Friday, December 17, 2010

Alone in the Dark, it is.

Fear of the dark. I have a phobia that someone`s always there. That`s what Bruce Dickenson said about being alone in the dark in 1992, exactly when Infogrames launched the epic video game "Alone in the Dark".

It`s also exactly when I got the game from our neighborhood`s game store, which proudly sold solely pirate (meaning illegal, not jolly roger) games. Back then, on the Asian side of Istanbul we had this game store - The guy was recording games to floppy discs from his extremely illegal hard drive. He got himself a Mustang through the investments of people like me.

Anyway, I played this game, and played once more. Honestly, I usually don`t play games twice, especially the ones with a plot (as opposed to racing, soccer etc). And I never ever play again, if the game has a horror aspect to it. See, that`s my thing - I`m a jumpy guy, I get easily scared in horror games.

Above is the reason why I played the game twice: It was my first game that I could choose one of two characters! Edward Carnby, or Ms. Emily Hartwood. Nothing changes depending on the character, but still!!

The game is set in 1924 in Louisiana. A classic, yet cool haunted mansion story. It`s mainly an adventure game with some fighting aspects built into it. What you fight against are zombies, other supernatural enemies, rats etc. But the main trick of the game is the changing camera angle. 

The camera angle changes as you move within a room, adding a cinematic feel to the game. Items and characters in Alone in the Dark are three-dimensional, rendered upon a two-dimensional fixed background. A good example of adapting to a more realistic world! Mixing polygons and 2-D prerendered background images required a fixed camera angle back then, which designers used to their advantage to create dramatic scene setups appropriate for a horror-themed game.

Similar to Veil of Darkness, one of the scare elements of the game is the lack of technology - poor sounds and irrecognizable faces of monsters. Aahh, sweet times. 

Have you ever been alone at night
Thought you heard footsteps behind
And turned around and no-one's there ?
And as you quicken up your pace
You find it hard to look again
Because you're sure there's someone there...fear of the dark.

images by

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Panzer Misery

This one comes for my brother, who sacrificed his most wonderful years of youth and freedom to little mean hexagons.

It was mid-to-late 90s, (which means either 96 or 97, I don`t know why I wrote it like that) our 486 SX-25 endured a serious fire in our living room, which turned everything in the room into ashes and rubble. Well, except our Samsung PC. It`s 14-inch screen turned into a black can of soda, the floppy drive boiled and squirt itself out the case. But the PC, the motherboard and everything attached to it, survived. So did we, thanks to the best dog in the world, Archie.

 *not actual PC

I guess the fire wasn`t the best thing for our family`s finances, we had repaired only the fundamentals of the PC. As a result, it turned into a toaster looking thing, pitch black - and the best part: it did not have a on/off switch. We turned it on by plugging, and off by pulling the plug. Exactly like a toaster!

Panzer General came into our innocent lives at this very troubled time, when we had very few luxuries. The game was developed in 1994 by SSI, which was acquired by Mindscape, which was then acquired by Mattel, which is now owned by Ubisoft. Ha!

Panzer General is the book definition of turn-based strategy, staged in WWII. Sounds like a cool idea, maybe if finishing it didn`t take as long as the war itself. 

The formula of the game is very simple: pick a side (axis or allies), develop a strategy (just for fun, it won`t work anyway), and attack your enemy one tank (plane, cruiser or soldier) at a time. The game then multiplies, divides, takes derivative of the 15th permutation of your army`s strength and decides whoever wins that attack. At the end you probably lose that battle for a reason you don`t understand, because the AI in the game is a nasty, mean whore which manages to surprise you every time.

I remember my brother playing the game for 14 hours straight, inhaling the soot out of the computer`s loud fan. But the problem wasn`t the hours, or the smell of 15000 matches burning at the same time. It was the miserable fact of losing the game 90% of the time, since the game`s AI is...well, see the previous paragraph.

Talking about this game is like telling you about a bus that never hit you. My aim is to give you happiness and joy because you never had to play this game and live in peace, probably never aware of this. 

Let this nightmare of hexagons perish in the lost pages of time, just like the world war II itself. Amen.