Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can we save the licensed horror game?

Happy Friday 13th everybody!!

I picked this day especially for a concept and idea i've had on my mind for the past 12 years. You see companies remaking games, and breathing new life into long dead properties. Namco just dropped the bombshell that Splatterhouse will be getting the next Gen treatment for PS3 and Xbox 360, Fatal Frame is being reworked for the Wii. Both games are really interesting properties, and I'd definitely want to play both games, but There are other games out there that could also stand to be reworked and revived using some very similar concepts from the more recent games.

I'm not saying "hey guys!! let's remake a game and make it just like blah blah game!" I'm saying with the games we've seen so far we definitely have a working template to take these games of yesteryear, and revive them with some fantastic polish, a non gimmicky gaming mechanic, and elevating these games from the crapper to the top of the heap. Below are examples of this theory.

Friday the 13th
System - NES
year released - Feb 1989


Anyone who remembers this game will remember the tedious time of haivng to run around Camp Crystal Lake constantly to save the campers or counselors who constantly find themselves in danger. If you remember that, you'll remember the even better time you have navigating the woods, and navigating the cave to find and kill Jason's mother, while keeping Jason from randomly appearing and taking you out faster than you can say "Chu chu chu ha ha ha ".

Today -

When I think of games that would serve as a good template for making Friday the 13th in this generation, I think of games like Resident Evil 2 or 3. "Friday" series of movies play out as games of Cat and mouse, with elements of mystery in between. The victims try to discover the history of Camp Crystal Lake while dodging the psychopathic, undead Jason Voorhees, then ultimately discovering a way to dispose of him...well until he revives himself in the next installment.

Using the formula that the RE games where you're switching around characters during certain parts of the game. Would be an interesting approach. You could even establish a system where each counselor has their own ending if they can keep their lifebar up long enough to survive the game. There would always be something to do in the meantime. The characters would have to do things like collect firewood, maintain the camp and prep it for camping season. these events could be broken down into quick mini games and could lead into the more interesting aspects of the overall story.

The Camp itself could possibly be a free roaming environment complete with atmospheric fog in the wooded areas, and a eerie music from the original soundtrack. How interesting would it be to have the music tie into the game where an orchestra hit would sound right as Jason walks out from behind a nearby tree, or shoves his outstretched hand through a window to grab the hair of an unsuspecting character? The best part could be an early warning in the eerie whispering music and possibly a brief "Jason's eye view" cutaway to show what direction he may be lurking in.

Nightmare on Elm Street
System: NES
release date - 1989


This game was possibly both the most confusing licensed game ever, and the most gimmiky use of the 4 player NES Satellite and the Fourscore ever. Players would have to brave through stages like the junkyard, The high school, Elm Street, and various houses to find the skeleton of Freddy Krueger and put an end to his nightmare. Like the game above, this also took a really promising concept and just cookie-cutter'd it to death.

Today -

The first thing that comes to mind, as I'm writing this, is a little-known spin-off of the Nightmare movies called "Freddy's Nightmares". This show used to come on late Saturday nights and was an Anthology series of varying horrors hosted by Mr Krueger himself. This makes the obvious choice being to look to games like Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem as a good working template. ED had everything. The tense atmosphere, the varying characters the overlaying theme of doom, and despair. A Nightmare game could definitely be like this.

For example: We have six main characters, and each chapter focuses on one particular character, their personal problems, and their newfound issue with having nightmares. While awake they could interact with other characters and even utilize certain aspects of the real world to find clues that would lead to dream based power-ups. Once the characters fall asleep their inner demons manifest themselves into a twisted version of reality. (Think Silent Hill meets Psychonauts.) The goal is to survive this, while the game itself is constantly screwing with our heads. Finally after the boss is defeated we're greeted with a cutscene of that particular character succumbing to his own doomed fate.

Of course The centralized main character would learned enough from the other characters to finally put an end to the reign of nightmares and terror.. or did they?

There are other games out there that could use a proper reworking. It would be pretty exciting to see Atari's Texas Chainsaw Massacre redone in a graphically vicuious style like Manhunt meets the raw and gritty action of God of War. Giving the game the option of playing from the heroine's perspective or from Leatherface's would be a pretty interesting angle to play. It all seems like it would be interesting done in these different ways, but the real test would be to convince the movie companies that this would be an interesting approach for games that usually are just done to cash in on the latest installation of that movie.

I think personally I am an over neurotic gaming geek that has way too much free time on my hands.


For added doses of awesome, be sure to check out the reviews on these games done by none other than the Angry Video Game Nerd aka James Rolfe.

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