• magisterrex Retro Games


    I've been gaming since the days of Pong and still own a working Atari 2600. I tend to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. Sometimes I digress. Decades after earning it, I'm finally putting the skills I learned while completing my history degree from the University of Victoria to good use. Or so I think. If you're into classic old school gaming, this blog is for you!

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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.

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