Love, Hate & the internet: Abusive Fandoms

A few days ago, a friend told me “fandoms are weird” and I told him people were weird, but now I find myself agreeing with him.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released a couple of weeks ago, and as you know I absolutely adore it and I enjoy every minute of my time with it. I not only like the game but I’m glad it received so many high reviews and that the sales have been great. I’m a giant Nintendo fan so I like hearing about them doing well.

But not every reviewer has the same standards or tastes, and every opinion is different. Reviews are opinions, educated opinions, sure, but experience and personal preferences play heavily into the text of a review and even more so the score. I’ve said it before that while I do argument my reviews and mention what I disliked and why, the score is absolutely subjective. It’s why you get scores of 6/5 sometimes, and lower or higher scores than the average. Continue reading Love, Hate & the internet: Abusive Fandoms

The Casting Perspective

Last week my dear friend Timlah spoke of the amazing community we found and keep building with blogging and how the act itself helps us come closer to our goals, to build something greater. Recently I’ve found another outlet for my projects, another community to build, one that is sometimes pickier and even hostile compared to the blogosphere.

Of course, I’m talking about broadcasting and livestreams. As you may know, because I’ve mentioned it a few times, I’m now broadcasting Monday to Friday under my LawfulGeek tag, though still very much a part of The Mental Attic.

I had streamed in the past, on and off for about a year or so, but much like the site, I decided to make a bigger push this year, especially with Extra Life on the horizon. I’ve been slowly building up the viewership and follower-base hoping that’ll lead to more donations. But on the way, I’ve discovered how much I enjoy broadcasting and meeting new people in the audience. I’ve had nights where I couldn’t stop laughing when Timlah decided to act as a DJ for my channel and just put on the weirdest songs out there.

But if you’re going to stream, if you’re going to open yourself up to broadcasting, there are things to be aware of, things to consider before you make the leap—or after, if you follow my lead. Continue reading The Casting Perspective

Review: The Charnel House Trilogy

What do you get when you cross a surreal, nightmarish, Poe-like story with Jim Sterling’s soft yet creepy voice? You get the Charnel House Trilogy of point & click adventure games.

Genre(s): Adventure (Point & Click)

Developer: Owl Cave

Publisher: Mastertronic

Release Date: April 2015

Played: Main Story (3 Episodes)

Platforms: PC

Purchase At: Steam

Good:

  • Fabulous characterisation.

  • Phenomenal gothic horror.

  • Strong sound design.

Bad:

  • Too short, feels like a prologue.

  • Shallow gameplay.

Review

I heard of the Charnel House Trilogy from one of its voice actors, Jim Sterling, one of the video game critics I follow. I purchased the game during a very good sale and only recently got to play it.

It’s difficult to say what the Charnel House Trilogy’s plot is. It’s a grim story of loss, and obsession. It’s about pain and how difficult it is to let go and just how easy it’s to spiral when dealing with these emotions. But there’s also something sinister about it all, about the old train the characters are travelling on and its passengers. At times, it feels like a nightmare—or hell. There is a lot going on that we don’t know and ultimately don’t find out, as the trilogy is just the prologue to a larger story.

Scratching out the ex...seems right!
Scratching out the ex…seems right!

Let’s take it from the start. Alex Davenport is preparing to take a trip to Augur Peak Island, where her friend Kat, an archaeologist’s assistant, is working on some ruins. Alex is still recovering from a messy breakup, and wants to take the trip to find herself. But before she can leave she needs to get the train tickets. Thankfully, Rob, her neighbour, a mild-mannered man and close confidant, has the tickets and brings them over and offers to be there is Alex needs to talk. After he leaves and before Alex does so as well, she receives a call from the hospital. Her father just died. Alex walks to the nearest window and says goodbye, if you can call it that, before picking up her bags and walking out.

At the station she meets Dr. Harold Lang, an archaeologist heading to the same destination. To help with his boredom Alex gives him her first edition copy of the Charnel House Burial, a pulp horror novel by Louis Cassel, a writer from the same island, Augur Peak.

Everyone grieves in their own way, Alex goes Noir!
Everyone grieves in their own way, Alex goes Noir!

They board the train and that’s where the first episode ends, the other two dealing with the strange experiences they each have on board of old Gloria. I won’t talk about them as I wouldn’t want to ruin the experience.

What I will say is that the Trilogy ends with the promise of a future game that will continue where this one left off, making this a very short prologue to perhaps a greater experience. Having said so, the storytelling for the three episodes is phenomenal and when it gets creepy, it does so brilliantly. I was shivering at times with the Charnel House Trilogy, especially during the second and third episodes.

For such a short game I wouldn’t have expected deep characterisation, yet Alex surprised me with how well-rounded a character she is. She’s experienced loss, and at the start feels it again, yet she marches head on with her plans and faces every situation, even if they turn weird, creepy or downright scary, especially at the end of episode 3, when her neighbour makes another appearance. She understands what’s going better than most, and accepts the the situation. I loved her as a character.

Harold Lang on the other hand is just as good though he doesn’t so much face the situations and persevere as descend in a spiral of despair. And through conversations with the bartender, Floyd, you can tell there’s a past there with alcoholism and a partner. I would’ve liked to know more about him but I feel I learned a lot in the short time I was with him.

And perhaps that is the greatest accomplishment for The Charnel House Trilogy, how it makes you care and empathise with characters you’ve met for only a few minutes and whom you won’t likely see ever again. It draws you in and makes you part of the story, and in doing so offers a rich gothic horror experience.

Best line in the game!
Best line in the game!

Gameplay is shallow, the pointing and clicking just there to see and go from point A to point B. There are a few puzzles but they’re few, far in between and quite simple. There’s really no depth to them, but they serve as pauses in the horror storytelling. It’s clear they’re not the focus of the game, as the title seems more akin to a visual novel than an adventure game. Storytelling’s the most important thing here.

In terms of visuals, it’s another Adventure Game Studio title, with the pixelated sprite style I’ve come to call Wadjet Style. They look good but I always feel they stand in contrast of the beautiful environments, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The character portraits are also fantastic and rich and colourful.

There's some darkness in Harold's past it seems!
There’s some darkness in Harold’s past it seems!

Sound design is one thing I love about The Charnel House Trilogy. There are of course melodies, but they’re somewhat subdued, adding just enough mood to the experience, but letting the situations themselves carry the shock and horror. The one thing that stands out is the occasional dissonant tone in the background, a grating yet eerie sound that keeps you on edge as things escalate. It’s a fantastic use of sound to help the horror. Voice acting is superb and I have to say Jim Sterling did a really good job as Rob, being both thoughtful and mild-mannered and downright creepy by the end of the game—as I expected him to be right from the start!

Conclusion

The Charnel House Trilogy might be short, and it’s really short but it’s undoubtedly one of the finest point & click gothic horror experiences in the world. I just wish we’d had the entire story and not just this prologue.

TMA SCORE:

4/5 – Exceptional

Stuff I like

Aside from Gaming and Writing and complaining about my crappy weeks, I have other things I enjoy, and I wanted to show my support to them by talking to you all about them.

Miracle of Sound: One of my obsessions lately. Miracle of Sound is one of the many and varied and highly entertaining stuff the Escapist Magazine has to offer.

Gavin Dunne aka Miracle of Sound composes and performs (mostly) videogame inspired songs, with cool videos using gameplay, promotional or in-game cinematic footage from the source material.
Gav’s music is fantastic, from a multitude of games and movies to original songs (by which I mean not inspired by anything but his own spark of insanity), and in pretty much every genre and style you can imagine, from the strangely alluring “Khajiit Like to Sneak” from Skyrim (the first song I heard actually) to the classic rock “My Iron Skin” inspired by Iron Man 3. Gavin isn’t afraid to mix things up and take risks, such as mixing native chants in with his Assassin’s Creed 3 songs, or collaborating with other singers on his Bioshock Infinite song, to switching musical styles and tones on the fly on the same piece, the aforementioned Bioshock Infinite song being a perfect example. Continue reading Stuff I like