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A Brief History of Scary Video Games

Please note that I had this article entirely written last summer and then it mysteriously disappeared. The blame lies squarely in the hands of the cyborg vampires from the future who are constantly trying to destroy Dumb Baby. They often intercept emails I send to Billie to prevent her from receiving articles I have written. Whenever Dumb Baby doesn’t update the cyborg vampires from the future are to blame.

Also note I haven’t played most of these games any time recently or, in the case of Fatal Frame, ever. If I had the original I’m sure my comments would be more relevant and possibly even make sense.

Sweet Home

Sweet Home
This picture came up when I did a Google image search for Sweet Home. I don't know what it is other than awesome

Released in 1989 Sweet Home is considered the first survival horror game, beating out Resident Evil by six years, and that one full motion video game on the 3DO about getting raped by vampires by four. Sweet Home is an RPG with an emphasis on puzzle solving. Each one of the characters in the game has a special talent that needs to be used to solve puzzles. For example, one of the characters has a lighter in case you need to start a fire to solve the puzzle; another person has a vacuum in case you need to vacuum. There really isn’t any problem can be solved by a vacuum that can’t be solved by some other means, like walking over whatever you are going to vacuum up. Don’t ask me why anybody would bring a vacuum to a haunted house.

There are five characters in the game and they all have crazy Japanese names. I changed all of their names because when I play a game I want to be able to pronounce the them. It makes it easier to yell at them when they miss the enemy or fuck up some way. I named them after famous musicians. Now instead of lame Japanese people trying to solve the mystery of the haunted mansion we got David Lee Roth, Eddie Vedder, Slash, Ozzie Osbourne and Ted Nugent rocking out hardcore.

That game would be totally sweet. Ted Nugent would be running around with a hunting rifle shooting at ghosts, while David Lee Roth decapitates zombies with crazy spin kicks. Ozzy Osbourne and Eddie Vedder would be screaming incompressible shit at each other and Slash would just be so drunk that they would have to carry him around. It's such a cool concept it almost makes me forget how boring RPGs on the Nintendo really are.

Uninvited

Uninvited is a point and click game, in the same manner as Deju vu and Shadowgate. Unlike those games Uninvited sucks balls. You travel around a haunted mansion trying to solve the mystery of the haunted mansion and save your sister who disappeared after you crashed your car into the haunted mansion. Considering you crashed your car into it, the haunted mansion is probably justified in kidnapping your sister and trying to murder you. Next time don’t drive into a fucking mansion. It’s not like you didn’t see it there.

The problem with this game is that you have a very limited time period to do anything. Spend too much time going in the wrong direction and the game kills you. This is kind of like running out of torches in Shadowgate, except you have no idea if you are taking too long and are about to die, while in Shadowgate you find so many torches you pretty much just have to leave the Nintendo on while you go run errands in order to run out of them.

Wow that was a really long sentence. I should probably break it into shorter, clearer sentences, but I won’t.

In Uninvited, there is no way to find out you are about to die. You just out of nowhere die. You have to solve the puzzles at a blistering speed or that’s the end of the game. Being that it is a point and click adventure game, most of the puzzles are nonsensical and have to be solved with either trial and error or through exploration. So basically, the only way to solve the puzzles is through a lengthy process that is not allowed in the short time frame you are allotted. So in reality, the only way to beat the game is with a walkthrough and if you are just going to follow directions like that to play a game you might as well just go read a book. There aren’t any choices or exploration in a book either and I bet it has a much better story.

Clock Tower

Univited
It probably makes me sound like a pussy but that scene scared the shit out of me

Clock Tower is the first game in the Clock Tower series, or as its also known “The Nobody Gives a Shit about Clock Tower Games” series. Like Uninvited, Clock Tower is a point and click adventure game. However unlike Uninvited, Clock Tower kicks ass.

Clock Tower starts out with a group of teenage orphan girls being led to a mansion that is owned by an obvious pedophile since he lives in a remote mansion and is adopting a bunch of teenage girls. If it wasn’t for the fact that the mansion is haunted then this would have turned into a hentai game and you would be reading about it on Something Awful.

Hey, how about all these games taking place in haunted mansions? Aren’t there any haunted amusement parks we can have games in?

Anyways, one of the girls, Jennifer, wanders out of the foyer where they are all waiting for the pedophile to show up. Then she hears a scream from the foyer. Upon reentering she finds that her friends are gone and the lights are turned off. Oooooo scary. Jennifer then has to find her friends and solve the mystery of the haunted mansion.

Disrupting her mystery solving is the evil Scissorman who pops up periodically to chase Jennifer around like some sort of slasher film villain. While Scissorman is in pursuit, you have to find someplace to hide from him. There is no way to fight him off. That’s a neat little addition that I liked. Most games you have to take the offensive and kill your enemies, but here all you can do is hide from him. It really changes the way you have to play the game, and ranks up the scary factor. Nothing is scary when you have a grenade launcher.

I think Clock Tower clearly demonstrates how much video games have changed over the years. If this were released today Jennifer would have gigantic breasts, blonde hair in pigtails, and a smutty school girl’s uniform. Instead she is modestly dressed in a floor length dress and has no face. In an industry that seems to be constantly trying to embarrass itself with the amount of cheesecake it crams into a single game, having a heroin that you can’t work one out to seems to be considered a sin.

Resident Evil

Resident Evil
Resident Evil costarring Billy Corgan

This is the first survival horror game to be called a survival horror game. It was inspired by a game called Survival Whores where you play a detective trying to get out of a haunted all girls boarding school without being seduced by a ghost. Resident Evil was much less interesting although more appropriate for the conservative American market.

In Resident Evil, you play the part of a member of a highly trained police squad that is investigating the mysterious disappearances of the city’s other highly trained police squad. Why this town has two highly trained police squads is in itself a mystery. It’s useful if the one police squad disappears and you want a highly trained group to investigate it, but maybe if training and resources were concentrated on the first group they wouldn’t have disappeared in the first place.

While investigating the disappearance, the group is attacked and they flee to a nearby empty mansion. Like all mansions this one turns out to be haunted, not by specters or ghouls, but by science!

Yes, evil science has filled the mansion with zombies who want nothing more than to eat your flesh and grind your bones into a fine seasoning powder. Science has also filled the mansion with really annoying puzzles. It must have sucked to work there. In order to get into the parlor you have to find three animal themed pendants and put them in the correct order in a sculptor to open the door. Why the Umbrella Corporation didn’t just buy some padlocks or something is beyond me. I never ended up finishing the game because of the stupid puzzles and the fact that I am horrible at Resident Evil games.

While puzzle solving is one of the mainstays of the Resident Evil franchise, a bigger part of the game is its horrible controls. Moving your character in most of the games is kind of like trying to drive a tank, while drunk, and in a mansion. Good luck trying to run away from any of the enemies. If you get surrounded, just put the controller down. It’s easier if you don’t struggle. There is also the camera which is placed in one location in the room, making it possible for a zombie to kill you because it’s sitting around a corner and the camera doesn’t show it. Sure the person you’re controlling should have been able to see the zombie but that doesn’t help.

Scares in Resident Evil games do not come from a creepy atmosphere or disturbing visuals. They come entirely from things jumping through windows. You would think it would stop being scary the 20th time a zombie jumps at you through the window but you’re wrong. It was never scary.

Sequels to Resident Evil improved on these problems slightly, and by slightly I mean not at all. Then came Resident Evil 4 which completely changed the entire game. Now instead of focusing on puzzle solving and not seeing your enemy, the game was mostly based on shooting about a billion enemies. Yet, it's fun because you can see what you’re doing and it’s possible to move around. The character still controls like a SUV, but it's slightly easier. And isn’t that all we want in a video game, for it to be kind of easy to move around?

Dino Crisis

Dino Crisis isn’t really scary, but it plays exactly like to Resident Evil game right down to the shitty controls and things trying to scare you by jumping through windows. The difference is that Dino Crisis has dinosaurs instead of zombies, making it about a million times cooler.

Silent Hill

Silent Hill
Nothing is scarier then a dirty men's room. Hold your breath and don't touch anything.

Silent Hill is like Resident Evil but better in every way, although not really a lot better...just slightly better. The controls are better, the puzzles are better, it’s creepier, and it doesn’t take place in a haunted mansion. It takes place in a haunted town. A town is like way bigger than a mansion. That adds to the chances for scary adventuring. Mansions have a limited number of rooms for adventure but a town has many buildings all with their own individual rooms where an adventure can occur.

There’s also some creepy alternate world where everything is covered in blood and there are midgets who try to stab you. Kind of like this one bar I know of, The Midget Biker Bar, where all the bikers are midgets and they get violent if you try to dress them like a gnome. It's covered in blood from the many brawls between the midget bikers and assholes who try to dress them like gnomes.

Silent Hill has approximately two billion sequels all of which try to be more disturbing then the last one. Silent Hill did a good job at being disturbing because it took normal places like a school, mall, and hospital and covered the walls in blood and filled them with knife wielding midgets. The sequels tried way to hard to be disturbing so you just end up with goofy looking monsters that are suppose to be scary looking but aren’t. Like the second one had monsters who were a pair of legs that vomit on you. That’s not disturbing, it’s just weird. Plus it’s less disturbing when you are expecting people to be disturbing. With the first one, you can be taken by surprise. When all the sequels try the exact same thing it just becomes old hat. Like Marilyn Manson. People thought he was the antichrist for awhile but these days nobody gives a shit about him. We get it Marilyn, you’re weird and want to be a woman. Just go over there with the Goth kids and stop trying to get us to pay attention to you. We don’t care anymore. You’re basically Alice Cooper without the good music.

Fatal Frame

I have no idea what happens in these games except that you fight ghosts by taking their picture. That explains why we can’t ever take good pictures of ghosts. Cameras kill them. The same is not true for Bigfoot. Nothing can kill Bigfoot. We can’t take pictures of him because he doesn’t want us to have pictures of him. What Bigfoot wants, Bigfoot gets and if you try to take a picture of him he will make it turn out blurry and then he will stick his foot up your ass.

Dead Rising

Despite starring zombies Dead Rising doesn’t really try to be that scary. It only gets scary when you try to save your game. Thanks to the horrible inclusion of save spots, you are put in very frightening situations. Picture this: you’re relaxing playing some Dead Rising when all of a sudden the hot chick that lives next door asks if you want to go to the beach with her. Of course you want to, but you’ve been playing for an hour and a half and don’t want to have to go back all that way. You try to save but the save spot is on the other side of the fucking mall. Now you got to run and avoid as many zombies as you can before your hot neighbor is ready to leave! Oh, if only they would have included a save anywhere feature! Then this problem would never have existed.