Katie Recommends

Katie Recommends: Return of the Obra Dinn

A ghost ship in Falmouth.

Today I am writing to recommend a game to you, just in time for Christmas!

Return of the Obra Dinn.

LOST AT SEA, 1803 the good ship “OBRA DINN”

In 1802, the merchant ship Obra Dinn set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later it hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea. Early this morning of October 14th, 1807, the Obra Dinn drifted into port at Falmouth with damaged sails and no visible crew. As insurance investigator for the East India Company’s London Office, dispatch immediately to Falmouth, find means to board the ship, and prepare an assessment of damages.

I love horror where the scary bullshit has already happened and you’ve got to figure out what happened. Detective horror effectively. I think this is why I enjoy certain Lovecraft stories, where someone turns up and has to figure out what happened, The Colour out of Space leaps to mind.

Either way, this is a fantastic game from the chap who made Papers Please, which while not horror in the sense of ‘oh no a monster’ was horrific in an oppressive, ‘you’re fucked no matter what you do’ kind of way.

The horror in this game comes from several places, the ghost ship itself and the back story you uncover piecemeal as you try and figure out what the hell went down.

I’m a big fan of horror games and I love it when someone does something a bit different. A lot of horror games are fast-paced, high stakes, fight or flight and so it’s great to see someone doing something a bit different. This game is slow-paced, tense and tragic all at the same time. A great way to spend a few hours in a horror atmosphere.

Reviews - Games

Videogame: Man of Medan

All Aboard

Today I want to talk to you about one of my favourite game series, The Dark Pictures series, in particular the first instalment Man of Medan. 

The Dark Pictures is a series of survival horror games, played via the third person, where you play as multiple characters through a strongly story-based game. The games revolve around the choices you make and effectively function as the old choose your own adventure books did. 

The series all tie together via a framing device in the form of the curator, a chap who acts as your guide/storyteller. Each story in the series is a self-contained story.

Man of Medan was the first instalment in the ongoing series and was a strong start for a great series. 

Summary – as always, spoilers below

Photo by Mudassir Ali on Pexels.com

Man of Medan is a fictional story based lossy around the story of the Ourang Medan, a ghost ship where the entire crew was found dead with no obvious cause. 

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Blog Talk

Evolution of projects

It starts as A but becomes B.

Today I want to talk to you briefly about evolution, not of anything living, but rather of a creative project or two.

I find it both interesting and refreshing when I can finish a project and look back on it to trace the path it has come. How it started as one thing, became something else and then again sometimes became yet another thing.

My two most recent projects to see daylight went through several iterations.

A Man in Winter started as a short story that got a tad long, it became a novella. Then when I sent it round for its first round of ‘Please publish my work’ enquiries the bulk of the feedback was that it was good but novellas just aren’t an easy sell. So I kicked my backside into gear and A Man in Winter became a novel.

It was dreadful.

I’ve spoken about this before in my blog ‘You can’t turn a circle into a square

So it became a novella again, with some additions and I tried again to sell it. I was successful this time, booya.

The series of transformations or evolutions of the A Man in Winter story is interesting, at least to me, but they are hardly dramatic or unique.

Firefly however went through some intense changes.

Firefly started life as a scribbled note in my writing notebook. Hardly a unique idea either, an agency investigating supernatural events looks into a creepy town where kids go missing.

I tried to plan it as a standard novel but it didn’t excite me at all, so I put it aside. Then I got into a conversation with a friend about games, how they are made, and something they said got me thinking. They said they felt that stories, at least in games, should be built around gameplay rather than the other way around.

I don’t think this is the case in all instances, I’ve played lots of games where the story feels entirely separate from the gameplay mechanics but I’ve played some amazing ones where they tied together as well.

Anyway, this comment got me thinking, could we have a mystery game where the player has to go around a location finding clues to unearth what happened? Of course, we could, guess who had an idea that would fit with that kind of gameplay.

So I got to work.

Long story short, the project fell on its butt.

It’s disappointing but it happens sometimes, more often with collaborative work I’ve noticed. This was my second collaborative piece to kind of fizzle out. But that’s life.

However, I had done a lot of work writing and designing the documents for the game. I had all this stuff and I was itching to do something with it.

Then I read Slenderman, the novel and was reminded how much I enjoy this genre of fiction. That being epistolary fiction, found footage but with books.

So with some tweaking, a lot of editing, and a crash course in design I created something I’m pleased with.

Firefly’s evolution was far more dramatic than A Man in Winter’s was, it went from a scribbled novel idea that I kind of hated, to a potential game, to an epistolary novel.

Evolution is a funny thing, it happens organically, at least in my last two projects, and hopefully, the end result is something far better than the original concept.

Reviews - Games

Videogame: Haunting Ground

Good Doggo

Today I am writing to talk to you about a videogame called Haunting Ground, or Demento if you happened to pick up a copy in Japan.

The game was published by Capcom in 2005 for the PlayStation 2.

Summary

The story starts with Fiona, an 18-year-old girl, waking up in a castle dungeon, having recently suffered a car accident with her father, who doesn’t survive. She doesn’t remember much and finds her cage to be unlocked. Fiona has to explore the castle with the aid of Hewi, a German Shepard.

Through exploration and unravelling the mystery of the castle, Fiona learns that she carried an alchemic element called Azoth. Riccardo, the master of the castle, wants that element.

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Obscure Horror

Obscure Horror: Forbidden Siren 

Resist the Call

Today I am writing to tell you about Forbidden Siren or just Siren, depending on where you are. Siren is a videogame. A stealth/survival game where your characters have the ability to see and hear what other characters can see and hear.

Siren was released in 2003 on the PlayStation 2 and developed by Keiichiro Toyama. I’m talking about it under the heading of Obscure horror as the game isn’t well known and is more of a cult classic, though it did get some sequels and even a movie.   

Summary

Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Pexels.com

The story centres around a group of people surviving a supernatural disaster in a small rural village in Japan. The story is told in a non-linear style with parts of the plot being told out of sequence.

The group first believe the disaster to be an earthquake but the truth is revealed quickly that it was no ordinary disaster and the majority of the population has effectively become zombies. They are hostile, with low brain function and almost impervious to harm.

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Reviews - Games

Review: Fatal Frame 2

When rituals go wrong

Today I am writing to you about Fatal Frame, in particular Fatal Frame 2. 

The reason I’m talking to you about the second game in the series and not the first is simply because the games storylines are not related and the story in the second game is better than the first one. It was designed to be a more interesting story purposefully due to people not finishing the first game (it was too frightening to finish lol, so a more compelling story was crafted, or so the rumour goes). 

Fatal frame is a survival horror game made by Tecmo and released on the PlayStation in 2003 and is widely considered to be among the scariest games ever made. 

The game follows twin sisters Mio and Mayu as they explore an abandoned village and experience encounters with the paranormal. 

During the game the player controls the protagonist Mio and must use a camera to defeat enemies and uncover the secrets of the village. There are two modes of gameplay, field mode and viewfinder mode. When in field mode, the player can examine items and search areas for clues. But when the camera is used, the game enters viewfinder mode, from where pictures of ghosts and scenery can be taken. 

I was hoping to talk about this game without spoiling anything major but found that it was impossible to talk in depth without ruining the game story wise. So, this is your warning, here be spoilers. 

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Katie Recommends

Katie Recommends: The Suicide of Rachel Foster

Scratching an itch

I feel like I’ve been giving you a disproportionate amount of recommendations lately, but honestly, I can’t help it. I find something awesome and want to talk about it and share it. Sometimes I do this in the form of reviewing and other times I don’t want to spoil stories or put ideas in peoples heads when the best way to experience things is via your own lens.

Besides, one of the reasons I created this blog was so I could gush about awesome stuff. I was tired of seeing reviews that were primarily negative, even if they were fun. I’m a fan of looking for positives and enjoying things, enthusiasm rocks!

That justification aside, today I want to talk to you about the Suicide of Rachel Foster.

I love video games, they are one of my top three ways to relax and experience a good story. I think games are a fantastic medium for the horror genre as they are immersive and effective in a way that books and movies can’t always be. You can do things in a game that you simply can’t do with a less interactive medium.

I’ve been replaying a lot of the Dark Pictures Anthology lately (another recommendation if you’re interested) and they have gotten me hooked on the photo-realistic, story-based games. Honestly, the walking-simulator type games are my favourite kind of games in the horror genre. They really let you experience feelings of powerlessness and thus tighten the ‘horror’ aspect. I get frustrated when you play a ‘horror’ game but you play as a badass, just putting me against horror-themed enemies does a horror game make.

Looking to scratch my photo-realistic story-based game itch, I picked up a copy of The Suicide of Rachel Foster and really enjoyed it. Check it out on Steam.

Reviews - Games

Review: Pathologic

An amazing but also terrible game

Today I am writing to you about a game, it is a divisive game. A game that has been praised to hell and back by those that like it and pretty much outright ignored by the rest of the world. 

Rock paper shotgun has called it the best game you’ve never played. 

Yup, today I want to talk about Pathologic.

Pathologic is a 2005 survival game developed by Russian studio Ice-Pick Lodge. It was released in Russia in June 2005 to a strong positive response. It was then released to English audiences in 2006 to a less positive response, in large part due to a poor translation. A re-release with a new translation took place in October 2015 and currently a remake is in progress, with part of it being released in 2019. 

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