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17th October 2014

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The Mad Dr. David’s 31 Games of Halloween 2014: Anarchy Reigns

Platinum Games must have really loved the characters of MadWorld. You can’t blame the developer, either, because a lot of those characters were pretty cool and often quite funny. The idiotic Black Baron, his bloodthirsty lady friend Mathilda, and the gargantuan Big Bull Crocker — these are just three of the memorable villainous faces from Platinum’s video game debut. So it makes sense that even though Jack Cayman brutally kills most of the characters in MadWorld, they all return for more in Anarchy Reigns.

Though Anarchy Reigns shares numerous similarities with MadWorld, it’s more of a pseudo-sequel than a full-on follow-up. This is due to the fact that a lot of what happens in MadWorld doesn’t really add up when taking into account the canon of Anarchy Reigns. Characters that were previously killed by Jack are back and stronger than ever. No real attention is put on the events of the previous game. And some of the cast members, though practically identical in appearance, have slightly altered names.

At the same time, Anarchy Reigns almost/sorta/kinda works as a direct sequel to MadWorld. Almost. If you utilize the logic that even enemies have access to extra lives and continues like we as the player do, then the fact that The Black Baron, now called The Blacker Baron, and Big Bull Crocker, now simply named Big Bull, are back once more makes absolute sense. Hey, why should human players get all the extra lives?

Anyway, now that that bit of confusion is out of the way, let’s talk about why Anarchy Reigns is actually a good game to play during the Halloween month. The first thing that stands out is the visual aspect. The city of Altambra not only has a dystopian vibe to it, but it’s also sort of dark-industrial. It almost has a sci-fi anime vibe to it. Speaking of which, pulling off special moves and super-crazy-rapid-bloody punches is totally something you’d see in an anime.

Aside from the bleak urban environments, the enemies in Anarchy Reigns are quite frightful. You’re not encountering ghosts and goblins, but there are plenty of massive beasts for you to take on. At one point, you even battle a kraken. The post-apocalyptic setting and mutant baddies all help create this surreal, futuristic world that’s not exactly jump scare-terrifying, but still rather morbid and disturbing.

Anarchy Reigns isn’t traditional horror by any means. In fact, as I alluded to previously, it’s more sci-fi than horror, really. Still, you can’t take away the fact that there’s a nice monstrous aspect to it fitting for Halloween. Plus, it’s a pseudo-sequel to MadWorld, a game that wore its horror and splatter film influence on its sleeve, so it deserves a mention.

Previous entry: MadWorld

Tagged: 31 Games of HalloweenHalloween 2014Video GamesAnarchy Reigns

13th October 2014

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The Mad Dr. David’s 31 Games of Halloween 2014: MadWorld

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Before Platinum Games boosted its reputation with games like Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the studio made its debut with the Wii exclusive MadWorld. Released in 2009 and published by Sega, the game saw a dramatic shift from the otherwise family-friendly appeal of Nintendo’s little box. What we got instead was a dystopian splatter game set in a comic book world reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Sin City.

MadWorld stars Jack Cayman, a big, bulky dude with a chainsaw for an arm who loves raining down justice — so long as that sweet, sweet justice rain is crimson and can be acquired by ripping through flesh and vital organs. Though there’s an overarching plot line about a super virus, the government, and the mayor’s daughter, the real story revolves around DeathWatch, a brutal bloodsport that thrives on chaos and debauchery.

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Naturally, you enter the game show, which features hilarious play-by-play and color commentary. The whole idea of sponsors backing DeathWatch and countless fans tuning in to the bloody show adds a surreal, hopeless vibe to the universe that MadWorld is set in. It’s unsettling and sinister, and to think of people willingly participating in this event is downright morbid.

One of the best areas in MadWorld is Mad Castle. Comprised of three levels, this stage is based on classic horror monsters and is host to some of the game’s raddest moments. The first level throws zombies, werewolves, and even the Grim Reaper at you. The second has you taking on a monster named Frank (obviously based on Frankenstein’s monster). And the final level pits you against vampires. It’s a who’s who of awesome horror villains perfect for the month of October.

Aside from Mad Castle, the gore in MadWorld is certainly Halloween-appropriate. Though the game did receive some criticism due to its violence, it’s really cartoon-like in nature. Think of it less as a gruesome product and more as something along the lines of a splatter film. You’re cutting dudes in half with your chainsaw, chucking freaks into spikes, and smacking baddies upside the head with a spiked baseball bat. One of the Bloodbath Challenges even has you throwing enemies into a dart board. It’s all very lighthearted, but there’s no denying that countless buckets of blood are spilled.

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The coolest thing about MadWorld is easily its graphics. The game sports a black-and-white cel-shaded look that’s really stylish and adds a comic book flair. The only thing that has any color is the blood, so you’re constantly decorating the otherwise monochromatic screen with splashes of red all over. It’s quite delightful to witness.

MadWorld isn’t Platinum’s definitive game, and it’s not exactly the best beat ‘em up out there, but it’s still a lot of fun to play, and its themes make it a nice quick ride to go through this month. It’s also kind of cool as a novelty, because it was one of the rare games on the Wii that just didn’t give a fuck, and you have to admire that.

Previous entry: Hunter: The Reckoning

Tagged: 31 Games of HalloweenHalloween 2014MadWorld

9th October 2014

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The Mad Dr. David’s 31 Games of Halloween 2014: Hunter: The Reckoning

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There’s something really dumb yet stupendously awesome about Hunter: The Reckoning. Released in 2002 for the Xbox and GameCube, the game followed the crowd combat design of Gauntlet and allowed up to four players to team up via local co-op. The game dealt with some pretty nasty demonic themes, but it actually managed to make it all very silly.

Hunter is all about the supernatural. You’ve got ghosts, spirits, zombies, skeletons, monsters, and even a freakin’ possessed teddy bear. It gets really lighthearted almost immediately despite the game sometimes trying to be serious. One of my favorite moments in the game is when the aforementioned teddy bear becomes possessed inside a church. It immediately grows in stature and totally claws a little girl’s parents to death … right in front of her! That prompts one of the main characters to say, “Not here, you bastards!” Good stuff!

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Gameplay is fairly simple, relying on hack-and-slash action and isometric camera angles, which eliminate the need for split-screen play. Aside from your main melee and magic attacks, you also come across machine guns, shotguns, and other disposable weapons. These don’t last long, but they do offer a nice added damage boost, so it’s important to make each shot count.

There are only a handful of levels, and these are pretty much what you’d expect from a game like this. There’s a lengthy graveyard level, a rooftop level, a sewer level, and so on. If you dig a little deeper, you can come across nice bonuses like hidden weapons, health, and magic.

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The main criticism directed toward Hunter was its short length. You could definitely get through the entire thing in an evening, which makes it a fun, quick play, especially if you got someone else to enjoy it with. That said, there’s no denying that as fun as it is, the game ends way too soon. I guess that’s to be expected. Given the overall lack of gameplay depth, things would probably get boring if this was some sort of 40-hour epic. The short lasting value is really a double-edged sword in this case.

If you love the goofiness of Halloween, then it’s safe to say that Hunter will meet your needs. It’s the kind of game you load up when you’ve got a friend (or three) around and you just want to shoot zombies and monsters. It certainly makes for a fitting title to play on Halloween.

Previous entry: BloodRayne Betrayal

Tagged: 31 Games of HalloweenHalloween 2014Video GamesHunter: The ReckoningGCNGameCubeXbox

7th October 2014

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The Mad Dr. David’s 31 Games of Halloween 2014: BloodRayne Betrayal

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After taking a look at a not-so-good action game last time, I’ve decided to restore a bit of positivity with a surprisingly great action game. BloodRayne Betrayal caught me completely off guard — partially because I hadn’t heard of too much praise being bestowed upon the series, and partially because it’s quite devilish.

Developer WayForward takes the helm here, turning the series into a 2D hack-and-slash as opposed to the 3D action format that previous entries were known for. The result is a game that many have compared to Castlevania. Though I’ve never actually played that series myself, I can see how some players would make that comparison based on looks alone.

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Speaking of which, Betrayal looks absolutely stunning. WayForward utilizes a slick cel-shaded style and wraps it around a spooky, gothic theme. Castles are dark and eerie. Enemies are disfigured and grotesque. And the ambiance is haunting and doleful. There’s also a lot of blood — like fountains of it. Killing enemies usually results in an explosion of red not unlike over-the-top gore-fest splatter flicks of the ’80s and ’90s.

The mood of Betrayal, which elegantly walks a fine line between sexy and campy, combines with the heavy action gameplay quite blissfully. Rayne can tear enemies apart and perform acrobatic attacks that look really great. Bosses are massive and difficult to deal with, and they add to the retro challenge of the game. In fact, there are two sequences at the end of the game that are just a touch too brutal. Not that a little challenge ever hurt anyone, but the difficulty seems a bit unfair toward the end, especially since the game is never easy to begin with.

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At the time of its release, Betrayal received a mass of both positive and negative reviews. The game is neither critically acclaimed nor universally panned, making a bit of a conundrum in the action genre. Obviously, the best way to know if this game is for you is to actually play it. Personally, I had a blast with it for the most part. The dark, ominous style coupled with the gory, blood-soaked action makes it a worthwhile play during the Halloween season, especially if you’re into hard-hitting gameplay set in a beautifully morose world.

Previous entry: Splatterhouse (TG-16)

Tagged: 31 Games of HalloweenVideo GamesHalloweenBloodRayne Betrayal

7th October 2014

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The Mad Dr. David’s 31 Games of Halloween 2014: Splatterhouse (TG-16)

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When the original Splatterhouse launched in arcades in 1989, it made its mark by delivering slasher film-quality gore on an arcade cabinet. The game starred a hockey mask-wearing protagonist named Rick who bore a striking resemblance to Jason Vorhees. After his girlfriend is kidnapped by an evil scientist, Rick dons a demonic mask that grants him superpowers in order to save her.

Splatterhouse would eventually make its way to the TurboGrafx-16, though it wasn’t nearly as impactful anymore, and it was considerably toned down. This version is notorious for its watered down violence and odd use of a pink mask instead of the original white hockey mask. Maybe Namco thought it was too close to Friday the 13th. Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to take Rick seriously with that goofy-ass pink mask.

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The problem with Splatterhouse is that it’s not a whole lot of fun to play after the initial couple of levels. This is basic beat ‘em up gameplay. You’ve got standard punches and access to weapons such as bats, machetes, and shotguns, but there’s never a true sense of variety because all of your attacks are terribly simple.

On the plus side, the game’s look is pretty good. While the bloodiness of the original has been awfully toned down, there’s still this 1980s campground slasher vibe to it that adds a nice hint of nostalgia. The setting alone isn’t enough to make the game any good or worth playing, but it’s at least fun to look at.

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Something that stands out almost immediately about Splatterhouse is the ridiculously cheesy soundtrack. The music is over-the-top and just plain goofy. The soundtrack is not only stupid, but it’s actually quite funny and almost laughable.

While Splatterhouse on the TurboGrafx-16 is hardly worthy of recommending, an offbeat entry in the series titled Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti was released on the Famicom in Japan in 1989. That game’s not only fun due to its light RPG elements and enjoyable combat, but it also boasts plenty of pop culture references, including parodies of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and The Exorcist, among others. If you can, play that game instead.

Previous entry: Dead Nation: Road of Devastation

Tagged: 31 Games of HalloweenVideo GamesHalloweenSplatterhouse