It’s time for another round of We’re Just Playing… and this week it’s just us editors, talking about Triple A horror games, and those little indies that could (or might). So what’s trending in our own personal zeitgeist this week?
Nemesis is down. For good. He finally took the hint. And now, I’ve got what is only my 5th Platinum trophy ever. I’m not much for completing games past the point of fun. I know some of my fellow writers do enjoy going for them all, and to that I say to each their own. I tend to find those last few trophies to always be more of a slog than anything, and I usually leave a game once I’ve completed it and stop having goals that I—personally—want to reach. Still, once I had every weapon, every perk, every S ranking, everything, I wanted to play more Resident Evil. I needed to play more. It was my comfort-game. I could just pop it in and—oddly enough—relax and unwind.
So I went back to Resident Evil 2 Remake, which I mentioned last week. I’m playing currently as Sherry Birken in that annoying section of the game where you’re pursued by the creepiest adult in modern gaming (no offense, Hello, Neighbor guy). These parts of RE games always frustrate me. Not unlike the early part of Resident Evil 6, where Leon must outrun exploding cars, or Resident Evil 3 where Jill must outrun the giant Uncle Charlie head with absolutely no margin for error. It irked me enough that I walked away from the game for a bit in order to go to PSN and purchase Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.
So far I’m enjoying the quiet, meditative, almost-meandering quality to this latest game. Yes, I have seen some horrific videos, and yes, I have met someone special (and had quite the encounter), but if the game maintains this balance between spooky ambiance and bursts of the grotesque, I may have my new survival horror game for this week. I’m slow as hell completing games. I get distracted. I try to read notes on the fridge that are probably easter eggs for the programmers’ spouses. I have concentration issues. It’s my challenge. That’s why these games give you the option to basically “take the tour” if you choose to go with that (easy) mode. I usually pick Normal or Standard though. Whatever default mode is, that’s the one I want to beat. Hopefully, 7 provides an experience I’ll want to revisit over and over.
I’m surprised it took you this long to get into Resident Evil 7, Johnny. The game is definitely a return to form for the series. For one thing, most of it just takes place on a derelict property, much like the first game. There’s puzzles, item management, optional super weapons like the Magnum, and some pretty good boss battles, including one about halfway through that is among the grossest the series has to offer. Something I enjoyed about it is it actually took time to establish the antagonists more so than any other game in the series. There’s an air of tragedy to the story that gives it real weight, which is much more than you can say for some of the others. Lastly, as the first game made using the powerful RE Engine, it’s beautiful to look at, too. I found a lot of the monster designs lacking when compared to some of the series’s more iconic baddies, which was very disappointing, and the DLC is a mixed bag at best. Some of it is really good (like one that functions as an escape room where Marguerite pops up at different times, and you have to totally reset everything exactly as it was to avoid damage) and others are downright bizarre (like one that sees you playing as a melee-based character). Not my favorite entry in the series, but a pretty solid horror game that takes inspiration from the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Speaking of horror games, I dove into the latest title from indie developer Yai Gameworks. For those of you that don’t know, Yai makes RPG Maker-based horror games that are focused on bizarre storytelling and sometimes obtuse puzzles. Some of their games are relatively straightforward, like the personal-favorite Close Your Eyes and the emotional, scary, and sometimes funny Take the Dream IX. Others are much more involved, like Red Haze, which, as of the time of this writing, has right around twenty different endings and requires the player to really think outside the box and experiment to see them all, or Please Love My Computer Game, which is a hyper-obtuse puzzler designed to be beaten by player interaction in the Steam forums. I have at least tried everything the developer has put out, and I’m a big fan. They make games that give you such an oddly specific feeling of dread in a way that no other game does. Each one has the aesthetic of a kid’s drawing, and superb lighting and sound design. It all comes together to create something wholly unique.
Anyways, the latest game from them is the free-to-play title My Hole is a Mouth of Dirt. It sees players control Mole, a strange brown creature with red eyes and a cloak who lives underneath a city and preaches to an empty church in a sewer. One day, God tells them through a phonograph to enter the previously-forbidden tunnels and deliver a baby to a place unknown. Along the way, you must dodge perverse monstrosities as you try and make sense of what’s going on. Yeah, this game is as weird as anything else by Yai Gameworks. It’s a great entry point for those unfamiliar with their work, though, as it doesn’t have any obtuse puzzles and lasts around 45 minutes to an hour. Its plot can work as a standalone tale, but it is directly connected to Yai’s other games like Close Your Eyes and Red Haze. The cryptic and bizarre nature of their storytelling means that you are always left with questions by the end, questions that seemingly have no answer, but My Hole is a Mouth of Dirt actually does manage to flesh out some of the plot elements from earlier titles.
Considering that, as far as I know, Yai Gameworks is just one person, what they’ve managed to put out into the world so far is extremely impressive. The games all have rough edges, and like I’ve said, the puzzles can often be infuriatingly difficult, but the way they’ve connected these games into one huge, bizarre, overarching story of people haunted by a variety of things in both the literal and metaphorical sense, is something to be envious of. They’re slow to develop these games, understandably, but when they to arrive, they hit the spot for me in a way no other horror game can. My Mouth is a Hole of Dirt isn’t perfect, and leaves the player with so many more questions than it answers, but that’s kind of the point. The stories themselves are like one giant puzzle where it seems like you’re always missing one crucial piece to completely understand what’s going on, and in this case, that only works in the favor of the dark and disturbing tales being told in each game.
I wonder if—during the naming process of My Hole is a Mouth of Dirt—they ever said, “Hmm, let’s try to top that.” Anyway, as a fan of the lo-fi Bad Dream horror series, I know it’s a gamble to try these types of games, but it’s also a joy when they turn out to be worth it.
I know Breeder had all the signs of a bad game, but I forged on as best I could before finally moving on to something that wasn’t terribly broken. (I’ll stop slamming the poor indie game now. I feel like I’m berating it at this point.)