Is The Joker really a just dog chasing cars?

•August 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, but I’ve never gotten the chance to actually write about it. When I watched The Dark Knight for the I don’t know how many-th time, I noticed something. In the scene where The Joker is telling the people in the boats to blow up the opposite boat, he’s reading his plan from a piece of paper.

At that point I thought “wait a minute… if this is his plan, why does he need to read it from a piece of paper?” That made me see everything that The Joker did with different eyes.

Capture

For example, in one scene he says “do I really look like a guy with a plan?” followed by “I’m just a dog chasing cars.” But is he? He is one step ahead of everyone at all times (in his own words, “he’s just ahead of the curve”). For example, when he was captured, he had already planted a bomb inside someone’s stomach, and he blew up the entire police station, while sending other people to capture Harvey and Rachel, and counting that Batman would interrogate him so that he would have to make a choice.

That’s the most obvious example, but the thing is that you don’t need to go any further than the opening sequence. There, The Joker prepares this very complex bank robbery, with clear instructions to kill every other clown, with a very tight timing (this is shown when he knows the exact time and spot where the bus will crash into the building).

Another example is when Bruce finds the police officers tied up inside the apartment. He sets the alarm so that the blinds open, calling the attention of the police officers at exactly the same time where they were hoping to kill the major.

So, some people keep telling that The Joker was just a dog chasing cars, or an agent of chaos who just wanted to see the world burn, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case at all. I’d even dare to say that the movie was written in such a way that Nolan selling the idea that The Joker is a simple character with no clear goals that just does things “for the lulz.”

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Personally, I don’t believe in “evil for the sake of evil” characters because they are a cheap cop out or an over-simplification. I mean, can’t get any cheaper than “he does what he does because he just wants to see the world burn.” That’s not an antagonist. That’s a cartoon villain: You don’t need to know anything about him except that he’s evil, and that he’s evil so that our hero can be the good guy.

Granted that I am not entirely familiar with The Joker from the comics, but considering how grounded in reality Nolan’s movies are, I don’t think The Joker from the comics should be any point of reference: In the comics, Ra’s Al-Ghul gains immortality from his Lazarus pit, but in the movies, Ra’s Al-Ghul somewhat “mocks” the idea, unless he wasn’t actually mocking it, but telling him that Ra’s Al-Ghul is supposedly immortal. After all, he tells Bruce that “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely. A legend, Mr. Wayne, a legend.” Maybe with these words he’s telling Bruce “the legend of Ra’s Al-Ghul.”

So, after this very long introduction, I am thininkg… What if The Joker in Nolan’s trilogy was in fact a member of The League of Shadows (or someone working for someone else, for that matter)?

The bad guys in the first movie are The League of Shadows. The bad guy in the second movie is The Joker. The bad guys in the third movie are The League of Shadows. In Begins, Ra’s Al-Ghul’s makes it very clear that they are not done with Gotham, and that they are back to finish the job. He also mentions that “their weapons have evolved” and that this time they were using economics (in Rises you could say they used terrorism).

Another interesting thing is that, in the same scene, Ra’s Al-Ghul says “create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal.” Two things, this sounds extremely familiar to The Joker’s quote about “civilized people eating each other”. In both movies, The League of Shadows plans that people will turn against each other and destroy Gotham from the inside. In the first movie, it’s people becoming criminals, and then people from the slums going all crazy to destroy the rest of the city. In the third movie, it’s criminals against police and civilians. In the second movie, it’s in fact “the people against the politicians.” There’s a scene where the people very pissed off that authorities aren’t doing their job, and it is valid to wonder what would have happened if that malcontent had risen.

In the interrogation scene, The Joker also says that Batman “has changed things forever” so that means weapons to destroy Gotham should also change.

At the end of Begins Ra’s Al-Ghul dies, but Gotham is still corrupt, and The League of Shadows still has people infiltrated in different places. In Knight, are the “corrupt” people part of the League of Shadows, or part of The Joker’s band? Did the people from The League of Shadows take a break and returned just in time for Rises? I mean, if there’s one thing that doesn’t “fit” in my mind is how the entire League of Shadows would go into this “complete hiatus” for TDK and let the mob do their stuff (which they were already doing in Begins), specially since the trilogy is a full sequence, not just “a random episode.”

And another thing that I find interesting is that, when the guy asks him what he plans to do with his part of the money, The Joker replies that he’s a man of simple taste because he likes explosives and gasoline…

And then he burns his money…

If he burns the money, he doesn’t really worry about how to buy all the stuff that he needs, which means someone else provides all that stuff. And how the blazes did he get all the resources to pull off that big robbery at the beginning of the movie??? Talia Al-Ghul, maybe?

Also, both Ra’s Al-Ghul and The Joker want Batman to break “his rule.” This could be coincidence, though.

The only problem is… The Joker wanted Batman to reveal his identity, but then he backtracked and said “you know… forget about what I said.” However, it is possible that The Joker simply used this as a strategy to ignite the “internal conflict” that I mentioned above (the people against politicians), because was counting that Batman would not reveal his identity.

I’m thinking The Joker could have played an important part in Rises if Ledger hadn’t died. Unfortunately we will never know. I do think there’s more to The Joker than meets the eye, and definitely, The Joker isn’t just someone who wants to see the world burn.

Or maybe I’m thinking about this too much because I’m just tired of so much work and cruch nights…

In (sort of defense) of Batman v Superman

•July 4, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Well, I’ve been pretty vocal that I really hated Man of Steel, so it should be surprising (or maybe not) that I generally liked Batman V Superman. I can’t say the movie was awesome, or cool, but parts of it were very enjoyable for the most part, I think it’s because, even if the filmmakers didn’t quite deliver most of the time, at least their intentions were pretty clear.

So, getting the obvious stuff out of the way… Lex Luthor pretty much sucks. As some people say, it’s like they were trying to make him some sort of “Joker,” but they completely missed what made him interesting (btw I’m pretty sure that in TDK, Joker was also part of the league of shadows because there are a few things that give that away… but that’s for another blog post).

Doomsday also sucks. I think Doomsday was a missed opportunity. I know that some filmmakers think that ending the movie in a cliffhanger is a bad idea, but I think it would have been really interesting if the movie had ended in the middle of the battle. Doomsday is supposedly a pretty strong character, but they finish him off in like 10 minutes.

Enough of the Super Man Jesus imagery. They use it so much it ends up being ridiculous.

Oh, and Jimmy Olsen dies.

Anyway…

I have to say I “somewhat” got why the two heroes were fighting, or rather, why Batman wanted to kill Superman (Superman pretty much fights because he has no choice… and that sucks…). The subject could have been explored more, but at least you really get this idea that Batman thinks Superman can be dangerous.

And if you think about it, it’s interesting how Superman goes to Batman to ask for help, but as soon as Batman starts attacking, Superman pretty much forgets why he got there and decides to attack as well (albeit not using his full force). It’s interesting because he supposedly wanted Batman to help him, but it doesn’t take him long to say “fuck it!” and throw a few punches himself.

This reminds me of how some people think that the Knightmare is pretty much a setup for Injustice, where Superman goes psycho and starts killing everybody because Louise was killed, and also reminds me that, in Man of Steel, Kal completely destroys some dude’s truck just because he poured beer on him.

So maybe Superman isn’t so “super” after all, to the point to let his “primal emotions” (or whatever you want to call them) interfere to the point he just goes into “fuck it” mode and do things a “super” wouldn’t normally do.

And maybe that could explain why he didn’t give a crap about destroying two and a half cities in Man of Steel…

There’s this part about the bomb that some people didn’t like. I think it was one of the best parts of the movie, because it helps us see that Superman “may not be that super after all.”

The bomb goes off, and then you see the face of a man that is pretty much thinking “I completely failed.” But here’s the thing, in the next scene with Louise he admits he “didn’t see the bomb because he wasn’t looking” (or something like that). This made me think about two things. First, the most obvious answer was that the wheelchair was made of lead (and people who watched the ultimate cut confirm that), but second, it reminded me of that scene in the 1978 Superman movie when Clark’s dad dies, and how he thinks he’s pretty much useless because, regardless of what he can do, he was unable to save his dad.

I don’t know if this is the idea Snyder was going after, but that’s the one I got, and that’s the reason why I think it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. When he says that he didn’t see the bomb, implying that he was distracted (or that maybe he couldn’t physically “see” the bomb because it was un a box made of lead), like thinking that his powers and all his strength were useless in that particular scenario (just like they were useless when his dad died in the 1978 movie).

Also, Wonder Woman was amazing. I still think Gal Gadot is too skinny for the role, but it was amazing to see her performance as WW when she was fighting Doomsday, and how she would show this smirk every time the monster punched her on the face, like she was going full Spartan (“a beautiful death”).

I have mixed feelings about Batman killing because I know Batman “doesn’t kill” no matter what, but the film constantly sets this idea that Batman might be somewhat mental, or that he’s “just tired of all this shit” so I don’t find it very difficult to believe this Batman could actually be a killer. I know Alfred says that “this is how it all starts” and how “good men turn cruel,” but what if Batman has already turned cruel, but Alfred just doesn’t want to accept it? I mean, after all, Alfred there is talking like Batman is some sort of paladin, not this cold blooded killing machine.

It would be very useful to know where this Batman comes from, so we get why he’s become this kind of Batman, but I don’t know if that will happen.

I just wanted to share these thoughts. That doesn’t mean I want to change people’s mind, but maybe you can see things under a different perspective. The biggest problem here is that, to deal with many of the things in this movie, you must “unlearn what you’ve learned” about these characters (for example, the part about Superman being mental), and that’s something that can be really problematic, because these movies are, after all, based on pre-existing characters and the source material should be respected, one way or another.

And that’s it. I promise I will write about why I think Joker in TDK was in fact a member of the league of shadows in a future post.

New project: “The Nightmare from Beyond”

•June 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Well, this has been interesting. We began working on this game nearly a year ago, and it’s been an “interesting” process… specially considering this is like the third iteration of the game (the first two iterations were more sci-fi than anything else, but we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel when we decided to make the horror aspects more prominent).

It’s been a long time since I recorded a youtube video of myself, so here goes nothing, heh…

MOAR info:

Development Blog

Youtube

Facebook

Twitter

Horror games and shinny graphics?

•June 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been playing Silent Hill 1, and as I play I keep wondering one thing. Is it mandatory for horror games to have current-gen, cutting-edge shinny graphics, or can horror games get away with not-so-great graphics?

I don’t really play all horror games out there, because I only play the ones I find interesting, or the ones people gift me. For example, I play Fatal Frame and Silent Hill because I absolutely love the series, and I recently got the HD remake of the first Resident Evil game to get a good idea of another horror classic. I loved Haunting Ground, and I’ve also played and liked Amnesia (albeit not as much as I like any of the others I’ve mentioned). Someone got me a copy of Slender:  The Arrival but I completely hated it, then a copy of Outlast and I liked like the first third of it… so on and so forth, the list goes on.

Outlast is one of the better looking games I’ve played, but hasn’t caused me nearly as much horror as, say, Haunting Ground. In part because I found Outlast to be more of a “shock horror” than “real” horror (not “psychological horror,” btw, since that’s a completely different thing).

In other words: Outlast felt like the game version of “The House of 1000 Corpses” while Haunting Ground felt like the game version of “The Shinning” (crappy ending and all, heh).

And here comes Silent Hill…

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It’s a rare thing when a horror game makes me say “ok, this is enough, I can’t go on” because of the feeling of uneasiness (this only happens to me in the “Otherworld” sections of the game, BTW). To be honest, I got the same feeling when I was playing the first minutes of Outlast. More specifically this part:

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When I got into this room I was like “crap… I don’t want to be here, that dude is weird, that other dude is weird… and that dude is just sitting there watching the static? what the… crap… this place is horrible. I want to leave.”

If you’ve played the game, you know this was a pretty average room, meaning that it didn’t have any sort of eye-opening symbolism, weird creatures or a massive amount of corpses (I keep wondering where all those 1000’s of corpses in Outlast came from, because there were 100 times more corpses than dorms in the entire game). However, there is something about that room that made me wanna stop the game right there, and I kept thinking how cool the game was going to be.

It turns out that was the only part of the game where I felt that.

Silent Hill gives me this constant sense of dread and uneasiness that makes me not want to keep on playing. It’s definitely nothing to do with graphic fidelity and how well things in the game look, because the graphics are really bad for today’s standards; I think it’s more about the environment and the place you’re in.

Getting the obvious out of the way: it’s a combination of graphics, music, and sound. Yes. Music and Sound in Silent Hill is completely unnerving. The “music” is a constant banging on the head that adds to the whole experience.

But good music and sound usually wouldn’t help if the game looks horrible.

After thinking about this for some time, I figured maybe it had something to do with what the environment is, and what I expected it to be. It’s like two completely contrasting ideas in my head, fighting to figure out which one is right and which one is wrong.

You can always set your game in an abandoned something something, and the town of Silent Hill feels like an abandoned something something, so there’s nothing special. Until you arrive to the Otherworld (as I said above).

What I mean is this: In the Otherworld, you’re in pretty much the same place (the same town, same school, and all), however, it looks like a completely different thing. For example, you go to the school, and you’re in the school, but then something happens and it looks like you’re in hell, but you’re still at the school, and you know it because the layout is the same, the rooms are the same, but what was originally a school has turned into something completely twisted, unreal, and even hellish. At least to me, the game was playing with my expectations of what a school looks like and what that specific school looked like.

That doesn’t mean I’m advocating against cool graphics. Of course I like cool graphics as much as the next guy, and I’d completely love to see Silent Hill with modern graphics.

It just made me think that maybe horror games don’t really need those shinny graphics if they can find ways to present their ideas in a creative way. In other words, “if you can’t compete with visual fidelity, compete with style.”

Somehow, I always end up writing “weird stories”

•May 30, 2016 • 2 Comments

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Well hello!

I’ve been refining some details for the story of our current project (more about that “soon”), and I’ve noticed that it’s gravitating towards the “somewhat brutal and weird” kind of story.

*PART WITH SPOILERS AHEAD*

If you’ve played Enola, you either liked it or hated it. But if you liked it, then you know the story is extremely cruel in many aspects. When I began working on Enola, the story was going to be very different (originally, it was supposed to be this sort of Red Dragon and Hannibal kind of thing), but it became this story about sexual abuse and all that.

Sometimes I mention that Enola gave me nightmares, and some people might even find this ironic, but to be honest, I spent quite some time dealing with the “mental exhaustion” after I wrote it. The thing is, there’s roughly a 30% of story that never made it to the game, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, so I personally have a lot of information that I considered too much to be included in the game.

And there’s also the fact that I know exactly what happened to Angelica, and what they did to her.

Here’s the thing, you learn all these different versions of the attack. For example, Angelica’s monster says a few things, and Astrid says other things, but half of the things the monster says are a lie, but to know those things are a lie, I must know which ones are the truth.

Nightmare is inspired by two tales from H. P. Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The key word here is “inspired.” The game is not an adaptation, nor it is a direct copy. It just takes some of the basic concepts of those stories (and other elements from the Lovecraftian lore) to make a story that is “somewhat similar” but not quite.

Originally, Nightmare was supposed to be a horror game with a “simpler” story, but recently it became a very dark and twisted story. Ironically it has quite a few similarities with Enola, even if the plot is different.

*END OF SPOILERS

However, it’s not like I didn’t learn anything from Enola. Yes, there are going to be a few “extremely brutal” parts in Nightmare, but not really as brutal as those in Enola. Also, I am looking for different ways to deliver the story (no more long “dialogues-with-myself” or extremely long walls of text). This means a lot of things are left to the imagination, and that should make things more interesting.

And last but not least,  there are no “women in razor-wire bondage” in Nightmare. If you’ve played Enola, you know what I mean.

As a side project, I’m using my spare time to write a different story (the kind of story you can even tell your kids, BTW). Writing is the reason why I got into games, but Enola and Nightmare are reason enough for me to explore different things.

After all, I’m still going to work on another game inspired by The Modern Prometheus after Nightmare is finished…

Now that I think about it, I went to GDC earlier this year, but I never told you people about it…

Too many subplots: Religious themes in Enola

•May 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

One of the problems in Enola is that there are too many subplots. When I began to write the story, I added a lot of different things that made sense because they tell you more about the characters. The problem is that, sometimes, that information is just left there.

One of those cases is religion.

When the game starts, you hear the sound of some keys and something else, and she says “I’m back!” When you look around, you see some keys and a bible, so you can get the idea that she came back from church. You also see a crucifix in her “art room,” and sometimes you hear her talk about a priest.

Meanwhile, in Angelica’s world, there’s a cemetery where you find her parents’ graves, and a “sorta-church.” That basilica was based on a famous basilica from my country. However, there’s a catch, the building has no cross. Also, when you enter the place, there are no religious objects anywhere. No crosses, no statues, nothing. The truth is that the building “feels” like church because of the architecture and the way things are placed inside (benches facing in one direction, the big space at the front). As soon as you go through the same door, the place is completely different, though. Also, Angelica shows Enola how much she dislikes the idea of Enola spending time in church.

The idea was to present very different ideas, but I never got the chance to really dig deep into those. You get the idea that Angelica hates God and religion, and that Enola “sorta-likes” them, but that’s it.

I think the story needed to be more focused on what the story was actually about: Enola trying to help Angelica overcome her traumatic past. Had I used the themes as a way to drive the main storyline forward, things would have been different.

Looking at the bright side, that’s something I learned about my first really-story-driven game, though. Maybe in movies you can have different subplots, but in a game like this, it didn’t work.

Sex, death, and Haunting Ground

•March 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

There’s this young girl inside a cage, covered with a blanket, sleeping. Then, we see a weird looking man who tries to touch her leg, but is scared away by a lightning. The girl wakes up and exits the cage. She leaves the room and reaches a garden. As she walks, she holds on to the blanket so she can cover herself. Finally, she gets into a room, where she meets this mysterious woman who was doing the bed. The woman hands her a short dress, so she can put it on, and leaves the room.

When she was alone, the young girl puts on the dress. However, she was not alone. Someone was looking at her from behind a painting.

Very recently, I (finally) had the chance to play a game titled Demento (or Haunting Ground). Truth be told, this was the first game to really get me since I played Silent Hill 3. I’d even dare say Demento is on my “to-play” horror games just below Silent Hill (the first 3 Silent Hill games take the top spot, in case you’re wondering). I am a big horror fan, so I hate to see the horror genre reduced to jump-scare fests like Slender or FNAF (you’re free to like those games, but personally I like my horror games to have some substance).

I’ll just say it: “jump-scares” are not scary. They are just an unexpected event that takes you by surprise. This means that there isn’t really a difference between a jump-scare in FNAF and someone blowing up a balloon behind you. But, for some reason, the modern “formula to create a perfect horror game” is to simply throw jump-scares every now and then.

I found Demento very disturbing from the start, and it just got weirder and weirder by the minute. Take the intro to this blog, for example. We’re controlling a half-naked girl wandering in an unknown location. She then is given some clothes but nearly half of the time her butt is showing because the skirt is really short. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that she was forced to wear that outfit (“you either wear this, or walk around half naked” – BTW the outfit change is mandatory). We’re also hinted that someone is always looking at her, or rather, stalking her. 5 minutes into the game and I was already thinking to myself “I’m so getting raped…” which is an interesting choice of words, because “she’s going to get raped” was actually a thought that came in second. The only explanation I can think of is that the game did such a good job with immersion, that I didn’t feel like the “big brother trying to protect little Fiona” but rather that I was Fiona (somehow).

Then, you run into the first of the “stalkers”: the man from the beginning, Debilitas, who sees Fiona and wants to make her “his doll” (yeah… that…). Debilitas chases Fiona everywhere, and after you “die” you get one of the most disturbing game over screens ever. It’s not visual at all, and it doesn’t need to be, because the sound itself hints what Debilitas is doing to Fiona. The rest of the stalkers are not better at all. Daniella, the second one, at some point and tells Fiona that she wants her “azoth” (the Demento wikia comes up with a very extensive definition for “azoth” but if we want to keep it simple, the “azoth” is the uterus… yeah…). Before that, she had already groped her, and performed a “heart-pull-à-la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” although it wasn’t exactly the heart that she was trying to pull out…

Demento has all these weird disturbing sexual themes everywhere, so it’s not about a monster trying to cut you in half. It’s about a group of sexually-perverse people and a would-be victim trying to escape them. This reminds me of what Sato Takayoshi says about Silent Hill 2 (minute 25:59):

 

And Demento does what Sato Takayoshi says pretty well:

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(Minute 28)

 

Or…

Did I mention Daniella wants your uterus?

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However, in modern games… Well, I could make a comparison to modern horror games that use “sexual themes” but in fact they just flat-out throw disgusting sexual imagery to the screen and call it “psychological horror,” but, out of respect, I won’t.

(To be fair, if you visit the Enola screenshots area, there’s a chance you’ll find many screenshots of a woman in razor-wire bondage. It’s a shocking image, but those actually paying attention can know who she is and why she’s in bondage. She’s not “Female NPC number 42” or something like that. She’s also the only one in the entire game).

Another element I found really interesting is this: Fiona can fight back.

Yes, Fiona is this somewhat-helpless young girl, but there is one very specific aspect I liked about her: every time one of the stallkers were very close, I could shove them or kick them (I kicked Debilitas in the nuts more than once). I specially liked it because it was realistic. I don’t know about you, but girls I know would try to hit their attacker if they get the chance. This was a brutal reminder on how modern horror games turn your protagonist into some sort of punching bag, taking away any mean of defense (for some reason, an 18 years old is perfectly capable of kicking her attacker in the nuts, but a 30-something years old man is only able to stand there taking it).

On a side note, If you’re working on a horror game, please stay away from this and at least give your protagonist the ability to punch or kick the bad guy, even if it proves to be useless. The helpless protagonist is an idea that sucks, and I don’t care what games you cite, it still  sucks and needs to stop.

 

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So, yeah, Demento is cool and all, but that was 11 years ago… About that…

While I was playing this game, I couldn’t stop wondering why they don’t make games like this one anymore (besides the fact that many horror games nowadays are aimed to youtubers who’ll flail their arms and scream when something pops-up with a loud noise, so people can say “ZOMG this game is so terrifying!😄😄😄 LOL”). At the same time I remembered a rejection email I got from a gaming event because our game, Enola, supposedly used sexual violence against women just for shock value, a subject that deserves a blog post of its own (which is ironic, considering sexual-violence victims have sent me messages to tell me how they could identify with the protagonist, having gone through similar situations themselves).

Maybe the reason why we don’t get more games like Demento is because we’d get a bunch of people ranting about Fiona and objectification of women, and how the stalkers and their disturbing sexual themes were used just for shock value, which would be utter crap, considering the game has extremely good character development, so you know exactly what Debilitas wants, and how it’s completely different to what Daniella or Riccardo want from Fiona.

According to what I’ve ready, Demento was somewhat of a “risky” move (and maybe even an afterthought since it seems like it was some sort of Clock Tower spin-off), but it was worth the risk IMO. Not because it sold millions of copies, but because it dared to do something different and memorable (it even has a cult-following, just like the old Silent Hill games). I finished the game around 2 months ago, but it still lingers, something that “modern” horror games haven’t managed to do.

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As a developer, I find Demento to be an inspiring game, because it made me think outside the box and see other things that can be done with horror games. We have enough horror games about “killer monsters from hell.” We need horror games that go that extra mile and try other ideas, even if those ideas sound too “risky” or if those ideas mean that someone from a certain gaming event will reject your game because “it uses this and that for shock value.”

I’d like to see horror games like Demento or Silent Hill come back, because it would be a welcome change to the current trend of jump-scare fests and haunted-house simulators that we’re getting, and not because “Oh, I’m so smart, I’m the Roger Hebert of videogames,” but because we need more modern horror videogames that become classics in a way that, 10 years from now, people will still be talking about how you should play X horror game that was released in 2016.

The next game on my list is Rule of Rose. I’ve heard a lot of things (good and bad) about that game, so playing it is going to be interesting…

DianaSmile

 
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