Monday, 29 October 2012

Return to the Nightmare: Silent Hill

In my restless dreams,
I see that town.

Silent Hill.

You promised me you'd take me
there again someday.
But you never did.

Well, I'm alone there now...
In our 'special place'...
Waiting for you...
~Mary's Letter

With Halloween closing in on us again I decided to re-play one of my most beloved games Silent Hill 2, released in 2001 Silent Hill 2 was one of the greatest psychological horror's in gaming history.

You play as James Sunderland made a widower through the loss of his terminally ill wife Mary Sunderland, however shortly after her death James receives a letter confirming that she's alive and waiting for him in Silent Hill, being beckoned by the call we find our-self's on the outskirts of the hell-bent town, as we follow his journey throughout the town we find that his sense of judgement and facts have gone awry as he stops thinking of his Mary being dead and thinks of her as being alive, this makes other characters in the game question his state of mind as they ask him "but you said Mary was dead" making our character caught between reality and his own deluded world.

While Silent Hill 2 is a horror there are no screamers, jumps or cheap scares instead the game's atmosphere has been made so that each players imagination takes hold and conjures up the disturbing thoughts and images into their heads, almost as if you're punishing yourself for an unknown reason which reflects perfectly upon what James is going through in the town, all the while you go walking along dark corridors trying each door and praying that the door does not open as the black transition screen for going room to room will fill your heart with the fear of the unknown.

Some of the most intense sections revolve around the character named by fans as "Pyramid Head". Pyramid Head is one of the most metaphorical characters ever in video games, you could write an essay on just this one character (well I could anyway), he resembles alot of different things, guilt, punishment, shame, disgrace, restoration in humanity, executioner and so on. Of course he is also the root of many disturbing scenes like the infamous rape scene -as pictured below- This creature will give chase to you many times throughout the town, strangely enough however you seem to survive each time as he seems to lose interest in chasing you and simple walks away disappearing for a while, making you wonder why he isn't trying very hard to catch you it's almost as if he is toying with you.

You can't deny that's unsettling.
Silent Hill 2 makes full use of it's dark subjective material and utilizes it in a brilliant and disturbing way that no other game has ever achieved, if you have never played Silent Hill 2 and are a fan of horror I strongly recommend you should play this and add it to your collection.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Blast From The Past: Spyro the Dragon

"Spyro" was just like "Crash Bandicoot" -one of the greatest PS1 titles- with a whimsical purple little dragon that was adored by all and played by thousands, this however was short lived as Insomniac gave their legacy over to new developers to potential wreck their creation and ruin it they did, but a small light for the "Spyro" series still lives on within the original trilogy. 

The favorite of many fans out there but just like it's counterpart Crash, this game too had some initial teething problems to start with. The idea of this game was to find all the dragons that were encased in stone and free them, so it was essentially a big game of hide and seek. These statues however  were usually easy to spot and the developers made little effort to hide them (they couldn't anyway as they didn't create any good hiding places in the first place), even if there were one's you could see but couldn't reach, you could still easily get to it if you decide too work backwards.

Since each level had an average of four dragons to free it meant that the stages in this game were very short, you could go straight from the initiation of the level to the end of it in a matter of seconds, this comes across as a bit disappointing as it seems to lack obstructions and obstacles making the only challenges finding the statues (which is quite easy), collecting all the gems (which is easy too but time consuming), and finding the hidden keys (well I say hidden but they weren't really) which opens a chest which will have some of the levels gems in it.

Despite "Spyro" having it's problems it still doesn't mean that everyone should avoid it, with an interesting soundtrack that covers a spectrum of atmospheric settings and well created level layouts (which were sadly too short), the first game in the trilogy was still a success. 

Insomniac looked back at their first game and made a note not to make the same mistakes in "Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer"and they were brilliant at fixing them, with much longer levels and challenges that ranged in difficulty, this game outshined the first one.

For this game you had two main goals rather than one, collect talismans by completing the level, and obtain as many power orbs as possible which were given to you by completing challenges or finding the rare one hidden in hard to find places (which was actually well hidden this time), this game did also have the time consuming task of being able to collect every gem but this time in doing so you were rewarded with a bonus level at the end of the game making your efforts worth it.

This game also gave players new abilities such as swimming and climbing ladders however there was a downside to it, you had to pay in order to get the ability which robbed us in a way of completing earlier levels in one go as you might have needed to climb a ladder but wouldn't have the ability meaning you would have to come back at a later time.

The challenges in this game as I said before ranged in difficulty but some of them were a bit too difficult, for example - you goal is to get the fishes into the idol's mouth, you needed to feed it ten fish, blue and orange fishes are acceptable but red fishes made the idol sick and decreased the amount you had already given him, oh but did I mention the fishes leap out of the water giving you a fraction of a second to determine the colour and chose whether you can feed him or not, while this may not sound hard at all I can assure you it was and still is a tough challenge.


This was the final "Spyro" game in the trilogy and was undoubtedly the most critically acclaimed and longest one. In "Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon" players would find themselves seeking out the stolen dragon eggs which is a bit similar to the first game but instead of 80 statues this game had 150 -or 151 if you count the twins- eggs, making it last much longer than the first game as collecting the eggs was a mixture of finding them (varying in how easy they were to find), doing challenges for them and paying for them.

Just like the second game "Spyro 3" allowed players to swim, climb ladders and so on but this time they corrected their fault and allowed players to have those abilities right from the start and required no gems to purchase the skill.

Along with the third game new content came with it, new playable characters, new types of gameplay such as FPS, top down shooters etc and skateboarding areas were newly added into this game but they managed to get this right the first time without another game coming out and fixing the problems, this game is hard to fault with it was the best and sadly the last great Spyro game that was created.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Blast From The Past: Crash Bandicoot

It goes without saying that everyone with some form of gaming history has played at least one of the original "Crash Bandicoot" games, just like it's rival "Spyro", these were the best of the best of PlayStation gaming and have proven to be a series that have given us a lifetime of memories, for this entry i will only be writing about the first three games and exclude "Crash Team Racing" and "Crash Bash".

Alot of people adored the first Crash Bandicoot game and so did I, however after playing it fully a few months back I've realized how naive I was, everyone probably remembers using the super cheat code in order to play any level you wanted but did any of you remember how you saved the game for the first Crash game?, well basically you had to find the three boxes labeled "?" that had a token inside it which would take you to in the bonus round, from there you had to complete the bonus round and once completing it you were allowed to save, if you failed the bonus round by dying you wouldn't get another shot at it and have to keep playing through to the end of the level and into the next level to try out that bonus round and cross your fingers hoping you'd be capable of doing it otherwise, yup you wouldn't be able to save and have to play on to the next bonus round hoping you'd do that one.

Apart from the dodgy saving mechanic some of the levels were just poorly designed, for instance those levels set in the native's village there were sections in that where you had to spin at a wooden device to create a ledge, climb on top of it, jump on that one to spin at the device above the one you were on, jump onto that one and repeat all before the devices change, another "fine" example of this was the bridge levels such as "The Road To Nowhere" in these levels you would progress only by moving forward however most of the bridge was missing and required you to jump with extreme precision from the narrow plank of wood you were standing on to another single piece of wood, trust me guys if you remember this you'll now how difficult it was.

Even though I have pointed out this game's major flaws it doesn't mean that it's a terrible game, nay it is actually still very enjoyable -just not as great as I once perceived it to be- with several interesting settings and obstacles this game is still highly enjoyable and challenging (even though some parts are a little too challenging).

Crash Bandicoot 2 may not seem like it now but for it's time it pushed the ps1 to it's hardware limits and capabilities. Out of the three this one is the most unique game with interesting recurring themes such as city ruins, sewers, back-lands and so on that didn't seem like a random mess like the themes for Crash 1, this was also the first game to introduce the crystal concept as the first one only had gems (but it never told you which levels had gems which resulted in you wasting time collecting all the boxes and not being rewarded for your efforts), had an improved save file system and allowed players to repeat bonus levels until they were satisfied. This game was perfectly balanced for all players, in order to complete the game you'd just have to collect crystals and defeat the bosses this is a challenge for kids but easy for experienced players however the challenge for experienced is collecting the gems.

Furthermore this game featured easter eggs for example in one of the sewer based levels there was a split path, if you decided to take one path in particular you would find yourself in a room full of nitrogen boxes (instant death if touched), seems a bit odd doesn't it, however if you go right to the back of the room and avoid all the boxes the wall that is there is like a hologram as you can jump right through it into a secret area. This game had numerous hidden areas that even teleported you to another part of a different level making every level blend into each other as the majority of them linked up nicely.

For many of you out there Crash 3 was your favorite however the themes for this game, Egypt, Medieval times, Persia and so on have all been a little overplayed in games to the point it can be considered a cliche however the layouts of these levels and the obstructions they present are far from cliche, the idea's and problems the game presents to us in the form of a challenge is highly creative and very enjoyable as it has the right balance, it is not too hard that it is frustrating but not too easy that it is considered boring, it is challenging and like Crash 2 it can be played by any level of experience a player possesses, crystals for children, gems for experienced players and a new collectable which is the relic, a time attack mode that is aimed at children for the first few levels and slowly gets harder as it is aimed at the experienced players.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Early Halloween, SOLOWEEN Review

Well it's been a strange year for the duo Aural Vampire, they have ditched being a duo which lasted 8 years, to being a band by obtaining four new members, changed record labels and changed their genre from darkwave to electro rock and applying it all to their new single "SOLOWEEN".

 Track Listing


Halloween Jitterbug

Back to Halloween

SOLOWEEN (instrumental)

Halloween Jitterbug (instrumental)

Back to Halloween (instrumental)


Since this is the first song since the genre change SOLOWEEN is definitely not the same as the usual type they do, it no longer has that heavy darkwave sound to it, instead it's a lighter version as it is dimmed down with the help of guitars and drums -which is in charge of two of the new members-, however this is not all bad as SOLOWEEN actually sounds brilliant, EXO-CHIKA's style of vocals still remains the same and the music still sounds like a 70s horror soundtrack so the change is not all that bad.

Halloween Jitterbug

Again this piece has really toned down the darkwave sounds as this piece is mainly composed of guitar, piano and drums which again is brought on by it's new members, I was wondering at first if they could make a halloweeny track have a jitterbug vibe but it was made very clearly and effectively that, yes it can.

Back to Halloween

This song immediately pulled me in, it started off with a piano and sounded very merrily which by Aural Vampire's standards is a definite no-no, but I was not disappointing in hearing the start, quite the opposite I loved how they tried to be different and experiment their boundaries with what is and what isn't acceptable for their band, even EXO-CHIKA has changed her vocals every so slightly to make it more cheerful tones but still this is still a very good song in my books.  

My Top 25 Game Soundtracks

Sometimes a game's compositional score can have a great impact on the players emotional state of mind -or the lack of one-, some of these soundtracks can even make it into our everyday music library. It is this post that I will list my favorite scores and why: 

A Shadow Creeping Near

"A shadow Creeping Near" is a soundtrack from the game Clock Tower 3, the game lacks music throughout but when the player is being chased by an subordinate this music is played (not the music for the first two subordinates that give chase). I love the violins in this piece the high pitched and almost screeching like section gives off a brilliant horror atmosphere.

Ambient -Pipe Organ-

This brilliant mess, and clash of sounds comes from Fatal Frame IV, it is played nearing the climax of the game as the player finds themselves climbing their way to the top of a lighthouse. The music comes in gradually in terms of volume when the player is at the bottom of the lighthouse it will be quite to complete mute and as you climb the tower of stairs you will find that the music becomes much louder with each floor climbed. I think it's the memories I have of this game and the pipe organ that plays the melody underneath the long and almost breathy notes is what I've come to admire so much.

Chemical Plant Zone

Firstly how could anyone hate the score for "Chemical Plant" it's brilliant, the fast and almost bouncing dud's that play in the background, the melody and progression of each section, but the revamped version for Sonic Generations did it brilliantly and added an extra oomph to the sharp synthesized chords at about 00:42 in.

Closing Encounter, The

Klonoa next with the music for the final stage, the almost metronomic sound that plays in the background of this piece contemplates the music and helps bring each section together nicely, the choice of instrument is also highly admired as the dream like vibe it gives off is spectacular.

Day of Night, The

Silent Hill  has some of the best music out there, it can make you feel any emotion the composer wants and "The Day of Night" is no exception. The really long notes that blend into the next is beautifully done and a very relaxing piece yet loneliness surrounds it, in order to not make it boring a simple melody is played to finish it off.


It's Dark Cloud with it's contribution "Factory" the thudding of the bass played along side the soft synthetic piece goes really well together and is finished off with a few percussion pieces here and there that really help this score give a relaxed and calm vibe to it.

Fermata in Mystic Air

Another Silent Hill piece here, the static background noise that plays in the music gives it a very alluring effect almost as if a Gramophone is playing it, again this score does a tremendous job at making each long note blend into the next. However unlike "The Day of Night" I do not find this piece to be relaxing or lonely I find it very unique and mysterious.

Fireworks Factory

I love the whole fast thing they did with Spyro 3's Fireworks Factory level, it was a great way to build up adrenaline within players, the speedy bass line filled with a whole heap of various instruments, percussion's and sounds all go great when combined.

Golden Castle

I'm not entirely sure what it is that makes me love this piece, maybe it's the traditional sound to it, maybe it's the plucking like backing tracks in the piece that i admire.

Hikari -Orchestral Version-

I am not a big fan of pieces that use an orchestra of instruments, I find them a bit plain and although I do find them impressive I can never truly admire the piece they played. However "Hikari" is one of the very few (or maybe the only one) that I truly enjoy there are so many sections that this piece utilizes that makes it a wonder to the ears, Utada Hikaru is one hell of a composer even without her tremendous voice.

Hollow Bastion

Another Kingdom Hearts one now, with an interesting opening of scattered notes being flung at you that will entice you to keep listening and sure enough the entire piece is one very unusual score, form the scattered notes to the pipe melody at 00:30 this is one odd soundtrack.

Hydrocity Zone Act 1

I don't know about you lot but Sega has some of the best soundtracks, I'm obsessed with the retro and synthetic sound of 8bit and 16bit music, it's brilliant, I love the chorus of this piece (if you can call it that), the sharp chords of notes that play 00:36 and throughout the following section is a joy to listen to.

Hydrocity Zone Act 2

Hyrdrocity was one of my favorite stages in Sonic history, it is one of the very few water stages that I enjoy, and I loved these ones. The score of this piece was fantastic just like the stage prior, I loved the fast crescendo's that are played followed by a very uplifting crescendo section only to complete the circle and revert back to a very low toned piece. 

Inside the Claw Machine

I am not a fan of video games that are based on movies, however Toy Story was -and still is- one of the best adaptions that I have played, the soundtrack for the machinery level was very nicely done, I love the echo like sound that each note plays for the first section alone side on bass line and nothing else, it's simplicity gave off a very desolate feeling that worked really well for the level.

It's a Golden Show

The menu theme for Catherine is very different from others, most menu themes are very short or repetitive so players can hear it all before they move onto the game, however this piece is far from that, the opening piano made me want to listen to more of the soundtrack and when the jazz tones started to become apparent I was glad and the waiting did pay off, I'm not a big fan of jazz like music but the fact I like this piece is one of the reasons as to why it's one of my favorite game tracks.


Even more Silent Hill still (I did say they had some of the best soundtracks) this piece is beautifully made and Akira knows exactly when there should be a long period of silence before starting the next few notes followed by another few seconds of silence, we're use to music being polyrhythmic but having a piece where it is but one piano playing one note (or chords) at a time with no other notes playing in the backing of the track makes this very different from other scores in gaming.

Mine of Lights

Klonoa again here with "Mine of Lights" I am not entirely sure why this sticks out in my mind to be honest, but sometimes we like things without knowing why. Sorry.

Night of Fate

Last Kingdom Hearts here, this piece just sounds so epic and fast, now who doesn't love that eh? the violins and piano make a great contribution to the piece at appropriate times which helps boost my love for this fast paced score.

Opened Way, The

Shadow of The Colossus now with "The Opened Way" again another piece with violins -why do so many people hate the instrument anyway- this piece is even more epic than "Night of Fate" in my opinion, and with Viola's playing the backing track to this, both work perfectly together and with the best part starting at 00:37 who doesn't love that buildup.


A sad piece now from Hotel Dusk - "Secrets"-, if listening to game soundtracks has thought us anything it is that piano's can create any emotion within us if it has been played and composed correctly and that's all there is to my liking of this piece a well created piece for the piano that is great at stirring an emotion.

Special Stage

Yeah I wasn't lying when I said I loved 8bit and 16bit soundtracks. The special Stage music for Sonic 3 is my favorite special stage score, I love the bouncing like rhythm of the bass, and the very obscure sound the melody plays off, plus the song gets faster and faster ... what's not to like?

Time of Confrontation, The

Viola's now with a truly remarkable style to it, the short sharp notes that are played continuously has a brilliant build up effect to it, and with the organ that is played alongside the viola but with longer notes does actually work really well when it's put together.


Last Silent Hill one and with a piano again, but unlike "Magdalene" this one has more than just a piano to it, it also has a soft synthetic beat and violins -yet again- these three instruments and their melodies all combined make a very lost sense coming from it.

Tsukimori -Music Box-

Ver 1


 Ver 2

Both these pieces are brilliant, I love the simple melody that changes it's pattern ever so slightly at times making it go upwards in pattern to repeating a previous section.

Untamed Heart

Last Klonoa one now as well (and last one overall), this is a deeply relaxing and dreamy score, I love the heartbeat that is played right after the opening sequence it is a very calming effect which is furthered by the following instrumental piece's that complement the score nicely.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Catherine Review

Catherine is a 2011 video game developed by Atlus Persona Team. This psychological horror yet romantic video game is comprised of both puzzles and dating like format it is this unique combination that helps give this game it's uniqueness and is guaranteed to be a game like no other.


Catherine begins with a framing device. It starts off with a woman named Trisha introducing us to a TV show called the "Golden Playhouse" in which we follow our character Vincent Brooks, once introduced we then follow him through the TV screen and take control of him.

Vincent is surrounded in a neighborhood where residents die in their sleep due to some sort of curse, this curse only targets young men, this then spreads as rumors, as people say that those who died fell in their dreams and did not wake up before they landed, and as a result they died both in their dreams and in reality.

Vincent meets up with his girlfriend of five years Katherine McBride who drops hints that they should get married but he tries to put it off, it then fast forwards to him at the bar when a new comer named Catherine comes in and starts talking to Vincent, Catherine turns out to be his type of girl, after the gap we see that Catherine somehow got together with Vincent as she lies in bed with him.

After these incidences Vincent begins to experience rather strange nightmares that he cannot remember in the morning, it is these nightmares that he believes are the same ones all those who have died have also had, however he is not alone in this world as people from the real world have also gotten into this dimension but they all appear as sheep and think they are the only human ones present.

This is all I can really say about the story without ruining it, but even the first half an hour that I have explained is very unique and is enticing you to know more, the story for Catherine does not lose it's grasp on you, once the plot has became interesting to you it will stay like that until you have completed the game.


There are two main parts of this game, the nightmare stages and the bar. When Vincent is in the nightmare it consists of various floors, each floor requires Vincent to reach the top, whereas the final floor for that night will consist of a boss, but it will still involve climbing.

To climb in this part of the game players will have to push, pull and slide blocks to create a stairway to reach higher parts of the tower, however players cannot take all the time they want as the floor breaks and falls away one block layer at a time, the speed of which they fall varies on what stage you're at, some stages will have the floor fall fast while others move much more slowly, the boss is pretty much the same but you will have to out climb them, the bosses will be a lot bigger than you and will attack you doing various things, some bosses require you to stand under shelter, while others may only change blocks to make some unmovable. In between each floor in each night, you will be at a sanctuary where you can talk to the other humans/sheep there, by doing this you can learn new techniques and save some of the people's life's, after this you will go into a confessional room where you will be asked a question and you will have to answer, such questions are:

you're naked what do you do: quick hide/ i have nothing to hide 
you're partner is into baby play how do you feel: I'll try anything once/that's a deal breaker
what's more cheating: an emotional tryst/one night stand

you're answer to these questions will have an effect on the bar that appears at the bottom of the screen, this bar will determine what ending you get.

The second area in this game is the bar named "The Stray Sheep", from here you can get drunk, talk to the other customers and have a choice in how you'd respond to them, play an arcade game which is like the nightmare stages only alot harder and the stage doesn't fall so you can take as long as you need, and also reply to texts, every now and then you'll get a text from both Katherine and Catherine, you can reply to these by simply pressing the action button to get a line of text, if you like it press the action button again to get another line, if not then press back and press action again for a different line, usually you'll have three different options which will chose where the needle moves to on the bar, once you're done at the bar simple leave and move onto the nightmare stages again. 

The game also comes with two other modes, Babel and Colosseum, Babel is consisted of four stages, each stage requires you to climb to a certain level however it will always be randomly laid out so you could keep on playing this and it'll be different each time, this can be played solo, or co-op, Colosseum is a mode for two players, it is every stage in the game and is a race to see which player gets to the top first. 


The cutscenes for Catherine vary in length some only a few minutes while others can be twenty minutes, either way you will hang onto every word that is being said. The game has two styles for cutscenes, the cinematic cutscenes have gone for an anime style of animation and will seem more like an actual anime than a video game (not that that's a bad thing), this style is very rarely used in video games and is really bold to go with it, as for the in game cutscene it uses the same style as the one gameplay uses with 3d characters and environments.



+ great story

+ innovative combination of gameplay

+ brilliant soundtrack

+ can play babel again and it will be different

- lacks a creation kit to make your own towers