Thursday, October 24, 2013

Here are five Halloween games to scare the Tootsie Rolls out of you

Most of us have favorite Halloween candies, TV specials, movies, and beverages (Jones Candy Corn Soda), but not many of us have favorite Halloween video games.

This is mostly due to the fact that - until the past five years or so - many developers didn't think to make a full game devoted to the most awesome time of the year.  The best you could usually find was a suitably creepy horror game... which is still sometimes enough to get you into the holiday mood.

Thankfully, this trend is changing and there's all sorts of Halloween fun and horror waiting for you whether you game on a console, handheld (3DS / Vita), PC, Mac, or even a smartphone/tablet.

Your pal here at Kawaiian Punch took precious time away from catching 'em all to compile a list of the five games guaranteed to get you into a Halloween frame of mind.  Some embrace the Halloween theme, others just try to scare the candy out of you, but all are best enjoyed during the spookiest of late October nights.

Costume Quest

Ok, this one isn't scary at all - but what it lacks in horror it makes up for with a treat sack-sized helping of nostalgia and adorableness.  A roleplaying game at its core, Costume Quest sends you questing all over the neighborhood where you cobble together costumes to unlock new classes.

Each battle relies on a series of timed inputs that makes them feel a bit like a rhythm game, and no fight will be too challenging.  That's by design, however, as the overall point of Costume Quest is to explore the zany world created by Double Fine, rescue your sibling from evil monsters, and - of course - to collect as much candy as humanly possible before the night is over.

Better yet, a faithful port recently came to the App Store which means it can be enjoyed by just about anyone now.

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Windows, OS X, Xbox Live Arcade, Linux, and iOS.
Cost: Between $4.99 (iOS) and $14.99 (Mac/PC/PSN)

The Starship Damrey

Unlike the well-known Costume Quest, this is a relatively obscure title by Japanese game designers Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko.  It drops you into the game without any sort of tutorial or explanation, and leaves it to you to piece the story together as you explore an abandoned and ill-lit spaceship.

Think Event Horizon minus Sam Neill, and you won't be far off of what to expect here.

The Starship Damrey relies heavily on suspense and subtle horror to sell its frightening atmosphere, but it also provides plenty of genuine scares that'll make you jump - so, you might want to strap your 3DS to your hand before playing.

Platforms: 3DS (eShop download only)
Price: $7.99

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows

Corpse Party landed on last year's list of seasonally appropriate games, and that's only because its sequel - Corpse Party: Book of Shadows - wasn't out yet.

Book of Shadows is a continuation of the first Corpse Party's story and it follows the same group of ill-fated teens who are once again trapped in the ghostly halls of the Heavenly Host elementary school.  It also digs deeper into the pathos and horror of the situation to deliver some truly unsettling moments.

Before you dive in, however, you should know that it's still a reading intensive game and is closer to a visual novel than a dungeon crawler.  That said, it should have no trouble scaring the bejesus out of you if you're willing to invest some time in it.

Platforms: PSP, PS Vita
Price: $9.99 (fittingly, XSEED dropped the price of both Corpse Party and Book of Shadows until November 4th making them more enticing to pick up for Halloween)

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

If you have a 3DS and can tear yourself away from Pok√©mon X/Y, it's really hard not to recommend Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon.

More akin to the light-hearted world of Costume Quest than any other game on this list, Dark Moon drops you into the quivering boots of Mario's brother as he's tasked with hunting ghosts and restoring order to the natural (and supernatural) order of things.

Sure, Luigi's Mansion ticks a lot of boxes that every silly Halloween game and TV special should (ghosts, haunted houses, etc.), but it really stands out for both its gameplay and for the plausibility of Luigi as a reluctant hero.

Whether it's the way that he hums along to the music or sighs as he adjusts the weighty vacuum on his back, Luigi feels like a genuine person that you can relate to as he cowers and capers his way through the game.

Bonus: Epic moustache.

Platforms: 3DS
Price: ~$31.00 (at Amazon) to $39.99 (eShop download)

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

There's nothing that screams "Halloween!" about Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but there's plenty in the first-person horror game to scare you silly.

Set in the mid-1800's, Amnesia drops you into the shoes of Daniel who - wait for it - wakes up in a strange place with no memory of how he got there.  Yeah, it's an age-old contrivance shared by two other games on this list... but unlike those games, Amnesia sets the bar pretty high with its scares with the addition of a sanity gauge.

While you can still die from running out of health, you also need to keep an eye on your sanity.  Seeing things that you shouldn't - like horrific monsters - will sap your sanity, as will staying in the darkness for too long. You only need to step into the light to replenish your sanity - but doing so makes Daniel much more noticeable to wandering monsters which he has no way of fighting back against.

The story of Amnesia takes awhile to bubble to the surface, but once it does you - like Daniel - will have a hard timing being alone in the dark for long.

Platforms: Windows, OS X, Linux
Price: $19.99

Bonus Recommendation - The Mirror Lied

Similar to The Starship DamreyThe Mirror Lied is the sort of game that doesn't believe in spelling its story out for players.  You wake up in an empty house and the overall goal is to find your way out, but it doesn't take long before you realize that there's a lot going on behind the scenes.

Also, your character doesn't have a face.  I just thought I should point that out.

By far more unsettling than scary, The Mirror Lied positively shines for its subtlety and disturbing atmosphere. If you allow yourself to get lost its world and let your imagination to run wild, it'll deliver 40 of the creepiest minutes of your life.

Platforms: PC (Windows)
Price: Free!