Wow I've been absent, haven't I? Again. Again, again, in fact. You know what I need? Someone with a hammer and chisel knocking on my door every 9pm and asking 'have you posted on your blog today, Christopher?' And if I say 'no'... well, I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
So, Frictional Games had a good old post about recommended plays/watches/reads for this, the darkest and most devilishly delightful of holidays. Both the post and the accompanying comments have a great selection of material if you're looking for dread and disturbing nightmares. One of the comments put me on to a new (to me) game which I thought I should share with others, and which reminded me of another little-known game well worth playing.
Below I give you a few of the lesser known examples of excellent horror-based games, all available for free!
The Marionette (thanks to Dylan for recommending it) is the first game by Team Effigy, a doing-it-for-the-love-not-money group of friends. Released back in late '09, Marionette is a point-and-click adventure where Martin, a sculpture, finds himself trapped in a series of places where 'time and space meaning nothing'. Someone or something seems to want to use the world to send him a message and with the help of the mysterious Guillaume, Martin must find some way to escape back to his life and the reality he knows.
Marionette has especially fine graphics and musical accompaniment. Both are highly detailed and evocative, deftly manipulating emotions and amplifying the experience of Martin's journey. You can listen to the music online or, if you donate to the team, you can download the score.
Team Effigy and volunteers are currently working (slowly) on a fully voiced version so it's worth keeping an eye on their blog. Check out a preview of the voice work here.
The White Chamber was released back in the Summer of 2005 by the now-defunct Studio Trophis. It's another point-and-click, this time about an amnesiac protagonist on an abandoned space station. But this is less System Shock, more Silent Hill as she, and you, soon discover. Blood on every surface, everyday tools rusted into the worktop, bloody limbs scattered throughout and it only gets worse from there. Why is she here and what in hell happened?
Playing through it, I realise White Chamber's greatest asset is its ambient soundtrack. The thrum of unseen generators, the horribly suggestive thumps help root the sense of place, which is all the more powerful given you really do not want to be anywhere near things making sounds like that.
At first the anime-style characters seem to jar with the environments. While the backdrops are hardly naturalistic, it doesn't immediately mesh well with crazy purple hair or such but this is a relatively minor niggle.
General gameplay is made of logical puzzles (make sure to read all item descriptions if you get stuck) and several imaginatively designed console screens. While there are very few, possibly only one, truly deadly scenarios, the choices you make throughout play will impact the ending and decide which one of four you get. Even playing it again just now, knowing the solutions, I ended up with a less than stellar result. The effects of your actions are not always immediately apparent but that would be giving the game away.
And one which I think more of you might have hard of: Don't Look Back by Terry 'VVVVV' Cavanagh. An in-browser flash game platformer inspired by the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. It's not as fiendishly hard as you might expect but challenging enough and its mechanics directly echo its narrative, which is nice.
You know, I'm not going to talk too much about that one. Just go play it. Oh, and avoid the comments until you've finished - you know, spoilers.