Rattle and Ramble: The Skeleton Question

Skeletons. If one were to believe the rumours, they are both spooky and scary. They’re also a fairly steadfast companion for the average person; a beneficial tenant in Hotel You. Wave your hand in front of your face. Your skeleton just said hi. But skeletons, what’s the deal with ’em? Skeletons just don’t seem to get any love these days. Anyone versed in classic horror or the fantasy genre knows of skeletons quite well. They’re typical “fodder” enemies in videogames and role-playing games, and they used to be used for frightening moviegoers back in the day (the Original House on Haunted Hill, anyone?). While they’re still used in basically every fantasy world ever, their presence in recent years has become a bit of a joke (Army of Darkness comes immediately to mind). Strange that the reanimated calcified cores of a human would become so banal. Funny how life works, isn’t it?

My question, however, is if these skeletons are so readily able to reanimate, what exactly would that mean? What would be the limits? Continue reading

Continuing The Bipedal Question: On the Other Thumb

A quick follow-up to the last post, is another peculiar anatomical anomaly that came to my attention a few years back, and I’ve yet to find a suitable outlet for. So here it is.

Catgirls. Anime catgirls. Everyone has an image of this classic anime cliche (more properly called called neko or nekomimi which just means ‘cat’ or ‘cat ears,’ respectively), so ubiquitous to the anime image, that you can never see a single piece of Japanese animation and know about it.

But stop and think about it for a second. What’s odd about it? What does, or doesn’t work? Continue reading

The Bipedal Bias: Why So Many Playable Humanoids?

Humans are a predictable bunch. Two arms, two legs, head atop the shoulders, front-facing eyes, opposable thumbs. Basic stuff. Same goes with most vertebrates. Us with a backbone to speak of will never have more than four limbs, excepting species with tails, but even then, it’s only so much of a “limb.” When you pull back even further, most creatures have what’s called bilateral symmetry. That is, you could draw a line somewhere down/across the middle of the body and both halves would be effectively equal. Again, that’s most creatures, excepting things like sponges, sea stars, amongst a few others. It all comes down to growth, evolution, and a bunch of factors I can’t adequately explain or understand.

Keeping this in mind, let us look to our own traditions of fantasy and fiction that begin to break some of these scientific limits: Centaurs, Pegasus (flying horses in general, “pegasuses” doesn’t work), dragons, fairies, etc. Or looking to horror, Lovecraftian shoggoths and Elder Things. The Hutts from Star Wars. The list is expansive and continues far from here, but I shan’t go on and make a list nobody needs to read. Continue reading

Living in a Shade of Itself: Review of Half-Life 2 Mod “Grey”

A crowded bar bustling with the sounds of clinking glasses, and the murmur of a sea of voices. A jukebox blares out some nameless rock song no one is listening to. All sounds are muffled and muted through the thin walls of the bathroom where you’re washing your hands, when suddenly: silence. Absolute, screaming silence. Where did everyone go? Were you blacked out in the stall when they closed the bar? This is where Grey, the eponymous protagonist of the Half-Life 2: Episode 2 horror mod Grey begins.

Released in 2012, the mod took an ambitious route of using many new models, animations, and textures than the standard Half-Life 2 library, and that much alone is worthy of some mention. It’s pretty well-polished, and the developers “Deppresick Team” certainly put good effort into their game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all work.

It’s certainly a short game, so it’s not too much of a commitment to try and beat. The endgame stats told me I beat it in just over an hour, not including deaths or reloads, so if you have anywhere from 1-3 hours to kill one evening, you’re in luck. Continue reading

A Machine for Pigs, A Feast for the Mind

I’ll come out and say that I’m an avid fan of horror games. At times, it’s a position a little difficult to explain, as with any particular passion, but it’s just one of those things that’s like an onion: many-layered and often drives people to tears.

The genre had a bit of an identity crisis around the early 2000’s, when the last truly great titles came out, and since then, things have moved much more towards an action-y kind of deal. Creativity seemed to be lagging in a serious way, so most of the titles became either trashy, buggy messes or trite, tired rehashes of ideas a decade old.

In 2010, tiny developer Frictional Games released Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a game that just pushed just about all of the right buttons, ticked all the prerequisite boxes, and largely reinvigorated the survival horror genre. It was intense, wonderfully written, atmospheric, and terrifying. There are no guns, no weapons with which to defend yourself, so even the slightest hint of a creepy-crawler just forces you to bolt in the opposite direction, praying there will kindly be a cabinet to quietly soil yourself in until it passes. It wasn’t without flaws, but blah blah, that’s a different discussion for a different day. Continue reading