fights crime and worse in the city where the sun never shines, except he’s missing in action, your character is dressed up like him with no idea how they got there, and his five worst enemies have joined forces to hunt him down and kill him.  The Succubus is the reason for inclusion in this list, as she represents exactly what her name suggests she does.
Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession (Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1994).  Create a party of adventurers to travel the evil-infested lands of Ravenloft, ultimately facing Count Strahd von Barovich himself.  A first-person perspective RPG, this was one of the best SSI AD&D adventures, and one of two horror-themed ones to use the AD&D license.
System Shock (Origin Systems, Inc., 1994).  An adventure game mixed with a shooter and set in an abandoned (yeah, right) space station controlled by SHODAN, a rogue computer with a disdain for human life.  A true classic and an amazing game in its day, with reviewers making statements like, “Doom who?”.
Call of Cthulhu: Prisoner of Ice (Infogrames, 1995).  Another H.P. Lovecraft based adventure game, this time taking place in the confinement of a British submarine.  The crew has visited Antarctica on a rescue mission, taking aboard to mysterious crates during the excitement.  What was in the crates, and how does it relate to the crew’s horrific fate?
“D” (Acclaim Entertainment, 1995).  What could make a respected hospital director slaughter his patients and staff in one bloodstained Los Angeles evening?  His daughter, Laura, enters the hospital to find out, even as the voice of her father begs her to stay away. What really happened that night drives the plot of this moody puzzle-based adventure game.
Darkseed II (Cyberdreams, Inc., 1995).  Another H.R. Giger influenced adventure game, with Mike, last seen defeating the Ancients who implanted the dark seed in his mind, attending his high school reunion.  Unfortunately, during the night his high school sweetheart is brutally murdered, with Mike having no memory of the event and being the prime suspect.  What really happened that night, and how can Mike prove he’s innocent?
Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster (Interplay Productions, 1995).  You wake up in a laboratory to realize two things: you are Frankenstein, reanimated, and Tim Curry is the Doctor hamming it up in front of you.  Why were you brought back and how can you escape? The answer is found in the puzzles throughout the castle, and all the action is done by live actors on a digitized background. What’s a Halloween tale without Tim Curry?  

Ravenloft: Stone Prophet (Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1995).  Return to the dreaded lands of Ravenloft, with this adventure set in the shifting sands of Har’Akir.  The ancient mummy Anhktepot rises from his eternal sleep, and your party of adventurers needs to help him back into his grave.  A first-person RPG with great graphics and some tough puzzles to solve.  

Roberta Williams’ Phantasmagoria (Sierra On-Line, 1995). Who would have thought the Queen of all-ages adventure gaming could produce a grisly horror masterpiece? Well, she did!  In shades of The Shining, Adrienne moves into an old mansion which begins to turn her husband into a raving lunatic whose murderous rampage she must escape.  Perhaps this was really a marriage therapy session for Ken and Roberta Williams in disguise?
Shivers (Sierra On-Line, 1995).  Accepting the challenge to spend a night in a reputedly haunted museum, the player’s character soon finds themselves on a mission to capture the source of the haunting, the evil Ixupi (South American ghosts).  A bit of an oddity for a Sierra title, this game plays more like a cross between The 7th Guest and Myst.  The puzzles can be difficult to solve, and the creepy atmosphere of a museum in the middle of the night make this a great game to play.
Terror T.R.A.X.: Track of the Vampire (Grolier Electronic Publishing, Ltd., 1995).  Hard to see why this game got a sequel, but it did.  Players get “A” or “B” choices as they play the game, and whatever they choose is reflected in the characters’ actions. Yes, there’s vampires to kill, and the game can have some grisly scenes, but, come on…it’s more like an interactive book than a game.
The 11th Hour (Trilobyte & Virgin Interactive, 1995).  Old Man Stauf is back in the sequel to The 7th Guest.  This time around, an investigative reporter goes missing within Stauf’s mansion, and it’s up to her boyfriend, Carl, to either rescue her or learn her ultimate fate. The game is still a series of puzzles with Full Motion Video clips as the reward, although the production quality is better than its predecessor due to better video compression technology.
The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery (Sierra On-Line, 1995).  The Schattenjaeger returns to supernatural action, this time in Bavaria where the villagers are being harassed by a wolf-like creature.  This was the second game in the series, and was shot with live actors yet played as a standard adventure game.  Once again written by Jane Jensen, this game set the gold bar standard for horror games! For a deeper review of the game, click Retro Game of the Week: The Beast Within – A Gabriel Knight Mystery.
The Dark Eye (Inscape, 1995).  This adventure game is based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and typical of a Poe tale, follows the cast of characters’ gradual descent into madness from an innocuous beginning.  If you’re looking for a new source of nightmares, this game is for you.  A true horror classic.
The Residents: Bad Day on the Midway (Inscape, 1995).  To escape the depression of an unlucky day, little Timmy decides to head to the Midway for a little fun.  Unfortunately for Timmy, the Midway is filled with unhappy people with dark secrets, and to escape, Timmy must jump into the mind of each character, living their life and learning their secrets – which takes more than one playthrough of the game to do.  Is this really a game or an elaborate piece of performance art?
Zeddas: Servant of Sheol (Caravan Interactive, 1995). Yet another adventure game set in a haunted castle, this time with a demon as the source of the troubles.  The castle was invaded by the demon and its army, and then removed from this reality. Finding your way inside, your character must defeat Zeddas and its minions to bring the castle back.  Some disturbing, horrific scenes make this first-person game “not for the kiddies!”.  Incidentally, this game was designed by Haruhiko Shono, an award-winning Japanese game designer.

The Halloween List Pt. 2: Horror-Themed PC Games (1991-1993)

There have been so many horror or Halloween-themed games over the years that only a multi-part article can encompass their sheer volume.  In fact, horror-themed PC gaming has been going on for some time, beginning with text adventures and continuing with the action-adventures that we play today.  This series looks at those games (sorted by their release dates), and made before 2000, because after all, this is a blog about retrogaming!

Today is part two – 1991 though 1993…

Visit part one here: The Halloween List Pt. 1: Horror-Themed PC Games (1986-1990)

Elvira II: Jaws of Cerberus (Accolade, Inc., 1991). A slightly darker sequel set in a horror film studio that has become the stomping grounds of a demon and its undead hordes.  Once again, Elvira is trapped inside, and once again, it’s up to you to help her escape.  Not as good as the first game, but still enjoyable!
Elvira Arcade Game (Flair Software, 1991).  Playing Elvira in a platform side-scroller? The graphics are decent for its day, and at least Elvira is easily seen against the colorful backdrops of the two levels (yes, I typed that right: 2) of Fire and Ice.  This game exists as proof of the Elvira craze thatwas going on at the time.
Alone in the Dark (Infogrames, 1992). One of the earliest graphic adventure survival horror games filled with creepy moments.  Why did the house’s former owner take his own life, and what is the source of the evil that has infested the Louisiana mansion, Delcarto? A deeper review can be found here:  Retro Game of the Week – Alone in the Dark (1992).
Darkseed (Cyberdreams, Inc., 1992).  An adventure game based on H.R. Giger’s surreal art. The main character, Mike, falls asleep in his recently purchased house (for far too little of a purchase price).  After waking from a horrible dream, Mike discovers that something in the house has planted a seed of darkness (Darkseed, get it?) within his mind, and he has only three days to prevent it from hatching.  H.R. Giger’s work is always unsettling, but the sheer amount of bugs in the original release bordered on the horrific.
Daughter of Serpents (Millennium Interactive, 1992).  An H.P. Lovecraft inspired adventure game, this time based in 1920’s Egypt.  Players can opt for different skillsets and professions, which alter how NPCs interact with them, though not the overall plotline.  This game is also known as The Scroll in its re-release.
The Legacy: Realm of Terror (MicroProse Software, 1992). The other claimant to the title of earliest graphic adventure survival  horror game, but with a more RPG style of play.  The player is again stuck in a haunted mansion, filled with Cthulhian creatures, with escape the top priority.
Waxworks (Accolade, Inc., 1992).  Originally slated to be Elvira III, this game uses the same game engine, but is not a game “starring” the lovely Cassandra Peterson.  It is, however, absolutely filled with horrific imagery.  Its story surrounds an ancient curse that manifests whenever a family has a set of twins, turning one “evil”  and the other “good.”  But who is who?
Alien Carnage (Apogee Software, 1993).  Also known as Halloween Harry, this platform scroller follows Harry on his quest to rid the world of the aliens who are creating zombies out of humanity.  There’s nothing frightening about this game whatsoever, except, perhaps, that people purchased and loved it.
Alone in the Dark 2 (Infogrames, 1993). Edward Carnby is back, this time searching another foreboding mansion for a missing little girl. And since this time the mansion has the title of “Hell’s Kitchen”, you know it’s not going to be an easy task. It’s survivor horror with a voodoo twist, and featuring an undead pirate that is nothing like LeChuck. (Gratuitous Monkey Island reference!)
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Psygnosis Limited, 1993). An adventure game based on the movie of the same name, with the player taking the role of Harker as he quests through the dark realm of Transylvania seeking to end the threat of the monstrous Count Dracula, once and for all.  The movie was fright-filled; the game is not.
Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet (Infogrames, 1993).  A brilliant adventure game using the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, wherein the player is cast in the role of an astronomer investigating the return of Halley’s Comet and what it has to do with the weird happenings within the small hamlet of Illsmouth.
Doom (id Software, 1993).  A scientific experiment gone wrong opens a gate to Hell on Mars, and it’s up to an unnamed Marine to clean up the mess.  This classic shooter game had some scary moments, and some fond gaming memories from those who played it when it came out.
Dracula Unleashed (Viacom New Media, 1993).  Set in London in 1899, ten years after
Dracula’s demise in Bram Stoker’s classic novel.  The game is another full-motion video with fairly minimal interaction, almost like playing an Endless Quest book on your computer.  Who’s the new master vampire in town, and how can they be stopped before they turn your girlfriend into just another bloodsucker?
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (Sierra On-Line, 1993).  This adventure game takes place in the dark side of New Orleans, with plenty of voodoo undertones, as the lead character must fulfill his destiny as one of the last Shadow Hunters, destined to stave off supernatural forces.  A moody atmosphere and Jane Jensen’s professionally written plot and dialog make this game a must-play event!
Isle of the Dead (Merit Software, 1993).  As the only survivor of a South Pacific vacation gone horribly wrong, the player finds themselves on a deserted island.  Except the island really isn’t all that deserted, as it’s filled with various creatures, including a large contingent of zombies.  Definitely in the adventure/shooter genre.
The 7th Guest (Trilobyte & Virgin Interactive, 1993).  One of the two early must-have CD-ROM games that created fueled the demand for CD technology, this is a puzzle game masquerading as a Full Motion Video adventure.  Not much gore, but there were some genuinely nasty surprises, as well as some very adult situations. Not for the kiddies! (Incidentally, this game is reviewed in greater depth here: magisterrex Retro Game of the Week – The 7th Guest (1993).
Veil of Darkness (Strategic Simulations, Inc., 1993). A solid horror adventure game that has RPG overtones.  The premise is much like the Ravenloft series from TSR: a vampire lord has sealed off the borders of his kingdom and now the villagers are either feasted upon, driven mad, or turned into undead.  Or all three!  Some gore and lots of atmosphere make this a classic!

The Halloween List Pt. 1: Horror-Themed PC Games (1986-1990)

Every year someone puts out a Top 5 or Top 10 horror video game list that contains only the most recent additions to the genre, but somehow manage to miss the games that started it all.  Horror-themed PC gaming has been going on for some time, beginning with text adventures and continuing with the action-adventures that we play today.  Let’s look at those games (sorted by their release dates), and made before 2000, because after all, this is a blog about retrogaming!

Today is part one – 1986 though 1990…

Part Two can be found here: The Halloween List – Horror-Themed PC Games (1991-1993)

Transylvania (Polarware, 1986).  A text adventure with optional static graphics set in the dark land of Transylvania.  Tasked with finding Princess Sabrina by King John the Good, the player faces several monstrous challenges, including finding a weapon capable of killing the werewolf that is an ever-present danger.
Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins (Capcom USA, 1987).  This classic side-scrolling arcade game ended up on several platforms, including the PC.  Players take the role of Arthur, a knight on a quest to rescue the Princess from a Demon King.  Along the way Arthur must defeat a variety of creatures, including a few varieties of undead.
The Lurking Horror (Infocom, Inc., 1987). An H.P. Lovecraft inspired text adventure (read: no graphics) game set in an empty university campus (G.U.E. Tech)…that’s not quite as empty as you’d like it to be.  Lots of puzzles and a constant creepy feeling that something is not quite right make this a great game. Great interactive fiction from the same writer of Spellbreaker and cowriter of the Zork series!
Dracula In London (SDJ Enterprises, Ltd., 1988).  This is a solid adventure game that can also become a multiplayer board game.  Dracula has arrived in London, and six adventurers are hot on his tail.  Each character has their own special function, and if you play it as an adventure game, you access all six, or individually if played as the board game version. All inventory and creature locations randomly reset for the next game, so the gameplay is huge.  (Yes, the box art shown is for a later re-release!)
Psycho (Box Office, Inc., 1988).   It seems that Norman Bates is the chief suspect in both a jewel heist and kidnapping, and a detective enters the Bates Motel to find solve the case.  If you’re touched by your opponents while in the mansion you fall asleep, and if you sleep for too long you’ll miss your four hour deadline to solve the mystery.  Don’t worry about talking to anyone in this action game; if it moves you might as well shoot it.  Did anyone actually see the movie before making this game?
Uninvited (Icom Simulations, Inc., 1988). A graphic text adventure (which essentially meant that a static image with text descriptions) that saw the player waking up after a car crash to find their brother missing, and a nearby castle the only reasonable place to begin the search.  Unfortunately, the castle turns out to be the former abode of a wizard and is now teaming with the undead, which are decent-sized obstacles to locating your missing sibling.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (Monarch Software, 1989).  In this game based on the movie of the same name, you play a character trapped in Freddy Krueger’s neighborhood, and needing to find four of your friends before Freddy carves them up.  The soul and power meters are interesting ways to make the nightmare scenario work, as is the constant torment from Freddy himself. Oh, and Westwood Studios were the actual programming team for this game!
Beetlejuice: Skeletons in the Closet (Hi-Tech Expressions, 1990).  You play as Beetlejuice himself in a skeleton destroying arcade mashfest.  Lidia cleans up the skeletons with a vacuum cleaner (I’m not making this up!) and when she does Beetlejuice gets stronger.  Every so often a giant worm shows up and tries to kill you (all it takes is to touch you).  Lots of undead, but not much fear factor.
The Hound of  Shadow (Electronic Arts, 1989).  In this interactive fiction game, the action takes place in London during the 1920’s as your character is being hunted by a supernatural being.  The good news is that your character can improve their skills during the game (somewhat like an RPG); the bad news is that there is a time limit to solve the mystery and defeat the Hound.
Castlevania (Konami, Inc., 1990). Simon Belmont is a monster hunter who takes on the task of cleaning up the countryside of the monsters and undead that infest it, including Count Dracula himself.  This side-scroller was a classic NES game, but few realize that it was also released for the MS-DOS platform, too!
Clive Barker’s Nightbreed: The Action Game (Ocean Software, 1990). Based on the movie of the same name (and based on Barker’s novel, Cabal), the player assumes the role of Boone as he searches for access to the city of Midian, and then to free the Breed.  Not all that scary, though, but on the list as it is a Clive Barker game.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (Accolade, Inc., 1990). A graphic adventure/RPG hybrid with a first-person perspective where you must clean Elvira’s castle of the undead and other monsters that are preventing her from leaving her rooms.  A more detailed review of this game can be found here: Retro Game of the Week – Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1990).
Horror Zombies From The Crypt (Millennium Interactive, 1990).  A rare platform horror-themed game, with the focus on helping Count Frederick Valdemar escape his castle before the army of undead (including vampires, zombies, and spectres) can find him.  Lots of traps, hidden doors, secret levels, and other surprises, but nothing like playing a Mario game.
Hugo’s House of Horrors (Gray Design Studios, 1990). Hugo must rescue his girlfriend, Penelope, from a haunted house in an animated adventure game style.  Many puzzles need to be solved as you make your way through the house, and various enemies to be avoided or defeated. (Watch out for those vampire bats!)
Night Hunter (UbiSoft Entertainment, 1990).  In a nifty twist, players get to take the role of Count Dracula as he attempts to escape the clutches of his straight-laced nemesis, Dr. Van Helsing and his band of vampire hunters. Dracula has various vampire abilities on his side, but weaknesses, too, such as a mortal weakness to sunlight, so he must return to his crypt by dawn.  Not very scary, though!
Zombi (UbiSoft Entertainment, 1990). Four people are stuck on the roof of a shopping center after their helicopter runs out of fuel, with a zombie horde surrounding them looking to turn them into a tasty snack.  (Sound familiar?)  This is an adventure game, though, using a point-and-click interface to guide each character through the mall and to find (and use) a variety of inventory items along the way.

ReBlog: The Video Game Critic’s Halloween Hall of Fame

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys some scary retrogaming that runs from the Atari 2600  video game system to today’s PlayStation 3 powerhouses, The Video Game Critic’s Halloween  Hall of Fame is for you.  The games are reviewed and rated in their “Fright Factor” (measured in  tombstones), with a wide range from “Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing” to “Unbearable – why am  I doing this to myself?”   Well worth the read!


Ghost Manor for the Atari 2600