Unholy Trinities #3 – Indie Horror Games
by Adam Love
Hello my frenzied game sharks, welcome to this week’s Unholy Trinities. Word of the day is Thalassaphobia, which is ancient Greek for “Fuck the Ocean”. Now I have nothing against the ocean, it’s water and salt. I’m mostly water and salt also, Match made in heaven right.
The ocean has THINGS in it. Weird things. Ugly, bitey nasty, poisonous hell beings. Some are literally jaws full of ever replenishing teeth, with skin made of teeth armour, others are nightmare faced anger blobs, and some just happen to be dining table sized armoured spiders. And just when you thought they could only damn your flesh, GUESS AGAIN!
So without further ado, here are three games from the goddamn ocean.
1. Blood Bath Bay – Suits ‘N’ Nukes
(Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water…)
Blood Bath Bay is our first entry in this endeavour. You play as a man in an old fashioned diving suit, armed with your trusty spear gun. The world above has succumbed to some deadly plague that revives the dead to feast on the living, and the cure is in….a snail. A whole bunch of them actually, 30 to be exact. It’s breeding season for the snails though, so they are using their luminescence to get a mate, which is good for us because it makes them visible in the ocean of blood.
(Who lives in a blood reef at the bottom of a trench? TERRIFYING ZOMBIE FISH!)
Let’s get into it, the art style is great, it’s not photo real and it doesn’t need to be. I was immediately sold on the blood red water and the sparse visibility. It almost has the feel of an episode of Scooby Doo, with the heavy cell shaded lines around the character and enemies.
(I hope these spears are silver-tipped)
The enemies themselves are nightmare fuel up to eleven and despite their cartoony look every single one of them wants to hurt you. Just like the real ocean. The gameplay is simple but satisfying, except for the dodge roll which may as well not exist.
(Look at its hollow eyes; it kills not because it wants to. But because it must.)
You will get scared, at first I was ready to lambast the game for cheap jump scares. But as I played more I realised slowly that there was a deep tension at play. I spotted a shadow at the outer limits of my view, and spend the next five minutes looking for it. It teased me almost, every now and then it would just graze my perception and when it finally came at me I had panicked so much that I was facing the wrong direction.
It’s a good game, just don’t expect greatness from the graphics.
(Oh Junji Ito, you have a lot to answer for…)
2.Submerged – Northwood Games
Our second entry into oceanic underwear soiling is Submerged and I’ll tell you now these guys can do scary and funny (see the credits). You awaken in a riveted steel panelled tube, the common man calls ‘em submarines and I call it canning food for Cthulhu. The atmosphere starts off initially a little bland and corridor..y, but these guys know how to slow burn you, they had me going like a rotisserie chicken after about five minutes.
I leave my room, but only after I notice an oxygen mask…. Oh no I thought, babysitting my avatar. But alas babysitting was more like reminding an elderly relative to take their pills, it never interfered that much with my enjoyment of the game. The submarine is a bit beaten up and everyone has been replaced with red smears.
Oh and there appears to be something or someone communicating with you through the breath fog on the inside of your mask. They don’t write nice things, they tell you to, amongst other things, RUN!
Early on the game plays like a heavily atmospheric puzzle game, most of the conundrums are around vague notes and disappearing doors. And the trails of strange blue liquid that appear. After you find a specific note, the game enters its element, increasing in tension and scare factor at breakneck speed.
The ghost voices are your friend and when the real enemy appears, they sound as scared as you. I’m trying to remain vague because it’s such a good little game and it has killer credits.
3.MISTFortune Directors Cut – VRGamers
This one was way out of left field, I didn’t think I was going to like it, I downloaded in amongst the bundle of games I often do to cherry pick three of the best. MISTFortune tells the tale of a lone protagonist fighting an unbeatable enemy in a hellish confined space that might be a space craft or maybe a boat, that’s a niggle for another day because you need to know about it. You regain consciousness surrounded by fallen comrades, and a plethora of PDA’s with cryptic notes on them all alluding to IT!
This IT, appears to be defeated by suction and the notes say use the vacuum cleaners. After you make your first mistake, turning the electricity back on, Mr. Mist appears from a previously blocked door. Mr. Mist as his name implies is a sentient mass of toxic mist, and he’s probably the best voice acted character I’ve ever met in a horror game. He’s incredibly soft spoken and his voice is soothing and at the same time horrifying, Like Willem Dafoe reading you a bedtime story.
From the get go, Mr.Mist announces that you are the last one left and despite his desire to kill you, he seems to absolutely relish in the chase. From time to time he can be momentarily stopped by the vacuum devices around the place, but this amounts to some drawl sarcasm on his end and very little actual reprieve.
Never once did MIST fortune throw a jumpscare at me, everything was tension and slow, creeping terror based on the eventuality that I would meet a misty demise. If at any point you allow Mr.Mist to get close to you, you will die, if you take too long figuring out a puzzle, you will die. There is no pause, no repreive and the counter continues even during the reading of notes. Everything is tension and pressure, narrated by the suavest cloud in existence.