Worst Horror Games #1 – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

worsthorrorlogohalloweenjekyll

★ 1 Star

Genre: Horror / Platformer
Platform: NES
Publisher: Bandai / Nintendo
Published: 1988

Summary – Basically the plot of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but extremely bastardized.

Overall Thoughts
Infamously considered one of the most garbage mainstream games ever made, what could have made for a fascinating moral concept in video games was wasted on this steaming, turd-crusted instrument of torture. I wouldn’t recommend this game for the most hardcore and merciless of masochists. Jekyll and Hyde would make the perfect Christmas gift for someone you loathed.

This is the floor of the barrel. Jekyll and Hyde is the only game on my “Worst” list that I have no semi-enjoyment of or positive feelings towards at all. All of the others are flawless masterpieces of game-making in comparison, no matter how picky I was about their faults. The cover art for this game is kind of neat, and that’s where the good qualities come to an abrupt stop.

While it’s true that you can’t expect as much from older games, especially older horror-themed games, as you can the newer ones, there’s nothing to like about Jekyll and Hyde for any reason. There’s not even a charming nostalgia factor. It rubs its butt, unashamed, over the complexities of Stevenson’s novel and over the eyes of the unfortunate player.
The graphics aren’t pretty, the gameplay is frustrating and devoid of all traces of fun, and the mechanic of switching between Jekyll and Hyde is not only wasted, but broken! Sometimes you will randomly die in mid-stride just for playing as Hyde! The entire mess sucks. It sucks objectively, it sucks subjectively, and it sucks eternally.

There’s a popular and hilarious episode of Angry Video Game Nerd, that you’ve likely heard of or seen, chronicling the horrors of what it’s like to play this dung heap in-depth, and if you have a little time to spare, I’d totally recommend looking it up on YouTube as well. I mean, it’s essential to get the full Jekyll and Hyde Experience™.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Seeing as it’s based off of a classic, yes, but not done this way! Please, anything but that!

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 1
Art and Design – 1.5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1
Fear Factor – 0
Music and Sound – 1.5
General Score – 1 out of 5

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Worst Horror Games #2 – Siren

worsthorrorlogohalloweensiren

★★ 2.5 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Sony
Published: 2003

Summary – Siren follows a large cast of characters who find themselves trapped in the remote, strange village of Hanuda, Japan, which has come under a mysterious curse causing it to be enveloped in darkness. The villagers, mutated and corrupted by the curse, have all become hostile zombies.

Overall Thoughts
Again, I want to point out that this list is not objective, but sorted by my personal preference. (It’s also leaked far past Halloween, sorry about that!) Some members of the team behind Silent Hill created Siren, so for that reason alone I hate to place it near the top of the “Worst”, but I really hated this game. It’s like they took the worst qualities that Silent Hill had and amplified them – weird controls, a hard-to-follow plot, invincible and incredibly annoying enemies, etc. If I had to summarize this game in two words, I would call it “mercilessly confusing”.

Siren feels hostile, and not in a good way like horror is supposed to, but more like it’s actively punishing you for not being psychic and already having figured out what to do. I got a similar feeling with The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, if you’ve ever played that. Unlike this game, though, Majora’s Mask made up for its frustrating parts by being otherwise engaging and rewarding. You don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything playing Siren, but dug yourself deeper into frustration. There’s not any one part that I can use as an example, because it’s a lot of moments spread throughout.

The one thing I truly did like is Siren‘s concept and design, which uses themes of Japanese occultism and seems to be inspired by the works of Junji Ito, notably “Village of the Sirens”, one of his best short stories. The shibito, a village of cursed humans that serve as the main enemies, are incredibly creepy looking, and the fact that they relentlessly chase you down can be scary, at least until it becomes annoying. A unique mechanic is used to where you can peek through the eyes of the shibito in order to avoid them, which I thought was creative and bizarre. It’s not often you get to see through the eyes of the zombie that’s after you in games like these!

As good and creative as the design is, especially in regards to body horror, I hate to say that the game itself remains unfair, cruel and often incomprehensible. Silent Hill had its obscure moments, but there was a sense of logic and a natural path to its dreaminess that doesn’t exist here. Siren does have a fanbase who insist there’s something special about it, and maybe there is, but I don’t appreciate having my patience threshold constantly tested to find it. Will I give it another chance? Someday, maybe, but truthfully it is more interesting to read about than play.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
I honestly want to say “no”, but I suppose there’s potential. The themes of the story can be quite fascinating when dissected outside of the game, and do remind me a lot of Junji Ito or H.P. Lovecraft.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 2.5
Art and Design – 4
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1
Fear Factor – 2.5
Music and Sound – 3
General Score – 2.5 out of 5

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A Note on Haunt Me to Sleep and MHz

If you’ve kept up with this blog, you know the troubles I’ve had with Haunt Me to Sleep. A lot of them are unexpected personal delays, as I’m the only one working on it, such as having to recover from getting sick and drastic schedule changes with work and family. So, it probably will come as no surprise that I’m resetting the publication date until next year. There’s no set date or month, it will just come out when it’s out. The good news is, you can request a review copy ahead of time by messaging me on Goodreads, if you want one. They’re free, as long as you give it a rating or review in return, and I’ll email it to you before it’s published.

It was largely wishful thinking believing it would come out this year, but I’d rather it come out late than bad, and I need time to clean up the writing, so that it can be at its absolute best quality. A late book is only late until it’s out, but a bad book is bad forever. (I’m pretty sure that’s a paraphrase of a real quote, but I forget who by.)

MHz was the last poetry book of this year, but it only has a Kindle version for the moment. I’m working on the paperback and ePub version now, so that it’ll be more widely available. I also intended for those to come out much sooner, but sometimes things happen that get in the way, and I honestly had forgotten about it for a time. You can get the Kindle version on Amazon if you want, it’s not expensive. Just wanted everyone to know about these things! 🙂

Poem – “Difficult Places”

Difficult Places

In the corner, a famine of mind
Patiently waits for the situation to change –
The dreams he wastes creep up the walls,
Delusional strings of white datura metel
Creep into the holes in his soul and decay
All the pleasures that he keeps there,
Like murky water spoiling worn-out books

We pass by him slowly, calculating
Whether or not we noticed him dying

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Rarest Japanese Books in English

Ultra-Gash Inferno

“Rare” is really a state of mind. You could say that the scribbled page I tore out of a notebook last night was “rare”, seeing as I’m the only one who owned it. You could say that a rock you found by a river that looks like Gumby’s head is “rare” because there are no other rocks shaped like it. Most people wouldn’t call those things rare, however, because there is no real demand for them. They’re one of a kind, sure, but have no particular value.

The ironic thing is that something NOT being in high demand and not selling in the first place is usually what CAUSES it to become rare, in the case of books and other media. Something niche and obscure may suddenly come into fashion, or be sought after by collectors years later. Personally, I hate when this happens with media. I just want to watch or play or read whatever, and not spend hundreds of dollars to do so. I can’t help but think:
“Well, why was nobody interested in it when it was new? Don’t treat it like gold now when you ignored it on purpose then!”
In my opinion, there are no books worth paying triple-digit or higher prices for. None. It would have to be pretty damned special, because anything less than that would be a massive disappointment and probably a bad investment.

That being said, I have a penchant for Japanese books in translation. I love the prose and themes of Japanese literature, but I’m not so fluent in the language, which presents a bigger obstacle than you’d think when looking for new books to read.
Japanese books have had significant trouble breaking into the mainstream in English-speaking countries. Why is this? For one, the most desired books tend to be in somewhat niche genres like psychological horror, and for two, written Japanese is incredibly difficult and tricky to translate into English. Translators will tell you that it’s often more art than science.

Translated Japanese novels and manga have seen a recent upswing in popularity, but in the 90s and early 00s, there were many unfortunate books to which the English rights were lost, floating in the copyright abyss to this day. These are the rarest ones that I know of. They’re not always expensive, but can be stupidly hard to find. Keep in mind that this is only the case with the English editions. Japanese copies are a lot more common, though that’s not very helpful if you’re not able to read them.

Rare translated books are difficult to research, as is why exactly they became rare and valuable in the first place. Could be that they didn’t sell well, are very sought-after, or that everyone who bought it is just determined to keep their copies. To make the list, the book must only be available in print – no eBooks – and must currently be out of print. They’re in loose order from the easiest to find and cheapest to the hardest and priciest. If you know of any that should’ve made the list, feel free to comment below! Continue reading “Rarest Japanese Books in English”

Poem – “Always in Mourning”

Always in Mourning

When I grow up, all I want to be
Is the rift in the devil’s logic
Nothing to trip me but the stairs to hell
That I’ve always been playing on,
Always in mourning as if whoever I love
Is always in the throes of dying

All this self-inflicted torture,
Reliving a trauma that never happened,
That never existed on the plane of existence,
Yet it is easier to swallow than any joy,
All the memories that matter

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Worst Horror Games #3 – Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within

worsthorrorlogohalloweenctgh

★★ 2.5 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror / Puzzle
Platform: PlayStation
Publisher: Human Entertainment / Agetec
Published: 1998

SummaryAlso known as Clock Tower: Ghost Head, Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within follows a student named Alyssa Hale, who grapples with her split personality, an evil, murderous man named Bates. After Bates kills three of her classmates, Alyssa tries to uncover the reason why Bates exists in the first place, leading her deeper into the dark history of her biological family, whom she never knew.

Overall Thoughts
I have a soft spot for this game, despite its many blatant, glaring flaws. It is objectively poorly planned-out, unfair and confounding with its puzzles, and many things about the central plot make no sense. All three fans of the Clock Tower series agree that it’s the weakest entry, though it does have a few positive things to offer.

The “Jekyll and Hyde” mechanic switching between the good Alyssa and the evil Bates is extremely creative. Bates will commit necessary crimes that Alyssa won’t to move the plot along, while Alyssa is better at problem solving. The soundtrack is a surprising electro-horror gem, with several fun and tense tracks – particularly the villain themes, like “Shiver Zombie”. The voice acting is actually phenomenal, which surprised me even more. Older horror games, well… they aren’t known for their stellar voice acting.

Sadly, these are the two main draws of Clock Tower II. The plot is interesting, but dotted with holes and useless characters. The graphics are passable. Horror elements often come across as silly because of the blocky textures, but this is true of most 90s horror games. The puzzles literally require you to be psychic, or ridiculously persistent with trial-and-error, and you will die often, mostly due to unforeseen, seemingly random events that no one in their right mind could have predicted would happen. An infamous example is the samurai suit, an innocuous piece of furniture that if you make Alyssa examine, will trap your game in an early bad ending. The game does not hint to this whatsoever. There are multiple instances like this. Having Bates kick the crap out of a possessed little girl is pretty funny, though.

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/clocktower/images/6/6f/BatesSparta.gif/revision/latest?cb=20160327011636

My nostalgia with Clock Tower II goes way back, so I can’t help but like it, even though it is pretty terrible. The American version of the cover has always fascinated me, for some reason. There’s something that drew me into this image as a kid, and I always wondered what it was about.

CT2 art

Clock Tower II does not know what it wants to be, and tried to mash up the subtle, occult tension of Clock Tower with the sci-fi horror of Resident Evil in the poorest, weirdest way it could have. I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you’re a collector.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
If the faults and holes in its plot were patched, then sure. The Clock Tower series as a whole has a lot of potential as a series of novels, especially as they remind me so much of the style of horror novels that was popular in the late 80s and early 90s, with female protagonists having to outwit a villain or stalker of some sort.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 3
Art and Design – 3
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1
Fear Factor – 1
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 2.5 out of 5

Thanks to the Clock Tower Wiki for the animation.
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Thoughts on the Goodreads Choice Awards

I’ve been on Goodreads for almost four years now, and the design of their book awards ceremony has consistently been a disappointment. It’s not an issue with the books themselves. Granted, there seem to be a lot of the same authors, but what’s popular is popular. That’s beside the fact. My issue is with the lack of variety represented. Several major genres are completely missing, or melded into categories that they either have no chance of winning in or do not belong in.

Currently, there exists two young adult (YA) genre groups – fantasy-sci-fi and realistic fiction. YA horror gets squashed into fantasy, even though it does not belong there, and there is no mystery option unless one happens to make its way into realistic fiction. In other words, young adult horror has little chance of winning in its category, because it will be pushed out by the massive amount of fantasy books published each year, and mystery is virtually nonexistent.

There are no defined categories for LGBT fiction by itself, Christian fiction, indie books, or erotica. These are popular, well-read genres, and I believe it’s unacceptable to hold an all-genre awards ceremony and disregard these, especially given the fact that people have been petitioning for over two years to get LGBT fiction on the list.

What I do like about the Goodreads Choice Awards is their variety in nonfiction. They have pretty much all of the nonfiction genres covered, from biography to science to history and beyond, but this just enhances the fact that their fiction selection is so sparse. Where are these major genres, and what would it hurt to include them? Enough books are published a year in these missing categories to have plenty of contenders, so what is the issue here?

Best Horror Games #5 – Haunting Ground

besthorrorlogohalloweenhground

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Dark Fantasy / Survival Horror
Platform: Playstation 2
Publisher: Capcom
Published: 2006

SummaryHaunting Ground follows Fiona Belli, a young woman who finds herself locked in a sprawling castle after a car wreck which kills both of her parents. The castle has very few inhabitants, but they all seem to know her already. She soon learns that they are the last of her father’s estranged and deranged family members. Worse yet, they seem to have their own sinister intentions for her. With the help of the White Shepherd, Hewie, whom she rescues from the abuse of the groundskeeper, Fiona sets out to escape the castle.

Overall Thoughts
Haunting Ground deserved better than it got. There was essentially no publicity or critical love for this beauty of a game when it came out, leading to copies of it being rather rare. Oh, sure, you can get reproductions if you want to play it, but a real copy is hard to come by, despite there being a pretty big cult fandom for it (or perhaps because there is a fandom…)

I like that Fiona’s outcome becomes karmic by how well you treat her dog, Hewie. If you choose to be mean to him, you’re likely to receive a horrible ending, but if you treat him nicely, he’ll help you out. But like a real dog, Hewie is often stubborn and easily distracted, so it’s better not to rely on him too much. The gameplay is similar to Clock Tower, its spiritual successor, in which you are trying to avoid a series of “stalkers” who pursue you as you navigate a huge castle. It’s pretty simple and functional, so let’s talk about the design and characters, which is where Haunting Ground really shines.

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/clocktower/images/d/dc/FioHew1.gif/revision/latest?cb=20150828133511

The design is intricate and savory to the eye all around. Though it does show the graphical flukes common of PS2 games, you won’t notice them unless they’re pointed out. The disconcerting soundtrack by Seiko Kobuchi adds a lot of tension to the atmosphere. I don’t know what genre you would label Haunting Ground’s soundtrack, as it’s like no music I’ve ever heard, exactly. The soundtrack is an unsettling hybrid of classical music, electronic dissonance and hellish horror noises, such as guttural groaning and inhuman voices. It is on YouTube, if you want to take a listen for yourself.

I want to talk about the story in detailed analysis at some point, because who doesn’t love a good analysis? But I’ll make it brief for now. If anyone ever questions whether video games in the traditional action-and-goal style can be considered “art”, you should show them Haunting Ground. Actually, you could show them any of the good ones I’ve discussed, but this one in particular is breathtaking, and the story is outright disturbing.

I feel like Haunting Ground is one of the few video games that requires a trigger warning for its take on sexuality. It’s not explicit, per se, or even a very violent game, but the themes of abuse, birth, stalking and image issues could be really unsettling, and there’s a creepy, erotic vibe to most of the characters. This is not a “scary” horror game, but it does its damnedest to make you uncomfortable. Depending on your personal sensitivities, this could actually make it scarier than your average horror game. Continue reading “Best Horror Games #5 – Haunting Ground”

Book Review – The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey

The Unstrung Harp

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Dark Comedy / Fiction
Publication Date: 1953 / 2000
Publisher: Bloomsbury

“Even more harrowing than the first chapters of a novel are the last, for Mr. Earbrass anyway. The characters have one and all become thoroughly tiresome, as though he had been trapped at the same party with them since the day before; neglected sections of the plot loom on every hand, waiting to be disposed of; his verbs seem to have withered away and his adjectives to be proliferating past control.”

As writers, our beloved craft is often the catalyst of our madness. Our novels drive us crazy. If only it were as simple as writing it down, but even that defies us sometimes. Our stories lurk around in our heads begging and nagging constantly to be written, but when we have the time and materials to do so, they latch their claws to the dark corners of our minds and refuse to come outside, no matter what we try to tempt them out with.

I’ve always gotten the feeling that people who don’t write have no way of understanding this difficulty, even if they read, and especially if they work in publishing. Publishers, ironically enough, seem to have a history of undervaluing and not understanding the very people who keep them in business. It’s cathartic to see the troubles of writing reflected in such a funny, charming book, with Gorey’s signature lovingly detailed, Victorian artwork. Though it can be a little bit depressing how close the trials of Mr. Earbrass and his weird novel that refuses to come out right are to reality.

The Unstrung Harp is a self-aware, very true-to-life portrait of the demon that is writer’s block, among other curses bestowed upon someone just because they were born with the urge to tell stories – pitiful publishers, peer envy, bad criticism, fake criticism, cruel deadlines, the whole gamut. One has to wonder if that’s what Gorey himself had gone through with his early books, and makes me thankful that the indie press has blossomed into what it is.

(Even if it comes with the downside of people trying to pass off shoddily copy-and-pasted Wikipedia articles as actual books.)

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Poem – Ginger Root

Ginger Root

Tell me your treasury of terrors,
I’ll heal you to keep you sleeping
What floats in the stratosphere of the heart
Can never hurt you if you’re never there,
Where they skulk in the endless pit

Nestle down in the belly of the planet
And I’ll make you safe for the first time

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Inktober 2019 – What’s in My Sketchbook? (#1)

This is the first year I’ve actively participated in DeviantArt’s “Inktober”, a challenge which entails that you begin and finish as many drawings as you can manage throughout the month of October. The purpose is namely for relaxed, unfettered practice – to stop hyper-correcting and judging your own work, and just getting it finished. I filled about a third of a palm-sized Moleskine storyboard sketchbook with small drawings, all sketched and inked in roughly four hours or less.

Here are some raw snapshots of some of them. Fair warning that these were taken on my phone, and are unedited, so still retain pencil marks. I’m a miniaturist at heart, so these drawings are also tiny, which made them harder to snap. One square is about the length of my thumb, if not shorter.
I corrected the photos enough to where the drawings were clear, though. I did think it was kind of cool how a phone camera sometimes reads the faces of drawings as human faces and focuses in on them. I will upload high quality, clean versions of all of these to my DeviantArt later.

inktoberraw1

Sailor Moon on the top right! The top left drawing looks very similar to the illustrations I did for Loverboy. I prefer to work on miniscule scales such as these for book illustrations, too. Why? Well, the details of small drawings remain intact no matter how you resize them. While large-scale illustrations are often amazing, a lot can be lost when they are squeezed down to fit into a standard 5×8 or 6×9 novel. Continue reading “Inktober 2019 – What’s in My Sketchbook? (#1)”

Happy Halloween! A 2-Year Anniversary

Apparently, I’ve had this blog up for two years today, on Halloween of all holidays! I didn’t start writing until December, which is probably why I’d forgotten. Thanks to you all for the follows, comments and support! Sending big love to you all out there! Especially those that have stayed through the weak periods and shifts in theme, thanks for your understanding. I’ve gotten somewhat away from consistent formats, but it’s good to mix it up, I think.

Starting out, I didn’t honestly think that anyone would read a blog if I wrote one, but I’m glad to be wrong. It’s still a small blog, but I feel I should be able to keep going indefinitely with it. Being an indie writer, I’m aware of how possible it is that my work might never grow beyond its niche, but with each passing year there is an easier market and budding audience for indie works, so there is the chance that it could become something great, as well. You never know.

I always try to encourage people if they bring it up to go through with what they, in their heart, desire to create. Even the worst case scenarios as far as creative mediums go are not that bad, and there’s little that requires sacrifice. Writing and blogging are not expensive at all, art is not expensive if you choose decent but low-cost materials. Reading can be expensive, but that’s probably my own experience with impulse-buying thrift books!

I have a pretty severe handicap with ADHD, among other issues, and that doesn’t stop me. The disorder destroys cohesive strings of thought, and makes writing harder than I feel it should be, sure, and sometimes it does drag down my work or delay it by months, but if I didn’t have that outlet, I guarantee the issues would be worse. So don’t settle for hurting yourself if you have the opportunity to get it out. Many don’t, so if you were given the drive by birth, please don’t waste it waiting around. You don’t have to give up anything but your own fears and stubbornness, and we’re better off without those, no? Have a safe holiday, and don’t take strange candy from strangers!

Best Horror Games #6 – Layers of Fear

besthorrorlogohalloweenlyfear

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Psychological Horror
Platform: PC, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Aspyr / Bloober Team
Published: 2016

Summary – Layers of Fear focuses on a painter who is determined to finish his Magnum Opus, no matter what. The painter walks throughout his enormous, deserted house collecting strange “ingredients” to add to his masterpiece, all the while tormented by the horrors within his own paintings.

Overall Thoughts
Behold, the devil’s art project! If you’ve always wanted to see the worst of a creative mind’s obsessive nature, this is the best way to do it without actually going insane.
I love classical art – impressionism, gothic art, surreal art – whatever its nature, I love beautiful art, and I’m sorry if I accidentally jump-scared anyone with the title image! She’s beautiful too, in her… um, decomposing, meaty, salmonella sort of way. This is a project focused on the dark, cruel side of classical art.

Developed by an indie team from Poland, every inch of Layers of Fear is hellish yet impossible to look away from simultaneously. It’s too appealing to the eye, and the dark secrets that you can find (or cause yourself) are too appealing to the mind. There’s so much to explore, and it seems like every corner hides some fresh derangement flourishing in the dark, or in bright, Argento-esque bursts of light, paint and blood. The hauntings and delusions are so realistic, too, that it could be a movie.

Image result for layers of fear

Layers of Fear is a potent, actually scary experience that makes use of psychedelic horror effects and the unexpected to infiltrate your waking nightmares. It’s not like other horror “games”, in that there are no real enemies or game mechanics, it’s just you and your eyes trapped in the head of a mad painter who’s possibly a murderer, or even a serial killer. One of the most creative parts I found, was watching the “Magnum Opus” unfold as he collects the parts to make it (which are body parts, by the by). Depending on the route you take morally during the course of exploring the mansion, the Magnum Opus could appear grotesque, as it does above, or beautiful. It can even appear neither, but ordinary and with a scathing expression on the woman’s face.

While it has a more vibrant, grotesque character than a lot of horror games I’ve seen before, it gets the psychological horror the medium is known for down to a T. Silent Hill 2 is known for its somber depiction of depression, and I think this one is comparable to like, the schizophrenia and ADHD spectrum.
I found some of the weirder imagery to be familiar, as intrusive thoughts (common with ADHD, anxiety and OCD, among other conditions) tend to have that horrible sort of flavour to them. I wouldn’t call it a relatable game, per se, like Silent Hill – unless of course, you prefer to paint with human blood! – but the comparison to mental illness is interesting to consider.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Yes. Layers of Fear seems to take heavy inspiration from classics, not solely paintings, but novels as well, notably The Picture of Dorian Gray, where a man’s self-portrait becomes grotesque and horrifying as he becomes a more horrible person.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4.5
Art and Design – 5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4.5
Fear Factor – 5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 4.5 out of 5

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Good Indie Horror Reads

As a side note, I apologize that the rest of the Harvest of Horror reviews didn’t show up in the last five or six days. I had to redo some and fell sick, so was a little too out of it to schedule them back into order. The video game reviews might leak a bit past Halloween, just if you happen to wonder why they pop up. I thought about “back-publishing” them, but eh. There’s no point in that.

Anyway, I love indie books. So much that I’ve written some, even! I appreciate that we are able to live in a world where writers don’t have to be constricted by publishers, and can truly let their whims and ideas free. To be fair to the book industry, mainstream publishing in literature is nowhere near as corrupt and manipulative as say, music or movies, but it can be quite dismissive towards original and off-the-wall ideas, so I like to delve into indie books when I get the chance. These are some indie horror books I’ve read recently that are worth mentioning.

The Bacon Room by Leonard Warren
Genre:
Splatterpunk / Short Stories

The Bacon Room isn’t perfect, but there’s a keen, dark sense of humor and potential from a new author. I got this book for free on a whim, and don’t regret it, though I normally end up disliking splatterpunk and “extreme” horror. Several of the stories have really creative premises, such as the title story, where a woman is kidnapped by a group of people who plan on feeding her piece-to-piece by a demon. The demon talks to her in her sleep and they start conspiring to get revenge on the others. I thought this was a really cool idea – you don’t often see the human sacrifice and the demon they’re being offered to work with each other. Continue reading “Good Indie Horror Reads”

Poem – “The Mercury Drops”

The Mercury Drops

And the fever refuses to subside

I have engulfed the tundra,
An iceberg of blood and plasma
Enormous bones lost beneath the water,
Too small for the palm of the angel

Ten minutes on the seafloor
Are a hundred repetitions of the cycle
Where the world ends as it is born
The nightmare of a burgeoning apocalypse

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Worst Horror Games #4 – Alone in the Dark 2008

worsthorrorlogohalloweenaitd

★★★ 2.5 Stars

Genre: Survival Horror / Action
Platform: Playstation 2, Xbox, Wii, PC
Publisher: Atari
Published: 2008

SummaryAlone in the Dark (2008) follows paranormal investigator Edward Carnby, who awakens suffering from amnesia in a building that is gradually collapsing. After escaping the building, he finds that the entire city is in a destroyed, apocalyptic state due to strange, supernatural fissures forming through it.

Overall Thoughts
I’m going to make this brief, because to be honest, Alone in the Dark 2008 isn’t a godawful game. It has a significant fanbase, and I understand why, but I don’t personally enjoy it even remotely. This list is pretty subjective, so it only made the “Worst” list, like Silent Hill Homecoming, because it’s one of my least favourite horror games. I specifically only put mainstream console games on this list, because if I hadn’t, 99% of the “Worst” would be Steam or PC horror games, which are often made by tiny teams with no budget. I don’t feel it’s fair to count those.

Love it or hate it, Alone in the Dark 2008 was always destined to be plagued. It was a loose tie-in with a film that’s often called one of the worst movies ever, with a whopping 2.4 out of 10 on IMDB, which in turn was a loose adaptation of an early 90s cult classic horror game.
Now, I don’t have a vicious opinion of either the movie or this game. I don’t especially like either, but I don’t think they’re deserving of the sheer, seething, foaming-at-the-mouth hatred that’s thrown at both of them. At their worst, I think they hit at just below the threshold of “tolerable”.

Alone in the Dark 2008 did see an improved re-release, but as far as the original, I found it extraordinarily frustrating. For positives, the graphical design, soundtrack and puzzles are quite well-made and there are some great anxious, scary moments. I like the Lovecraftian themes and apocalyptic settings. Oh, and the monsters! The monsters are supremely creepy!

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/aloneinthedark/images/e/e0/Subway_Monster.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20180108035747

There’s a real sense of mass destruction and impending danger that could’ve made for a great experience, but the story wasn’t enough of a draw for me to force myself through the rapidly shifting, disorienting, and sometimes glitchy gameplay though. There was a function to skip chapters, which I found myself doing often enough that I completely lost track of what the plot was supposed to be.
In short, I wouldn’t call Alone in the Dark unbearable, but it is difficult and annoying to the point of not being fun. What differentiates a video game from a film or a book (and apparently this shouldn’t have been a film, either) is the interactivity, and if that’s no good, the positive qualities it might have all fall apart.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
Maybe..? The Alone in the Dark series was inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos, so I suppose it could.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 2.5
Art and Design – 3.5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 1.5
Fear Factor – 3.5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 2.5 out of 5

Poem – Comatose Awake

Comatose Awake

Comatose awake, dead alive
Retreating into the clouds that bore us,
The windswept plain of a childhood
Passed like water through the palm’s grooves

A signal delayed, a synapse broken
Forgetting how to function on a day
If you suppose it’s sorrowful, consider
That maybe bliss of the fog is better

Copyright ©2019 S. M. Shuford
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Best Horror Games #7 – Luigi’s Mansion

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★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Adventure
Platform: Gamecube, Nintendo 3DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Published: 2001 / 2018 (Re-Release)

Summary Luigi, of Super Mario Bros. fame, receives a mysterious letter telling him that he’s won a mansion. In reality, the mansion is not the beautiful one depicted in the letter, but a haunted, dilapidated mansion in the remote woods. According to a scientist who lives nearby, the mansion appeared there on its own several days ago, and the ghosts who inhabit it have kidnapped Luigi’s brother, Mario.

Overall Thoughts
Luigi’s Mansion is a perfect example of horror that could appeal to anyone. It’s not gory, so it’s alright for the kids, but is entertaining and offers enough challenge for adults as well. This game is nearly twenty years old, believe it or not, but it’s aged astoundingly well. The unusual, creative blend of cartoonish characters and elaborate, almost Victorian settings is still pleasing to the eye. I’ve played Luigi’s Mansion about a hundred times and never had any technical problems or glitches, either.

The aesthetic and gameplay reminds me an awful lot of a softer, more colourful version of the first Resident Evil, which also takes place in a massive, sprawling mansion full of hidden rooms and traps. There are no weapons at your disposal, though. It’s not like they’d work on a ghost anyhow, so it’s just Luigi and his Ghostbusters-style vacuum cleaner.

The story is kind of basic, like a lot of Super Mario Bros. games, but the fun comes from exploration and defeating ghosts rather than plot. One thing I love in particular is the bosses. Every now and then Luigi will encounter the ghost of a human, who are much tougher and smarter than the Boos and smaller, blobby ghosts that show up around the mansion. These ghosts have to be tricked somehow into revealing their weak point so they can be captured. Usually, it’s something that has to do with their personality, which you’re left to figure out for yourself through clues in the ghost’s room, as well as notes and even on occasion, a conversation with the ghost.

File:Henry and Orville Hide and Seek.png

As a kid, I always loved Big Boo’s Haunt on Super Mario 64 and thought it was the creepiest thing, so of course it’s great to have a full-length game based on that design. I would also consider the sequel, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon to be pretty great, but I don’t have enough experience with the sequel to make a separate post about it. Both are extremely fun games with a light survival horror feel to them.

Would It Make a Good Novel?
I don’t think so, actually. Some horror games would, but there’s not enough linear plot to work with here. I feel like Luigi’s Mansion would get pretty repetitive if you tried to translate it into a book. A graphic novel might be serviceable.

Final Rubric
Story and Characters – 4
Art and Design – 5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4.5
Fear Factor – 3.5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 4.5 out of 5

Upcoming Books, Frustration and News

This year’s been a right beast, hasn’t it? Don’t you think so? In a way, I wish this span of time were a literal beast, that way I could just kill it. Put the horrible, mutated thing out of its misery. I’m more than ready for 2020, in other words.
This year has tortured me like clockwork, too. Say, if I promised you today that I’d begin, I don’t know, writing a novel tomorrow, and I was truly dead-set on writing it, something out of my control would be thrown in front of me to ensure I couldn’t possibly go through with what I promised to do. The whole year has been a constant torrent of that. After Halloween, I did want to start finishing my backlog of book reviews and ARC books, because it’s gotten quite hefty, but I can’t guarantee I will, at least not judging by the way it’s gone for the past several months.

I have an updated schedule for the books I’ll be publishing. You can find the ones I’ve got out on Amazon or Smashwords, but also several other eBook stores. Pick your favourite mainstream store, they’re likely there. Most of them are free, except for the two that are for the time being, exclusive to Amazon. I’m working on getting them international as well, but I might have to wait awhile because of the Kindle Unlimited policy. Anyway, here are the things that I can guarantee, for sure, are coming out in the next year or so.
Haunt Me to Sleep initially was supposed to come out on Halloween, but there were about five or six stories I ended up having to finish or rewrite, and I didn’t want to rush them out for the sake of a holiday I barely celebrate, so it’s back to it’s original planned date of December or possibly January.

Haunt Me to Sleep (Fantasy / Horror) – Winter 2019-2020
Atlantis Drowning (Poetry) – Summer 2020
The Gutterpunk Blues (Poetry) – Summer 2020
One of three short novellas – 2020-2021
Drift From Electric Green (Dark Poetry) – Spring 2020
Watercolour Hearts (Horror / Fantasy) – 2020-2021