Joystick: Scary music and nice gamesPublished 10:31am Thursday, October 24, 2013
By Trey Mewes and Eric Johnson
All Hallow’s Eve is a great holiday for gaming, given the bounty of horror games around. Yet the holiday spawns more than its fair share of fun, lighthearted inspirations in gaming, and there’s plenty of ways to get in the spirit of the season without resorting to scares from games like “Fatal Frame,” “Resident Evil,” “Slender” or “Silent Hill.”
If you’re looking for some frights, there’s always some monstrous video game music to put on during Halloween. Here’s a look at some of the most inspired games and music of the season.
Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
This Tim Schafer creation didn’t get enough attention when it first hit shelves in 2005, but it’s grown like a fine wine in the minds of many gamers ever since. The game centers around children with psychic powers learning to master them while dealing with monsters, mad scientists and more.
‘Mario Kart Wii’
Mario Kart is scary enough — the intense difficulty has taught many grown-ups and children the rage and frustration of blue shells, and has caused many a blood feud as a result. Yet despite the swear-inducing survivalist racing, there’s plenty of spooky races to find in “Mario Kart Wii.” The SNES Ghost House track is evil, and both versions of Bowser’s Castle are ominous and more than a little tough. This is a great family game to play, but the negative emotions this game causes could well create a “Poltergeist”-like tear in space and time.
The ‘Professor Layton’ series
DS, Android, iOS
Another family-friendly romp through scary terrain, any of the “Professor Layton” games are noir-inspired and can deliver some safe and simple puzzles while providing an interesting story. The games involve the eponymous protagonist solving a mystery of some sort, which can take him through some frightful environs at times.
‘NIGHTS Into Dreams’
Sega Saturn, Playstation 3,
Xbox 360, PC
This haunting game is a treasure from 1996.
The game revolves around two children whose nightmares are spawned by an evil wizard overtaking a dream kingdom. The only being capable of defeating the wizard is Nights, a rogue nightmare who helps the children fight their fears. The game is adorable and can be found on the Playstation Network or Xbox Live Market, and a sequel was released in 2007 on the Nintendo Wii.
The ‘Disgaea’ series
Playstation 3, Vita
One of my favorite tactical RPG series, the “Disgaea” series is a comedic look at various demons struggling to gain control of the Netherworld in their particular universe, with teenage-themed hijinks and somewhat inappropriate jokes abounding.
Despite the comedic, often over-simplified plot in these Japanese role-playing games, the really scare part about “Disgaea” is its intense mathematical grinding — You can level up characters to 9,999, reincarnate and start over from level 1 repeatedly, and boost your stats into the billions.
“Disgaea Dimension 2,” the direct sequel to the very first game “Disgaea,” came out earlier this month.
Sounds behind the scares
In horror games, these soundtracks take on a second life. A truly good soundtrack can add tension to an already troubling decision — to enter the room or not?
Here are five choices for horror game soundtracks that will chilll you to the bone.
“Silent Hill” series
I’m beginning with this selection because I have something to get off my chest: I have not played one single minute of any of the 10 installments. Until “Silent Hill: The Room,” the “Silent Hill” series had primarily been a PlayStation exclusive and I don’t have a PlayStation. As games began to cross platforms, I simply failed to catch up. But I dig the story and eventually came to love the soundtracks composed and written by Akira Yamaoka. Yamaoka hits a nerve with heavy guitar riffs and screeching and grinding industrial cuts (you try to explain it any other way). It didn’t stop there. Songs on the soundtracks were given even more emotional depth when sung by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.
A horror first-person shooter, the “F.E.A.R.” series has made a pretty good run combining Call of Duty and Resident Evil. A frightful run to stop and evil and twisted ghost of a little girl, the “F.E.A.R. 2” soundtrack contained fast paced synthesizers and a slower-paced, almost warped-tinge to your attempt to stop Alma from destroying the world. The music was well timed throughout to coincide with moments designed to make you jump at the unexpected or those things just out of the corner of your eye.
“Bioshock” itself was a different game altogether in comparison to other first-person shooters. Taking place in the ruined undersea utopia of Rapture, “Bioshock” used string instruments almost as another weapon against the player. Frantically played, often a single violin would do more to scrape your nerves than the situation. An added and beautiful touch was the inclusion of songs from the 30s and 40s like “If I Didn’t Care,” by The Ink Spots, and the aptly included “Beyond the Sea,” by Bobby Darin. The happy-sounding songs added a surreal feel to what would normally be a horrible situation.
“The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim”
All right, settle down. I’m fully aware this is not a horror game, but allow me a couple sentences to explain. First, the massive score for the game fits perfectly the scope of the game itself. Expansive and epic, the soundtrack provides that perfect backdrop to the fantasy game. Where the horror comes in is during the dungeon crawling. The dungeons, or a great deal of them, are crypts with the walking dead, and the music that plays during these points of the game are dreary and tinged with dread and says, “let’s get the loot and get out….NOW!”
“Clive Barkers Undying”
Almost forgotten, the very idea of a game with horror-writer Clive Barker’s name on it should clue you in on where your going. The game, for its time, was a quality first-person adventure if directed by Barker. The music is haunting and fits in great with the idea of hunting an evil seemingly older than man.
Is there a horror soundtrack you think I missed? I want to hear about it. Drop me a line on Twitter @EricJohnsonADH and let me know what I should give a listen to.