Tag Archives: horror

Choices: Stories You Play (Mobile Game/App Review)

Publisher: Pixelberry Studios

Platform: Android

My rating: 4 of 5

Do you enjoy visual novels with solid characters, great music and visuals, and real choices that affect the course of the game? The Choices may be just the choice for you. Find true love, save your kingdom, solve the mystery . . . just remember that the decisions you make matter, so choose wisely.

Choices was quite an interesting find; I’m frankly at a loss as to whether to refer to it as a game itself, or to just call it a platform, like Steam or Tapastic. More the latter, I suppose, although between the visual novels offered on this platform, there is a consistent system and gameplay style, so it’s sort of all one game consisting of multiple stories in that sense. Either way, it offers a variety of interesting stories (which I’ll likely review individually at a later date) including a number of romance stories, at least one epic fantasy, some quirky mysteries, and a couple of horror games. Pros include a solid gaming system that is explained clearly, interfaces well for the player, and is actually interesting to play. You also really do get some significant choices, which is cool, although in my experience the ones I’ve played have kept me from dying so far. And so far, the stories I’ve played have been well written–as stated above, attractive art, good characters, and nice music. Cons are mostly in the way they’ve set the game up financially. Technically, this game is ad-supported and free-to-play, which is cool and technically true. You get one (generally un-obnoxious) short ad before each chapter, and it’s otherwise a clean game without interruption. Where this technicality falls apart is that you have limited keys (stamina, essentially) to unlock new chapters, and you have to wait a good bit of time or pay for more keys if you want to play more than the allotted amount at any given time. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing, although it can be annoying, since it keeps me from spending hours at a time staring at my phone. More significant is that the games use diamonds to unlock certain options, but you only get one diamond for completing a chapter, and most options require several to unlock them. So your choices are to generally take less favorable/special options and save up your diamonds for where it really counts or spend money to buy extra diamonds. Having said that, I’ve yet to find a place where the story suffers significantly or where you can’t proceed if you only take the free options; you just miss out on some extra scenes and such. So the general conclusion is that, while I have to take points off for being a bit annoying in making me want to spend money when I shouldn’t (and yes, I would pay a lump sum to install a version of this where that’s not an issue), I think Choices still has a lot of potential to be a fun (even addictive) visual novel platform with a solid interface and some enjoyable game options. Recommended.

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EXPIRED | Deal Alert: Humble MangaGamer and Friends Bundle

Just an FYI, for those of you who enjoy visual novels, Humble Bundle currently has a pretty nice bundle of them for a decent price ($10 for the entire thing). Looks like it’s got some variety–horror, tourism, looks like some slightly ecchi idol ones, and even one that looks like a nostalgic/romantic shoujo ai one. Honestly, I’m not at all familiar with most of these games, so I can’t vouch for how good they are, though some definitely look interesting. Probably the biggest selling point of this bundle is its inclusion of the first five Higurashi When They Cry sound novels–which, frankly, is enough to be worth buying this bundle in its own right. Because, let’s face it, those games are classic.

If you’re interested, you can find more information at https://www.humblebundle.com/games/mangagamer-and-friends-bundle.

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EXPIRED | Deal Alert: Multi-Genre Fiction Humble Bundle

So, this is exactly what it sounds like. Humble Bundle is offering a book bundle from Night Shade Books featuring books from a variety of genres ranging from sci-fi to horror to fantasy to maybe even a little mystery. Included are a few “best-of” short story collections as well as a number of longer novels. I’m not personally familiar with a lot of the authors, although there is a collection of Paolo Bacigalupi short stories. They claim the featured authors include names like George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen,  and Orson Scott Card–I’m guessing in the short story collections. The full-length novels are mostly by authors I don’t recognize, but i looks like an interesting group of books.

If you’re interested, you can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/multi-genre-fiction-books.

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The Cabin in the Woods (2012 Movie)

Mutant Enemy Productions

My rating: 3.5 of 5

WARNING: Rated R for basically everything. Consider yourself warned.

Five college kids get together for a weekend trip away at a cabin in the middle of nowhere. It’s supposed to be a time to indulge in scary stories, exploration, drugs, and each other without the judgement and pressures of the world. But the rush of freedom quickly changes to horror as they find themselves attacked by zombies coming out of the woods, picking off the kids one by one. What the kids don’t realize at first is that this is all part of something bigger, that there’s someone behind the scenes manipulating them and orchestrating this little calamity. And when the survivors decide to take the horror back to the source, things begin going spectacularly wrong on the end of the manipulators. . . . Will the world even survive the aftermath?

Anyone familiar with Joss Whedon’s works, particularly Buffy and Angel will find a certain amount of familiarity in The Cabin in the Woods, although this movie is quite possibly darker and certainly more graphic than those shows. There’s a feeling about it that carries over though; it’s certainly Whedon’s story. The story both is a horror story–with all the blood and campiness and creeping dread that such a story entails–and also is a satire of the contemporary horror movie, pointing out the ways that such stories have gone wrong. And I kind of both love and hate it. I’m not big on the genre in general–honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that Whedon wrote it and Fran Kranz (love his character!) and Amy Acker were in it, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Because the violence in that sort of show really feels almost pornographic to me, even in instances where there isn’t a lot of sexual content. But in this instance, that’s actually one of the things that’s dealt with satirically, so . . . yeah. I really did like the group of kids they chose; they had a good dynamic, and yeah, Fran Kranz (as a stoner idiot who may actually be the smartest of the group). The way the manipulators behind the scenes was developed was unexpected, but it definitely added a lot of interest and, while super creepy, I enjoyed that aspect of the story. The ending (no spoilers, promise) surprised me a lot, although I found it fitting. And the production of the movie itself was quite well done, with some interesting camera angles, lots of atmosphere, and tons of creepy monsters. I would definitely not recommend The Cabin in the Woods for everyone, but for those who enjoy Whedon’s work or the horror movie genre, it might be interesting to try.

Written by Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard/Directed by Drew Goddard/Produced by Joss Whedon/Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, & Amy Acker/Music by David Julyan

 

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The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch (Graphic Novel)

Story by Neil Gaiman/Art by Michael Zulli/Lettering & Adaptation by Todd Klein

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience/Partial Nudity

Our narrator invites to listen to his tale of a most unusual evening, one he might not have believed himself had he not experienced it himself. A couple of his friends convinced him to come along and help them entertain an out-of-town guest who shall, for purposes of his story, be called Miss Finch–a strange woman to be sure, a biogeologist with an awkward personality and a great desire to see extinct creatures like Smilodon alive in their natural habitat. As fate would have it, the party winds up in a bizarre underground circus of questionable taste, but fate takes a strange turn when they arrive at an exhibit in which one individual is to have their greatest wish granted . . . and Miss Finch is the one chosen individual.

I first read “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch” in Gaiman’s Fragile Things as a short story, which I found quite outstanding and memorable. This graphic novel adaptation is also quite intriguing, staying close to the spirit of the original short story. It’s this strange blend of magical realism and an almost macabre oddness that gets under the skin somehow. Typical Gaiman, that, I suppose–his stories have a way of being unsettling but brilliant in ways I didn’t even know stories could be. Zulli’s art is just perfect for the story, bringing together that darkness and unsettledness and all the totally out there aspects of the circus in a way that fits and ties everything together. I love the departure from a typical comic-book style; it’s more neutral tones and semi-realistic styles that work really well for this story (and are much more what I prefer in general). I would definitely read more of this artist’s works (and am pleased to see that he appears to have illustrated a few other Gaiman graphic novels!). I think for those who enjoy Gaiman’s work or who are looking for a different but quality graphic novel, The Facts in the Case of the Disappearance of Miss Finch would be a great choice.

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Sing No Evil

Author: J. P. Ahonen/Illustrator: K. P. Alare

My rating: 4 of 5

Previously published as Perkeros

WARNING: Mature Audience

Perkeros–an avant-garde band just beginning to find its place in the local music scene. Band members include art-student keyboardist Lisa, singer/guitarist Aydin (who keeps mixing pizza with his music), bassist Kervinen (it’s hard to tell which of his stories are for real and which are a product of too much experimentation in the sixties), and drummer Bear (who is, in fact, a bear). And Aksel, the lead guitarist whose extreme nerves and obsessive perfectionism (plus just obsession) over the music may just be enough to shatter the band. Certainly enough to get him ousted from the house by his pragmatic girlfriend. But when the members of Perkeros encounter the seemingly impossible and horrifying results of music gone wrong in another band, it may just be enough for them to reconcile their differences.

Sing No Evil was quite a unique find, and I’m glad to have read it. For one thing, I think it’s the first actual Finnish book I’ve read–I don’t know whether there just aren’t many released in English or if I’m just blind, but I almost never see books by Finnish authors here in the U.S. So that was neat. Plus, this is an extremely dynamic and engaging graphic novel, although I’m rather baffled as to how to classify it. Imagine if Kazu Kibuishi took over the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel–you might end up with something kind of similar. The art style is really nice, and yes, kind of reminiscent of some of Kibuishi’s work. I like the character designs a lot, and the music scenes are fabulously trippy (the cover is a great example of this, actually). But the story itself is this weird (but fascinating) mix of new-adult slice of life stuff–your basic story of young adults trying to work a band into the mix with relationships, work, and higher education–along with some really trippy quasi-demonic deathmetal stuff. It’s kind of creepy (one of several reasons I would label this an adult graphic novel). Of course, there’s some random magical-realism stuff thrown in, too, like Bear being a bear and also being a legitimate member of the band . . . but also being the only animal in this sort of situation in the story. I quite enjoyed the mix in the story, however challenging it was to classify, and the mix of drama, adventure, and humor was nicely balanced. Also random but fun, there are any number of random references just thrown in–I almost died laughing when I saw that Bear’s winter home had a sign saying “Sanders” over the door. Anyhow, I don’t think Sing No Evil is for everyone, but for those interested in a dynamic new adult/fantasy graphic novel with a focus on music, it might be interesting to try.

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Dream Country

Author: Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, vol. 3

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

A struggling author manages to enslave a muse for his own benefit, inspiring amazing ideas but at what cost? Elsewhere, a stray cat attempts to unite a large enough group of cats to dream the same thing and thus alter reality . . . good luck with that one. Centuries before, Will Shakespeare and his motley band of players perform his Dream for an otherworldly audience. And a woman given transformative powers by the sun-god Ra is cursed to never be truly human again.

I swear, this series just keeps getting better! Dream Country is basically a short-story collection in graphic novel form, featuring four unique stories in which Morpheus is a minor character. All four are strange and unique and kind of wonderful in different ways. Which isn’t to say that they’re all happy and fun; some of them, perhaps even parts of all of them, are dark and pensive. Creative and brilliant, still. My favorite was the one featuring Shakespeare–which incidentally won a World Fantasy Award. The story itself is lovely and strange, and Charles Vess’s artwork is just perfect for it. Actually, Vess’s art is basically ideal for Gaiman’s writing in general, or at least for his fantasy; they mesh ridiculously well. The art for the whole collection is quite nice, although for the last story (the Ra one) I struggled for the first bit to figure out what on earth was actually going on. I think that’s just the story and how strange it is, mostly, though. I would highly recommend Dream Country, both for those who are in the midst of reading The Sandman as a series and for those who are just interested in a collection of independent graphic shorts by Gaiman; I don’t think the previous or future volumes are necessary to enjoy this collection.

Covers & Design by Dave McKean/Illustrated by Charles Vess, Malcolm Jones III, Kelley Jones,  & Colleen Doran/Lettered by Todd Klein

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