Tag Archives: j-horror

Game Review: Cryostasis Sleep of Reason

I admit it; I’m a wimp.  I’ve never been able to handle horror… anything, very well.  I blame it on having an overactive imagination.  Yet for some reason, I continually subject myself to scary movies &, to a lesser extent, scary games.  But horror games have always been harder for me than movies.  I guess it’s because the movie will continue no matter my trepidation, but I have to manually continue horror games.  But, when I heard about Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason, I decided to give it a try.  Although it’s review scores were on the mildly positive side of average, the game was touted as being, “tense, frequently innovative & attractive.” (Resolution Magazine).  So is this a new franchise to revitalize a genre that’s becoming more action than horror?

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In Cryostasis, you play as Alexander Nesterov, a Russian meteorologist stationed at the North Pole.  You’re set to board a nuclear icebreaker called the North Wind, but when you arrive you find the ship frozen over & seemingly abandoned.  However, when you begin to restart the ship, bringing in some much-needed light & heat, you find that it isn’t quite as abandoned as you thought.  For some reason the crew members have turned into mutated zombie-monsters, & try to kill you at every turn.  To solve the mystery of what happened to the ship, you use “mental echoes”, memories of the dead to change their actions in the past.  Successfully completing the task they were doing before they died will restore parts of the ship & allow you to continue.  Meanwhile, there’s sort of a second plot going on in the form of an old Russian folktale that you find pieces of along the way.

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Cryostasis has several unique gameplay elements.  The first, which I just mentioned, is the Mental Echo.  There are many obstacles in your path, & often the only way to get past them is to correct the mistakes of the crew.  These sequences vary from opening a door, donning a scuba suit & soldering underwater, to sneaking around a crazed crewmate & stealing his gun.  Sometimes these have a trial-&-error feel, but you get an unlimited number of tries to get it right.  Another unique aspect is your health, which is based on your heat.  Because this is set in the arctic, spending too much time in the cold will kill you.  Taking damage from enemies also causes you to lose heat.  The only way to restore your health is by finding heat sources.  As you restart the ship, you’ll come across various sources of heat, from fires to light bulbs to generators.  And let’s not forget the monsters & combat system.  As you restore light to the ship, more mutated crewmates will attack you.  Combat involves both melee & guns.  All of the guns (minus the one that shoots water) are accurate to the period the game is set in.  As such, there are no BFG’s, & ammo is in short supply, so you’ll be using the fire axe quite a bit.


Narrative: At times the story can seem both sluggish & disjointed.  It may seem like it’s trying to tell two different stories, between the main plot & the folklore, but they’re actually the same story.  The plot develops very slowly through the course of the game, although it is well-told through the Echoes & flashbacks.  Some things aren’t completely explained, like why exactly the crew mutated (was it supernatural, the radiation, or both?).  But what really threw me off was the final boss fight with Chronos, the god of time (& no, I’m not making that up).  Although the plot already had a supernatural element going, that just seemed a bit too far for me.  But if you can stick with the slow progress & just take the story at face value, you’ll find that everything ties up neatly in the end.

Score: 3


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Mechanics: Certain aspects of the gameplay work well, while others don’t.  The Mental Echo ability is nearly flawless, in my opinion.  Although you might not always succeed the first time, you can try as many times as it takes.  Plus, the Echoes are always something different.  Here’s an example: early in the game you play as a diver trying to cut chains loose to prevent the ship from sinking, while being guided by a guy above water & attacked by mutants.  Later in the game you play as the guide.  Watching the scene play out from two different viewpoints is very interesting, & I liked that it’s both a practical way to progress while also naturally filling in the story.

Combat, however, isn’t done quite as well.  For melee, the type of swing you do is based on how you move the mouse.  This results in some choppy combat.  Likewise, guns can be difficult to use.  You have to use the ironsights to have a good chance of hitting something, & even then it’s tough.  Of course, you could argue that this adds to the tension & realism of the game, as these aren’t modern weapons.  Encounters are meant to be scary & dreaded.  And I would agree with this argument if this was a game where you could avoid enemy encounters.  However, in Cryostasis there is no running away from the enemy, so the difficult combat is unavoidable.  But in spite of that, the Mental Echoes & unique health system outweight the shoddy combat controls.

Score: 4


Aesthetics: If there’s one thing this game does well, it’s atmosphere.  The game really makes you feel like you’re completely alone & in constant danger.  Some people complain that the graphics are rather bland, since you go from a frozen ship to a thawed ship to the snowing outside.  But I think this adds to the atmosphere.  I wouldn’t expect a nuclear ship to have paintings everywhere, after all.  Everything about it feels cold & oppressive.  It’s a sign of a good game when you start to dread turning on the lights since you know it’ll just mean more monsters.  And ignoring the lack of color, the graphics are stunning, especially when you light up a room & you can see the water melting down the side of the wall.  There isn’t much in the way of music, but the sound effects keep you on edge.  The voice-acting isn’t bad, either.

Score: 5


Replay Value: Not very high.  It’s fun the first time around, but only hardcore horror fans will play this more than once.  I recommend renting it.

Score: 2


Overall Score: 3

Final Word:  I believe there are two types of horror fans in the world.  The first is the more action-oriented crowd.  These people prefer action games where monsters sometimes jump out at them.  They’re likely to prefer American horror films & games like Doom & the later Resident Evil games.  The second group is the true survival-horror fans.  They prefer games that build up tension & rely less on combat, like Silent Hill.  Cryostasis is more likely to appeal to the second group.  If you want a unique experience, prefer games heavy on atmosphere, can overlook a slow plot & average combat, check Cryostasis out.  In closing, I’ll describe my reaction to the game’s first enemy encounter, & you can decide if it’s for you or not.

After entering the ship, I found myself in a dark, frozen room with a dead guy frozen on a ladder & a generator.  “Awesome,” I thought.  Some light & heat.  With the flip of a switch, the generator came to life, filling the room with light & melting the ice off the walls.  “Ooh, that’s pretty,” I thought, shoving my face in the walls.  But since I couldn’t get around the ladder with the dead guy, I figured I had to go back the way I came.  “This isn’t so bad,” I thought, right up to the point the door opened by itself.  Okay, a little creepy.  And where did those red-shining logs come from?  As I approached, I had a flashback to two men sitting in front of a fire trying to stay warm.  When it ended, I warmed myself with the fire as the tutorial prompted.  But as soon as I finished, the screen turned gray, stuff flew all over the room, & something ripped the door open.  Monster!  But the screen changed back, & it was gone.  Now scary grunting noises were coming from the generator room.  I really didn’t want to go back, but since a pipe blocked the now open door, I had no choice.  After picking my mouse up from where I’d thrown it, I cautiously opened the door & peeked in.  Everything seemed fine, except the ladder was gone so I could go around the generator.  As I went up the ladder, there was a creepy sound effect.  I turned around… & there’s a psycho with an axe behind me!  And I don’t have a weapon!  Slowly, I back up, trying to stay away from the psycho.  But right when he was about to reach me, he disappeared, & the room went black for a second.  “Jesus Christ,” I said.

– GamerDame

Game Title: Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason
Console: PC
Rating: T
Developer: Action Forms
Publishers: 1C Company, 505 Games & Aspyr Media
Release Date: April 20, 2009
|Review Updated: August 29, 2018|

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Filed under 3, Horror, PC, Reviews

Game Review: Ju-on

I thought for my first review, it would only make sense to start with the game I most recently finished.  Recently as in just this evening. Ju-on: The Grudge.  For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, Ju-on is the original Japanese horror movie that The Grudge was based off of.  I rented this game as my first choice from Gamefly, mainly because I wanted to watch my parents play it.  My mom hated the movie, so making her play the game was pure torturous joy for me.  And let me tell you, nothing kills a scary mood like watching someone wander around like they’re having a seizure every five seconds (the character on screen… not mom, just to clarify).  After dying within a minute of the game, I took over & played through it while she watched.

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The box cover claims the game is a haunted house simulator.  Well, that’s all well & good, but what does it mean?  Basically, the game is yourself starring in The Grudge.  The story is what you’d expect if you’ve watched the movies: it follows a family who is trying to escape the grudge.  You play as various family members throughout the game (daughter, mother, son, father & then the daughter again) & try to help them survive the grudge that’s hunting them down.

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You’ll work your way through five levels (factory, hospital, apartment, office & finally the grudge house), searching for keys, batteries & other items to help you escape.  The game operates on a sort of rail system, meaning there is only one set path you can take.  From time to time you’ll have staged encounters with the grudge, which requires you to swing the wii-mote in certain directions to survive.  You don’t have a health meter in the conventional sense.  Instead, when your batteries run out, so does you life.  You will find batteries along your way, but it’s easy to run out if you get lost or linger too long.


Narrative: Not much in the way of plot.  If you know anything about Japanese horror, you know what to expect.  Family moves into cursed house.  Family is tormented by grudge for no reason other than just being there.  Family tries to escape but it’s ultimately futile.  You know the drill.  So overall, don’t go for this game is you’re looking for mind-bending plot twists.  All of the characters have zero sense of self-preservation & do things that will always get people killed in horror stories.  Let’s run into the abandoned warehouse after the dog!  Let’s deliver this creepy package to an obviously abandoned apartment complex!  It’s also pretty lame that the game makes you find all of the scrap paper hidden in the levels to unlock the final level & see the real end of the game.  Not that it really changes anyone’s fate.

Overall, the story is a list of what not to do in a horror situation filled with non-characters, & I felt more invested in the dog’s life than my character.

Score: 2


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Mechanics: Okay, so the story’s not going to win a Pulitzer.  But we all know you don’t play The Grudge for the story.  You do it for the scares.  So how does it do in this regard?  Not well, I’m afraid.  The game just isn’t that scary.  There were a few moments that made me jump, but most of them you can see coming a mile away.  Most of the time I seemed to be looking the wrong direction for the scares.  I’ll give the game credit that it tries to shake up up the formula a bit.  There are moments when you have to hide by aiming the wii-mote at an shrinking target, or input specific flails to escape during chase sequences.  These moments do lend to the emotions the game is trying to evoke.  But other times it’s just silly, like fighting off hair.  It’s a shame, because there is some good atmosphere.  But any sense of dread to game builds up quickly turns to frustration thanks to the controls.

The overall gameplay aspect is just atrocious.  First of all, you have to use the B button to move.  Because my version was a rental, it didn’t come with the instruction book, so it took us a few tries to even figure that part out.  Why not use the nunchuck like a normal game?  Moving the wii-mote changes your direction, but it’s very finicky.  Sometimes you barely move at all even when you’re flinging your wrist around like there’s a spider on it, & other times just tilting the wii-mote sends you flying in circles while staring at the ceiling.  The worst part for me was the speed you walk.  Seriously.  We’re in a haunted (insert creepy place here), how about a little hustle?  Sadly, the gameplay aspect is the worst part of the game, & drags down the whole experience.

Overall, any tension the atmosphere might build up quickly turns to annoyance at the unwieldy controls.

Score: 2


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Aesthetics: The visuals are average.  The character designs seem a bit blocky.  The backgrounds look nice in HD… assuming you can see them.  That’s really my chief complaint.  The game is just too dark.  I know dark is scary, but it’s not so scary if I can’t see anything.  Half the time I was just staring at the ground because it was the only way I could tell if I was moving forward & not walking against a wall.  The audio fares slightly better.  I actually like the audio.  Mostly the game is silent, with no music.  The only thing you can hear is your own footsteps, punctuated by creaking & groaning from unknown sources.  It definitely lends to the creepy atmosphere.  But like any good horror movie, music kicks in when something especially frightening is happening.  So overall, the audio is good, but the average visuals pulls it down some.

Score: 3


Replay Value: Very little.  Once you’ve seen the scares, you know what’s going to happen so there’s little reason to play again.  The only reason you’ll play through the levels more than once is to collect all the special items you need to unlock the final level.  And frankly, I’d be surprised if most people make it that far.

Score: 1


Breakdown

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Overall Score: 2

Final Word: If you’re a fan of this type of thing or are easily scared, you’ll probably get a few thrills from Ju-on: The Grudge… once. But the mediocre presentation & frustrating controls keep this from being a permanent addition to horror-lover’s collections.  Rent it, have a few good screams (or laughs, depending on how you look at it), & send it back for something better.

– GamerDame

Game Title: Ju-on: The Grudge – Haunted House Simulator
Console: Wii
Rating: M
Developer: feelplus
Publishers: AQ Interative (Japan) & Xseed Games (US)
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Review Updated: August 28, 2018

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Filed under 2, Horror, Reviews, Wii