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Indie Shack - SCP, Onis, and Slendy

10/2/12 12:30pm
tl;dr

1. SCP Containment Breach (Version 0.2.1)

2. Ao Oni (Version 6.23)

3. Slender

Writer: LousyTactician

Welcome g1s and hopefully horror enthusiasts because I, The Lousy Tactician, am going to be here throughout all of October to provide this wondrous community with horror Indie games!
 

Far and away one of the greatest edges Indie games currently have over the big budget stuff is their ability to be scary. Many horror games from this past console generation are by no stretch of the word bad, but there are only two or three non-Indie games released for consoles that I’ve found all that fear-inducing. The ratio of scary Indie titles to scary big-budget titles is greatly in favor of the Indies. And what are horror games without scary creatures to stalk and prey upon the player? Not much, which is why I’m dedicating this week’s Indie Shack to them!
 

 

Name: SCP - Containment Breach (Version 0.2.1)

Genre: 1st Person Survival Horror

Developer: ...Not sure

Price: Free

Recently I’ve become a fan of the SCP (Secure Contain Protect) Foundation, a fictional (or is it?) organization specializing in containing dangerous objects and beings of extra-terrestrial and super-natural qualities. Something I especially like about the foundation is not all the strange objects available to read about on it are meant to be 100% scary. Some are just strange like The Everything Tree. The site itself has over 1500 logs about all this super-natural strangeness, references lots of fabled creatures such as Big Foot, common conspiracy theorist elements, and contains backlogs of extra lore to read about. In other words, the site is Fox Mulder’s dream come true.


It has even become popular enough to merit 2 games based around the creepy objects/creatures the organization contains. The first game was based around SCP 87, a haunted, supposedly never ending stair case and is an interesting enough game, especially if you’re like me and were traumatized by the never ending stairway from Super Mario 64, but the game I intend to review is SCP - Containment Breach. This little Indie game is based around a hideous, living, concrete statue with very ferocious tendencies that freezes with any direct eye contact, but immediately kills anything when nobody is looking. This monster is also known as SCP 173. Imagine the Weeping Angels from Dr. Who as concrete aliens with hideous oversized heads and blood and snot covering their faces. Pretty scary right?

 


Whatever you do don’t blink, blink and you’re dead!

If you don’t think so you will when you see it slaughter all your co-workers, escape its containment facility, and begin hunting you down! The game is a simple form of cat and mouse with SCP 173 being the hideous deformed cat.  After failing to properly do the proper bi-weekly maintenance in the subjects containment cell the power to the SCP facility becomes faulty, people die, and the player is quickly put on the from this now escaped creature. Don’t expect to be shooting off any alien heads or getting any fancy weapons to fend this thing off all you can do is keep running and find any necessary items/key cards to advance.

 

I compared the game’s monster to the weeping angels for a reason, the only real defense the player has from it is the ability to make it freeze whenever direct eye-contact is made. Unfortunately for the player, they have a ‘blink meter’ that will cause the screen to go black for a split second meaning that staring at said creature for too long without doing anything could have some disastrous repercussions.

Like the other 2 games I’ll be covering in this week’s Indie Shack SPC Containment Breach is the sort of horror I’ve been looking for in this console generation, though it is also the weakest of the three and being in its Alpha could clearly be improved upon. Level design is the game’s biggest fault, every new game the player starts leaves them with a completely different facility to navigate, which is a nice way of keeping the horror fresh and keeping everyone on their toes, but it leads to a very schizophrenic difficulty.

Despite there being only a handful of different map designs the difficulty to them greatly varies. Some offer the player plenty of cameras to work with that help locate the escaped monster, along with conveniently placed ID cards needed to get through certain doors while others feature endless halls coated with black smoke that quickly reduces the player’s stamina and blink gauge. It might not matter too much though because in the game’s current state it is impossible to escape the facility leaving the game with no real goal or objective other than, survive as long as possible.

I TOLD YOU NOT TO BLINK!

This is a little irksome considering part of the thrill to horror games is overcoming the horrors they throw at you, but bear in mind most of this is likely to be fixed when the full game is released. There are also an abundant amount of glitches available to be seen, the most common ones involving enemies glitching into their surroundings. I’m usually a strong proponent of funny glitches and find them to enhance games more often than not, but in this case they took away a lot of the game’s atmosphere. Other things I can nitpick are general things I expect to be worked out in the finished product like stiff human models and a slightly annoying save feature. This review is probably going to come up a little short because there isn’t much else to say. Anybody capable of overlooking these flaws should have a fun enough time with SCP Containment Breach, but there is a lot that can be ironed out.

 

Verdict


It might be best to wait for the completed version of SCP Containment Breach to be put out given how rough around the edges its Alpha is, but for what it is worth the Alpha to the game shows a lot of promise and the recently released 0.3.2 version likely fixed a lot of 0.2.1’s problems. If the idea of running away from a concrete monster for 15 minutes, with no way out sounds like your definition of fun, give it a shot. However, if you want a game where there is a legit chance to evade its villain read on.

 

Bland title screen is bland.

Name: Ao Oni

Genre: Adventure, Horror

Developer: Noprops

Price: Free

For the longest time I thought I knew of every worthwhile Indie Horror game a gamer could get on their PC for a $0.00 price tag, which is why it came as a surprise when I heard of the Ao Oni series. Originally, a lone Survival Horror game made with RPG Maker, this independently developed Japanese title quickly gained the attention of horror fans for its pure take on the genre, very unique villain, and MANY updated versions along with several fan-made games. There are Pokemon games with fewer fan remakes than this, quite impressive if I do say so myself. For this review I played version 6.23, the most up to date build of the original. There are plenty of excellent Indie Horror games on the market right now, so what exactly makes Ao Oni stick out from the crowd? It's got a fucked up horror monster for one.

 

Four middle school students/adolescent pricks enter an abandoned house, believed to be haunted. Before having the chance to praise how stunningly original this story premise is, a noise is heard off in the distant and the player character heads off to the kitchen to investigate. When he returns with a bunch of glass shards safely collected in his pocket he realizes all his friends are gone and surprise, surprise, there is a blue demonic creature roaming around. Anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like if Sweet Home and Clock Tower had a child should play this game.

Apparently before Yu Narukami was fighting monsters in a TV world as a high school student, he was running away from them as a middle-school student.

The thing about Ao Oni that I can praise most is even though it follows a relatively simple tradition set by horror games with unstoppable killers (that tradition being, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!) it is able to keep the player on their toes and not just because the game’s monster could jump out and chase you at virtually any point. Further on in the game the player’s friends will slowly get killed off and become monsters themselves bent on chasing the player to impede his/her escape. Something some might find annoying, but I thought was clever is whenever I hid in a closet while being chased the screen would go dark and I would need to rely on the audio cues of the monster entering and leaving the room to know when it is safe to leave my hiding spot. When multiple monsters start chasing me, I had have to listen for as many audio cues as there were monsters or else I would pre-maturely leave my hiding spot and instantly suffer a diabolical blue death.


It’s not just this one blue Oni and your ‘demon-fied’ friends who join the party either. Later on a new incredibly swift and difficult to avoid monster comes into play and players will be subjected to a near-end part where they enter a room filled with horrific, dementedly blue creatures from hell. That part alone sold the game to me. The monsters can be a little un-persistent though. If a player can avoid the creature for 10 seconds and enter a new screen they’ll no longer be chasing them, which I can see some people having a problem with however these creatures move just as or only slightly slower than the player meaning precision is key and the slightest misstep in those 10 seconds could be fatal.


A few may be annoyed by the player character’s friends who are either cowards, pricks, or stock characters meant to be killed, but Ao Oni never goes into depth with its story and that’s for the better. It’s far more atmosphere driven, which is good because the sound design is impressive, mostly consisting of dead silence, a brief rustle here and there, very loud sound effects, and a repetitive, but fitting audio loop for whenever the player is running. Crank this game’s volume to the max, turn out the lights, and you’ll have a fun time. The grey, dark, and deserted rooms that fill the game’s mansion match the sound effects suitably. While very shitty looking, it’s that shittiness that makes it scarier.

As for the design of the monster itself, just look at it!

Those eyes! They pierce my soul!

It’s funny that on paper a blue humanoid with eyes that make it look like it has down syndrome isn’t what I’d use to describe a scary horror villain, but the Oni’s slightly human-like form, animal behavior, and ability to turn anyone it touches into one of its own makes it work very effectively as a villain. It’s a prime example of a horror villain who looks ridiculous when you think about it, but it’s threatening enough that it doesn’t matter you’ll still run from it as fast as you can. Even if you’re laughing at the picture above, when you take the time to play the game and see stuff like the scene where the Oni is staring you down from the other side of a cage while you’re in a first person view you won’t be laughing anymore. As a horror experience Ao Oni is very entertaining and I was not disappointed by the ending, something that is very rare for me to say when it comes to horror games, but there is one catch that may turn a few readers off, the puzzles.


While Ao Oni is far from the most cryptic Adventure game I’ve ever played, its puzzles are something I expect even veteran Adventure players to have a tough time dealing with. To name two instances that really bugged me, at one point in the game you’ll gain a key that you need to cover in vinegar to turn into a rusted key that’s needed to open an old gate to advance. There are no clues hinting this you just need to make a random guess or become annoyed by the fact that you have no idea what to do and give up. Then there was a dice puzzle where I had to somehow figure out that there were special switches on a series of church benches that correlated to the code presented in another distant room. This isn’t the sort of game where there is one vague puzzle, they’re everywhere and despite being a freeware title Ao Oni as an adventure is pretty lengthy, something that is both good since it gives players a lot to look forward to and bad with the player’s biggest road-blocks being the ‘Adventure logic’ that pervades the game the whole way through. Fortunately we live in an era of walkthroughs and FAQs, if you don’t mind getting some advice when advancing through a game, hit-up a search engine for a few guides and Ao Oni will become a fun experience.

Verdict

Bad puzzles and characters aside, Ao Oni succeeds where it counts: atmosphere and horror and for those who want something less scary and more humorous Ao Oni has a large array of Easter Eggs and secrets too. Giving your character a specific name could lead to several different modes like a short secret and hilarious one where all the characters look like they’re from South Park, but at the core of it all the game is genuinely scary. Much like how the main character I was controlling helplessly ran and never looked back by the end of Ao Oni’s fitting conclusion I played through the game once and never intend to play it again and I say that not as criticism, but as praise because not even many of my favorite horror games have scared me enough to do that.

 


Yup, I'm talking about that game.

Name: Slender

Genre: 1st Person Survival Horror

Developer: Parsec Productions

Price: Free

Something a lot of people don’t know, but sure as hell will by the end of this month is that I have an unbridled fascination towards the Creepy Pasta monster Slender Man. Most creatures in Creepy Pasta stories tend to be too over-the-top for my tastes, but I’ve always found subtle and restrained about the Slender Man’s aura, ‘gimme 20 dollars’ jokes aside. All the best horror villains either have incredibly disfigured faces or a sort of mask that shrouds them in mystery. Slender Man’s faceless…Face is in a sense the ultimate mask, there is nothing behind it nor is there anything in front of it. It conceals nothing because there is nothing, but there has to be something there so the people wondering why nothing is there become-all-the-more-paranoid-because-they-want-to-see-something-where-there-is-nothing! The monster is designed in manner just close enough to human beings with his suit and tall demeanor to be familiar, but different enough with its tentacles and blank face to be unsettling.
 

But by far the greatest perk Slendy has is that anyone who lives near the woods (like me) can easily imagine any oddly twisted branch in the night being the mysterious specter looming around for his next victim. An interesting villain if I say so myself, though I may be bias due to my love of fancy suits. I’m not the only one with these thoughts Slendy has become very popular in the realm of internet horror memes, so much so that he got 2 different games made for him! And I can gladly say Slender does the character justice, it’s Survival Horror in its most simplistic and wondrous form!

 

On the darkest of nights, when the moon is nowhere seen in the sky, an unidentified player character’s vehicle breaks down and this character suddenly decides now would be a better time than ever to enter a dark, twisted forest and gather 8 notes related to Slender Man. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot

Slender is a relatively simple game consisting of walking and running whenever shit hits the fan, but whereas other games like Dear Esther and The Graveyard are worthless pieces of tripe, completely devoid of engagement due to their lack of interactivity, the simple ability to venture anywhere into the forest you want and the knowledge that there is another being constantly stalking you kept Slender more than exciting enough for me to play it multiple times. You walk around and collect notes it’s the best kind of short, sweet, and simple. Slender Man’s AI has a pretty solid pattern, he can teleport anywhere on the map and will be constantly trying to find the player, but throughout the first few notes he is easy enough to avoid. It’s when the player has almost gathered all the notes that he becomes more aggressive. Don’t take too long though because he’ll reach that aggressive state regardless of how many pages you’ve collected eventually.
 

There may be no way to physically harm your assailant, but whenever  he nears the player, the screen will become fuzzy as a warning to keep him from sneaking up behind the player’s back. I was originally annoyed by the ending because for as simplistic/non-existent the story to this game was I genuinely hate horror games that end in a way that can be described as *Slight Spoiler Alert*, “Congratulations, you’ve completed the objective the game gave you, BUT YOU’RE STILL GOING TO FUCKING DIE, SO SUCK IT!” I understand wanting to keep the fear going until the very end, but it is possible to do that, while still allowing the player/avatar to live and make them feel like they actually accomplished something instead of making me wonder why I didn’t stop playing the 1st time I died, since that’s what was going to happen to me anyway. Thankfully the newest versions fixed this by making a simple, but crucial change to the ending.
 

 The notes the player is tasked with finding are randomized with each new playthrough and the randomization works much better here than it did in SCP – Containment Breach because the core level design remains the same, it’s only where the player must go, leaving a consistent layout while still providing some replay value for returning players. When I could actually run the damn game the scenery was quite impressive.  The Unity Engine isn’t exactly friendly to people who own shitty laptops (like me), but even gamers without the most advance PC rig should be capable of running it, provided their doing it on low settings. Slender isn’t just lazily composed of an endless void of trees there is an admirable variety of environments. Fuel tanks are be scattered across one segment while dark, musty tunnels are placed in another. And in all these areas you’ll be sure to know Slender Man could easily be around the next corner. However, I was taken out of the experience a bit when I heard the rustling of grass even when my character was walking through a stone floored tunnel. The rest of the audio is simplistic, eerie, and effective, but that part genuinely bothered me. Aside from that the visuals are strong even on low settings and atmosphere is bound to take most people in.


Slender isn’t all scariness though, anyone who is able to beat the game will be rewarded with a daytime mode. This little extra is similar to the standard mode, but the player no longer has a flashlight (for obvious reasons) and instead of seeing the screen become fuzzy whenever Slender Man comes nearer the Gimme 20 Dollars song begins to play

He doesn’t honestly look that bad in broad daylight.

Verdict

Given the insane popularity of Slender right now, my words won’t mean much to anyone, but I highly recommend trying the game. Download it right now, turn the lights out, crank the audio to its max, and I guarantee you’ll almost think Slender Man is in your room…Watching you as you play it. Given how successful this cheap free-to-play game became, I can only imagine how successful the planned Slender game that actually has a budget will be.

 

Do not travel through those woods

 

Within them lie not demons, nor goblins, nor brutes

 

Not wolves, nor spiders, nor crooks dressed in hoods

 

Within them lies a man in a suit

 

Arms black as night, limbs causing fright

 

I warn all who see him, be it in darkness or the brightest of day

 

When you see him run away

 

He is a being none can construe

 

He is beyond the legions of the damned

 

He is the Slender Man

 

And when he comes not even your 20 gil will save you

 

...I really like Slender Man…BOO!

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