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Jun 182014

I have now reached my 700th post, which is about something really nostalgic. I can remember the first video game console I ever played was the Atari 2600 and I admit that the graphics and game play were a lot different compared to the video games we have today. However, if you still long for this kind of nostalgia, many of the old classic titles return all on one game called Atari Anthology for the Playstation 2.

To make this Atari set more interesting, the menu screens are up to date graphics of outer space. With each game you go to a different planet. It’s appropriate because if you think about it, many of the old Atari games were different types of space shooters. Sometimes though, the quick transition from new graphics to the old ones does take some getting used to.

There are 85 different games featured. Some I remember more than others. The ones I remember best include the classic space shooter Asteroids. The cute mind game Hangman.

Video Pinball that I still find particularly fun. Demons and Diamonds the quirky laser shooter game.

Casino a simple card game with interesting sound effects but was difficult to understand back in the day. And Atari Air-Sea Battle where you blast different vehicles in a continuous loop. I always loved the explosions.

I also remember Surround, but it’s hard to play without a second player. Why does this game not have a one-player mode like other games?

Many of the other games on this one disk set are ones I never heard of before. Whether they were quest games like the Sword Quest trilogy, first person shooters like Gravitar, sport games like Double Dunk, old arcade titles like Centipede, etc.; they all had something in common. I either don’t understand it, or the control is awkward. Sure the joystick control was tough before, but even now with this modern PS2 controller, it’s still difficult if not worse and there’s no need for that.

If you think Atari Anthology features every Atari game ever made, it doesn’t. I know because there are games I remember playing back in the day that aren’t included. It’s a real letdown, especially because some of the games this set of Atari titles does not include are Space Invaders and the original PAC-Man. Now those games were classics. Now I can understand not including titles that are based on movie and TV franchises like Star Wars, Superman, Spiderman, Indiana Jones, GI Joe, and E.T., but come on. Why leave out the true Atari classics?

The only other Atari game I remember that also wasn’t featured is Cosmic Ark, where you block meteors from different angles to protect your ship and collect an endless number of specimens. The control was a bit awkward when I played it years ago, but I liked the effects of the ship getting blown up.

Overall, Atari Anthology does have both good points and bad points. What I admire most about this title is how it provides the ability to ditch your old media and not have to lose your favorite old material. It’s like having old movies and TV shows on DVD or Blu-ray instead of VHS.

Oct 282011

One type of setting that really sets the mood on Halloween is a haunted house. I’m not referring to the places featured on shows like Ghost Hunters. Sure they’re intense, but not as enjoyable to watch in my opinion. The ones I’m talking about are more up front with added suspense. Here are my top ten favorite haunted houses from movies, TV shows, video games, etc.

#10) Ketchum House from The Amityville Horror (1979 version): This classic house has a demonic curse because it was built on ground that was used for Devil worship and sacrifice many years ago. The house terrorizes anyone who lives there with a series of hauntings, which could be anything from doors and windows slamming, to fly infestation, to even bleeding walls and toilets. The demonic presence is both slow and tricky. Over a span of 20 days the terror occurs in pieces at a time. Even though certain others can easily sense the evil, it’s not enough to convince anyone else about it. Don’t you just hate that?

#9) The Haunted House from Haunted House (Atari and Nintendo Wii): This was one of the first spooky titles for the Atari back in the early 80s. It wasn’t much since the inside is real simple as it is dark and filled with bats, spiders, and ghosts, all four floors of it.

Thirty years later, the Nintendo Wii released a new and improved remake of Haunted House with an actual story line behind it. Siblings Jacob and Silvia Silverspring head to Silver Bay in a mansion to search for objects all around. The basic spooks are the same. However, the thrills and chills are more graphical and intensified, but still at a young level. Light sources are more limited than before and the quest is more difficult to figure out because there’s more to it compared to the Atari version. I must admit though, this modern take on the old standard is brilliant.

#8) Possessed house from Night of the Demons (80s version): Ghosts possess most haunted houses, but this house is more unique because it’s haunted by demons. If you think it’s all the same, think again. The house was once a funeral parlor, but every year on Halloween night, anyone who enters becomes a victim to these demons. Luckily, they can’t cross running water, which explains the underground stream that surrounds the property. The tough part is escaping and/or surviving before sunrise because anything can happen.

#7) Nebbercracker’s house from Monster House: Years ago, this house was possessed by the ghost of Constance the giantess. Now it’s a dangerous monster that lures children over and eats them along with anyone else who comes by. The house is also clever not to draw too much attention while doing so. Of course the real excitement is from what goes on inside the place while the children explore. The video games feature it more than the movie does.

#6) Haunted Mansion from Disney’s Haunted Mansion: Who could forget the old mansion that’s haunted by 999 ghosts? It starts with a gallery of portraits that stretch, a creepy hallway, a séance with Madame Leota, and ghosts of many kinds that are both inside and outside in the private graveyard. Isn’t it strange that these ghosts start out scary, but later on they’re more festive?

#5) Castle Hellsubus from Elvira’s Haunted Hills: It may appear cozy at points, but this place is haunted by a family curse. All who share the Hellsubus family bloodline end up doing murderous things. This castle also has plenty of surprises like a torture chamber in the basement and a giant crack that runs all throughout the floor and walls. Each night as the castle settles, it seems like the crack gets longer. Is it the curse, or just poor workmanship?

#4) Haunted House Party from Crashbox: This was one of my most favorite segments on that show. Inside the house is a fancy cocktail party that can only be viewed from the windows outside. It’s a creative way to learn about historical figures by observing their conversations. Usually it’s with a British butler or a classy lady. Sometimes it makes me wonder who they are, even if it is all shadow puppets.

#3) Professor Windlenot’s Museum of the Strange and Unusual from Shivers (CD-ROM): Even though this isn’t a haunted residence per se, it has plenty of haunts lurking all over. As you explore the museum, it’s not only the evil Ixupi you’ll run into, but the ghosts of their victims as well. At least they’re friendly ghosts and they move on once they’re freed from the Ixupi pots.

#2) Hauntquarters from Ghostbusters (1986 version): This creepy castle is the home of Prime Evil and his ghostly minions, which appears to be isolated in an eerie ghost dimension. The source of its power is Prime Evil’s bone troller organ that he uses to send ghosts to the mortal world on evil missions. As far as the haunting there, I would guess that exploring Hauntquarters would be as dangerous as exploring Snake Mountain, the evil lair of Skeletor.

#1) The Haunted house from A Night in a Haunted House/A Night in a Graveyard: Since this is from a CD, you don’t get to actually see the haunted house beyond what’s on the album cover. However, the tracks contain plenty of exciting stories and sound effects to make it feel like you’re actually there. Narrator Jack Dorsey sure makes it sound like poetry, describing the house and everything inside.

Oct 152010

This is a brief history of horror video games from a presentation I attended at Spooky Empire 2010. It goes way back to the very first video game console called the Magnavox Odyssey. The very first horror video game for that old system was the 1972 game Haunted House, which is a board game you tape to the TV screen. First, Player 1 leaves the room while Player 2 hides his icon on the screen behind it. Then Player 1 returns and the two players play cards in order to find out where Player 2 is. Doesn’t sound like much does it?

Then in the early 80’s came Haunted House for Atari 2600. It’s also not much of a game, but you can move the character and explore the areas, which is definitely an improvement compared to taping an image over your TV. I first found out about Haunted House, among many other old games, on Atari Anthology for Playstation 2. I’ve also heard that Haunted House will soon be released for the Nintendo Wii.

After that there were plenty of other hits and misses over the years, like Chiller, which was a cheap take on Thriller. There’s a zombie on the cover, but there are no zombies in the game itself. It was actually a shooter game that never made it outside the U.S. and was banned in other countries. The game took place in a variety of different rooms where you shoot targets that didn’t move.

The NES later had adventure games with horror in them like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Castlevania, and Monster Party. And let’s certainly not forget the games based on horror movies like Friday the 13th, which was described as a great rock throwing game.

The 7th GuestI Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

The horror element has even expanded to CD-ROM with games like The 7th Guest, Alone in the Dark, Gabriel Night, Phantasmagoria, Hell: a Cyberpunk Thriller, and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, most of which were pretty bad.

However, Sega Genesis was able to give the horror genre a real break with Splatterhouse 3. Back in those days, when a video game sells a million copies, a sequel is instantly approved. But nowadays, it’s no longer that simple because the new games for the newer systems are much more expensive to make.

The violence and gore in the horror genre has steadily increased over the years, and the video game industry is no exception. For instance, House of the Dead Overkill for Nintendo Wii makes for a great shooter game that’s more for adults with plenty of creepy gore and F-bombs. I also recall someone in the audience said that this game had the best final boss ever, and I would definitely agree.

Of course, there were a few games which had elements of horror that aren’t very scary. Ju-On: The Grudge was mentioned to be a great game, if you’re a 13-year-old at a slumber party, and Resident Evil 4 was more of an action game than a horror game. Another example of a creepy game void of any scares is Limbo for X-BoxLimbo features a little boy who wanders around in limbo looking for his lost sister.

Video games have come a long way for the horror genre over the years. I’ll be mentioning some of my favorites later this month. It’s too bad that most of them weren’t even mentioned in this presentation.