Tag Archive: fear


Notch Main

She runs through the darkened forest with wild abandon. Tree branches slash her face as twigs snap savagely against her ankles, fleeing with hardly a glance towards the ground. Her lungs burn. Her eyes piercingly sting with each tear ripped out by the wind. As she falls to the ground, she wishes with all her might that things would end differently…

In its own corner of the world, a small island village quietly waits for the world to remember – or perhaps, forget – that it exists. A once bustling tourist location, it is all but deserted of visitors from far off lands; only leaving its dwindling number of citizens to carry on its legacy. This is a town that lives forever by its olden ways: there is no true government, simply two rich and powerful families that rule over the town from their far off estates in the forest; there is also no hospital, simply family doctors who tend the ill and injured. The town is peaceful; it’s residents content with life…

Notch Girls

However, when young girls begin showing up mutilated and murdered, the townsfolk hardly know how to handle the situation. With peace shattered and an unknown killer residing in the area, it can be hard to know who to even turn to. But when those we love are brutally taken from us, it tends to strike vengeance and determination into our very core.

…Nanami didn’t deserve to die…

Notch – The Innocent LunA: Eclipsed SinnerS is a supernatural murder mystery Visual Novel developed by Angels Blue Digital Entertaiment and DEZ Studio. The player takes on the roll of the main protagonist: a young man seeking to save the girl he loves after she is slain in cold blood. He sets out to speak with the two ruling families about the murders but uncovers a much deeper rooted cause than anyone could have ever anticipated – mass killings, abusive relationships, families ripped apart, torture, lies, forbidden resurrection, alternate dimensions, pacts with devils and the enslavement of gods.

Notch Sister

To begin with, the story is beautiful, sad and captivating from the basic premise surrounding the main character and Nanami to all of the additional characters met that weave such integral pieces to the tale. The masters of each ruling family try to recover from the murder of their households all the while grasping tightly to dark secrets from nearly twenty years past. Meanwhile, the protagonist comes across numerous intriguing personalities on his journey to save Nanami: the caring and mysterious maid, Hitomi, who works for one of the ruling families; Rika, a dainty mute girl in a tragically abusive relationship; Saki, another almost-victim of the brutal killer; and Misa, a mysterious lolita-esque girl with abilities to traverse dimensions. Throughout the title, in learning their stories they both add greatly to the overall atmosphere as well as create a unique diversity whilst moving the main story along. It draws the player in quickly and does a fairly good job of holding their attention despite one of the game’s main flaws.

Aesthetically, the game provides a beautiful mixture of art and music styles. From anime/manga style drawings of the female characters to almost pastel sketches and water colors; the drastic contrast presents a beautiful landscape in which the story is portrayed. Oftentimes a picture can be worth so much more than words and it certainly rings true in this case. Additionally adding to the landscape would be the soundtrack. Made up of serenading piano arrangements, soft melancholic vocal tracks and even epic rock anthems (a la boss music) provide a near perfect backdrop for a majority of the scenes throughout the game.

Notch Misa

Unfortunately, there is one jarringly disruptive feature that nearly destroys all other beacons of recommendation: the writing. It is understood that translation can sometimes be attributed to sentences being a little off or seemingly simple, but this goes beyond that. Simple wording and sentences can be easily excused; however, it is the unnecessary repetition that is truly insanity inducing. After a few hours of playing the game, the writing became so frustrating that I found myself simply tapping the Enter key non-stop and skimming the lines as they quickly went by. The story is phenomenal, but I understood what was meant the first time it was said…the additional 15 statements trying to explain and send the sentiment home were just overkill. It demonstrates that its fast forward feature simply could never be fast enough. Take for example the following excerpt (keep in mind, this is but a mild example):

“I tried to stay alive…I didn’t surrender in the face of brutal tortures…But you didn’t come to see me…I was waiting for an impossible dream…”

“Don’t cry…I live to atone for my sin…Now I have redeemed my sin…I don’t expect you to forgive me…I am unworthy of being forgiven…I hope you can have a happy life from now on…I am going to die…but you can still enjoy your life in this world…I don’t expect your forgiveness. I just want my inner world to regain peace…I am going to say goodbye to you…I don’t regret trading my life for yours. I can have a chance to say sorry to you..I finally did this…Promise me you’ll have a good life…”

…and this goes on, even still.

Aside from that glaringly (oftentimes obnoxious) detail, Notch – The Innocent LunA: Eclipsed SinnerS is a game that will entrance and mystify. You will truly be drawn in by the art, music and story and yearn to find out more – if you can slog through the endless streams of unnecessary text. Should you decide to give this one a try, the 14 endings that, despite their differences, remain curiously connected will offer plenty of replay value. It is a story that will stay with you – at least in part – long after it is through.

Will the killer be brought to justice or remain free?

Will you be able to save anyone?

Will you be able to save yourself?

Notch Bloody

I hope someday you will forgive me.

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year-walk1

Since time began there has been an undying curiosity found deep within every human being. A curiosity towards self; a curiosity towards the world; a curiosity towards time and space; a curiosity towards the future.

Although unknown in origin, in ancient Scandinavian folklore there existed a way to seek out visions, to see the future, called year walking. This practice, while varying on details depending on location, had very strict rules which if not followed directly could prove to not only lead to disastrous results, but to be fatal. Upon deciding to undertake a year walk certain obligations must be met:

First, a year walk could not take place on just any day; but on certain festival days such as May Day, Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve or most commonly New Years Eve.

Second, the individual must abstain from any and all food served on these holidays. A sacrifice of sorts as most of these days were usually accompanied by plentiful feasts.

Lastly, the individual must seclude themselves from all others and remain without fire for the entirety of the day. Locking themselves in dark rooms, away from light and warmth, until the hour reached Midnight – then would be their last opportunity to forgo the year walk. Once outside, there was no turning back…

A year walker’s destination would always be the church, though the journey would be anything but a pleasant stroll through the woods. Numerous supernatural entities were said to be encountered along the way such as The Huldra (a female guardian of the forest said to bring both good fortune and untimely ends), The Brook Horse (most often associated with death and drowning), The Myling (children killed very young, wandering and wailing seeking help or leaving death in their wake), The Night Raven (often associated with disease, the manifestation of an evil greedy man not properly buried) and finally The Church Grim (a sacrifice, guardian and parasite of the church) all of which would potentially cause physical, mental and spiritual strife to the year walker.

Upon arriving at the church and circling the grounds in a specific pattern the year walker would be given visions of the future as well as lure out The Church Grim. These visions could present themselves in a variety of ways such as a procession of people leaving the church, all of which would end up dying the following year or a view of various wedding ceremonies. Life, love and death would all play a part but each journey would leave the walker a changed person forever.

yearwalk

Indie developer Simogo has recreated this haunting experience in their simple yet artistic puzzle/horror game Year Walk. Starting out just before the night begins, the player discerns through a brief encounter that their journey not only lies in seeking the future but ultimately to find if they are truly loved in return.

year walkThe game itself follows much of the history that is given above, and it can all be found within the opening moments of the game if chosen via an encyclopedia. While it is not necessary to read each of the pages before beginning the journey, it adds a certain level of comprehension and depth which may not be taken from the gameplay itself. There is very little dialogue or explanation within the actual game, actually, there is not much direction given at all; but knowing the destination does not always mean knowing which path to travel.

The actual gameplay relies on simple left/right/forward/back movements in addition to clicking the mouse to interact and carry objects (yes, carry objects – there is no such thing as an inventory. Additionally, it is recommended to not solely rely on the map to get around as carrying certain objects will not allow it to be viewed). Aside from that it is basic exploration and getting to the right place at the correct point in the storyline as subsequent supernatural beings are revealed. Many puzzles and clues can be found scattered about the map as well, but not all of them will be solved, nor even make sense, until after the first playthrough. The puzzles themselves vary greatly from simple button presses and sequences to open doors and pathways to listening to distinct sound pitches to find the correct path out of a darkened maze. Oftentimes, many of these puzzles will have no immediate clues on how to solve them while others require some backtracking to discover exactly what must be done. There is a hint option that can aid the player if they simply have no idea where to start but otherwise a little bit of note taking may be all that is necessary.yearwalk6_2490317b

While the gameplay is not very intense nor intricate, the artistic flourish resonating throughout the title is what truly makes it
stand out. The dark, almost cut from a story book, visuals are like walking through a painting but it is far from the beauty one might find gazing at a quiet cabin in the woods brimming with life and quiet. It is a changing scenery emanating with an eerie stillness as nightmarish creatures take to their true forms and pristine snow becomes tainted with blood. The music that accompanies these images and puzzles is often mysterious but calm – serenading piano melodies and haunting vocal tracks blend into the background almost entirely unnoticed until realization hits that something has changed.

All in all, Year Walk is not a long game nor is it terribly involved; yet it holds within it an intriguing story rich in nearly forgotten folklore. While it is not without a few small jump scares it mostly relies on its haunting and isolated atmosphere to give its horror-esque touch. It has been recently remastered for PC (which is this version played) but originally debuted on IOS, both versions staying fairly similar but with a few additions and adaptions for PC implemented. It is a small and mostly unheard of title, but anyone with an interest in olden folklore or dark legends will surely find this one worth its price.

“To see if they would be wealthy”

“To see if they would be happy”

“To see if they would live”

“To see if they would be loved”

 

“People don’t realize they aren’t able to choose whether or not to believe something. If they subconsciously believe something, therein lies the potential for a curse.”

Kanoe.Yuuko_.full_.1055797

The typical life of a middle school student usually consists of going to their average school, sitting through endless classes, participating in regular club activities and repeating. But what if the school wasn’t quite so average, the classes not so endless (well, maybe) and the clubs not entirely what everyone would expect?  Welcome to Seikyou Academy; a school built upon the ancient ruins of a shrine with mystery and horror strewn throughout both its abandoned and bustling halls.

Teiichi_yuuko_hold_handsWithin these very halls of the abandoned part of the school building lies the home base of the school’s small and mostly unknown paranormal investigations club – a club consisting of only a few unique members who investigate the numerous mysteries surrounding the school in hopes to uncover the truth about the greatest ghost story of all. The club members consist of Teiichi Niiya, the main protagonist and head of the club, Momoe Okinogi, an extremely enthusiastic girl always ready for the next encounter, and lastly Konoe Kirie, the remarkably less enthusiastic member. Then there is Kanoe Yuuko who just so happens to also hang around the club room and help the team explore the paranormal occurrences and find clues throughout the school. Yuuko does have at least one unique thing about her though and that is that only Niiya and Kirie can see her…oh, and she also happens to be the star character in the most famous ghost stories surrounding the academy.

These stories are said to originate from an event that happened in the old abandoned school building some 60 years ago. A story clouded in mystery involving a catastrophic epidemic and a young girl abandoned and left for dead below the new paranormal investigations club room. It is in that closed off room that Niiya first meets Yuuko and there begins their own story as they work to uncover the truth of what happened to Yuuko; because, as it turns out, Yuuko has no memory at all of the events.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is a supernatural anime encompassing a wide variety of genre from comedic romance to horror andtasogare otome x amnesia suspense. Yuuko may be dead, but her main persona is that of the happy, loving girl she was before her death; however, where there is light, there is shadow and darkness as well. The happiness Yuuko exudes on a daily basis is the complete opposite of the shadow who stalks the very same abandoned halls emitting negative emotions and memories – something the Yuuko everyone knows and loves, lacks.

The anime revolves around a story that has been done numerous times, yet it accomplishes it far better than many. It is a ghost love story with a darker, more tortured twist that checks nearly every emotion off the list as it goes through its 13 episodes. The beautiful art style mixes a sense of haunting dusk and gothic light and is easy to fall into its mesmerizing gaze. Additionally, the music accompaning the episodes as well as the opening and ending themes are fitting and help add to the overall atmosphere and setting.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, or Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, is a supernatural/love/horror/comedy that will surely catch and hold attention, though not to the point of keeping you awake for endless hours. Horror fans will surely find more intrigue later on in the show as the main mystery is deeper uncovered, yet it is an enjoyable experience throughout. Unlike Yuuko’s memories, it may just end up being something you would rather not forget.

Yuuko_tasogare

“Mysteries become dull once they’ve been solved.”

My Beauty, My Love…Anna [PC]

“I hoped I had forgotten you forever…”

anna

The human psyche can be a delicate creature; a creature that should be kept safe from the world’s horrors and told that monsters simply do not live in dark places nor come out into the light. But there always comes a time when the pieces seem to fit together just right and we go against all common sense and knowledge to follow a faint, yet sorrowful, curiosity. A lost love, a forgotten memory; will these lead you to the answers you seek…or to regret?

The psychological horror adventure game Anna, by Italian game developer Dreampainters, takes you to the remote location of an old sawmill. Lead by photographs you have no memory of taking and distant thoughts of a woman held dear; you must make your way through the abandoned building to recover the lost fragments of memories.

As many adventure titles go, Anna maintains the core concept of collecting any and all applicable items for use in furthering your journey and uncovering dark secrets. However, while this may be a staple to the genre, Anna‘s use of these items leaves much to be desired. A journal, a lighter and a few other random items adorn your person from the beginning…yet their use and significance is left rather unexplained and some even untested. The plethora of other items you encounter and pick up all have a purpose either of their own accord or when combined together…but that, in itself, often leads to another bout of frustration as you traverse the decrepit mill house.

Sadly, one of the most cumbersome aspects of this game lies within its controls. While certain options can be toggled to your fancy, the majority of this title relies on basic movement (which is at an alarmingly slow pace, making backtracking and exploration a time consuming ordeal) as well as mouse clicking and grabbing. Doors provide an exceptional focus in that you do not merely click on them to open and shut, but must push and pull them at just the right angle in order for them to open enough to glance inside or move through. Additionally, when combining items together, many of the combinations must be done in an exact order at the right time; or you are merely given the inner thoughts of yourself calling you quite crazy for even thinking the two would ever work out.

On a positive note, Anna did accomplish a dark and haunting atmosphere that leaves you questioning just what really occurred within those decaying walls; and oftentimes make you regret staying put for any longer than you have to. Without notice, unannounced specters, sudden shadows, inanimate objects hurled around the room, and alarming screams and crying pierce the darkness and leave your mental state a tad worse off than it already was. Even without the supernatural occurrences, the dim candlelit rooms and disturbing images that occur due to your involvement add to the overall suspense and you scour every inch of the mill house for items, clues and puzzles.

Additionally, the music and sound effects do add a considerable depth to the title. From soft ambiance to climactic swells to the muffled words and arguments of those who resided in a time long gone; the dark mood and atmosphere of the game remain in tact, if not enhanced, by not only what is seen, but also heard.

Anna is a game based off quite an intriguing premise and even despite its numerous flaws, does incur some shining moments. One such moment for me, without giving away too much, involves a somewhat disturbing ritual mask and a black mourning dress and veil. The feeling of being thoroughly and demonically watched has never been so strong and it is a feeling and image that has stayed with me long after playing it.

In the end, the game wants to accomplish its goal of fear, suspense and intuitiveness – but just misses. Three distinct endings give players a chance to see as much of the story as they wish to reveal and may even offer multiple play-throughs should they so wish. Only taking about three hours to complete the first time (and getting the final and longest ending), Anna is certainly worth playing at least once…for the right price that is; though I would truly only recommend it to those who are avid fans of the adventure or psychological horror genre. Otherwise, you may be better off letting this one slip back into the dark and haunted crevice from whence it emerged and carrying on with your life as if nothing ever happened.

What is it that makes us fear things from the very depth of our souls?

There is just something about the Japanese style of horror that leaves a lasting, and sometimes scarring, impression on people. A psychological brand of horror where oftentimes it is what you don’t see, rather than what you do, that you should fear the most. There certainly is no denying the terror of someone running at you with a chainsaw; but when you manifest a fear so deep and pure, it stays with you long after the fact – far beyond anxiety, past paranoia.

Although the topic of horror stretches to far out reaches, one aspect often used is through the concept of dolls. Dolls often represent a symbol of beauty and childhood; a toy played with leisurely or an elegant shelf piece adorning a young girl’s room. They are a picturesque effigy in porcelain with pristine clothes and impenetrable eyes that see everything and nothing. A human personification that stands to show us just how fragile we really are. Although there are many instances of dolls inclusion in horror and other dark genres, here are but a few marked examples:

So I think to myself: ‘Something different; a precious present for a precious person.’ The most suitable thing would be you yourself.

Black Butler

This may have been but a small arc within the anime, but it managed to stick out for me none the less. When young girls begin to disappear from the city at an alarming pace with the only evidence left behind being a small doll of their likeness in an old shop, Ciel and Sebastian begin investigating the case. It seems just like any other task from the queen, however, things become much more personal when Elizabeth falls victim as well. Locating where she is being held, they discover the whereabouts of the other missing girls…at least what is left of them.

No longer human, the girls have all been turned into reanimated dolls, following every command by the strings of their puppet master. As battle ensues and the girls fall in defeat, they do not bleed but rather sawdust, straw and other inanimate materials come apart from their seams. Their humanity left only as a memory. When they finally find Elizabeth held away in a tower, relief floods over them as they find she had not been completely transformed like the other girls. But all is not right in the world as Elizabeth mercilessly attacks Ciel, still being manipulated by invisible strings and unable to control her own actions. These episodes not only show the fragility of dolls but also the terrifying likeness to their human counterparts; or in this case, where they become one in the same.

“The dolls…dolls are hollow, you see. Completely hollow in body and soul. That void connects them with death, but hollow things seek to fill their emptiness. Don’t you feel as though this place is drawing something out of you?”

Another

From the very beginning, the opening of this anime signifies just how beautiful yet breakable a doll can be. Broken, battered, entangled, and distraught – the dolls paint a beautiful and tragic portrait. One of the most intriguing places and scenes in this anime to me by far took place in the doll shop “‘The Hollow Eyes of Yomi at Twilight”. The setting was already mysterious, but this added another level of cryptic darkness to it all. The dolls found within are all effortlessly beautiful but what really stood out was their design and display. Some were posed specifically, some haphazardly sitting or with hanging limbs off of a shelf, and some laid out as if for a funeral viewing;  dressed in elegant attire holding a beautiful flower while others sat aside, forgotten and in disarray.

When Koichi finds his way downstairs he is startled by Mei, who emerges unseen from behind a small coffin. Mei is a character very otherworldly and doll-like in her own sense, and standing next to an almost identical looking doll gives one the feeling there is much more to it than simple coincidence. Mei explains that the beautiful doll is only a half representation of her, but says no more at that time. Even as they take in the remaining scenery and dolls of the small room, an eerie calm yet unrest settles around them. Although the dolls in this series do not cause fear directly, the imagery and ideals they represent add to an already anxious and suspense ridden storyline.

“Didn’t we always used to promise each other, that we would stay together?”

Fatal Frame

This survival horror series holds a special place in my heart and throughout every game the concept of dolls has played an integral role in some way or another. In the original game, dolls may not have been a major aspect of the story but there is one particular room of Himuro Mansion I am sure most people remember: the doll room. At the beginning of the second night, Miku awakens into a room filled with dolls. As you inspect them closer a doll’s head will roll off unexpectedly, a small puzzle must be solved, and a larger doll on a special pedestal in the back of the room is hard not to notice. This is only the beginning though as a child’s laughter soon breaks through the silence and Miku is thrown into battle with the child’s spirit.

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly offered a much larger concept of dolls through one particular arc/area known as the doll makers residence. The basic story of this game is that in an ancient village, the townsfolk believed that to appease the gods they had to make a human sacrifice – but this sacrifice was something unlike any other. In this case it would involve identical twins, where deep underground at the mouth of Hell, one twin would kill the other and then the sacrifice would be thrown down into the pit. The remaining twin would go on living, though many would suffer extreme psychological illness and duress.

The doll maker’s two daughters were chosen for the ritual one year and after it was done the remaining twin, Akane, fell into a deep depression over the loss of her sister. Their father, torn with grief, built a life size doll of Azami and it wasn’t long after that Akane returned to her usual self – never separate from the doll. However, she became so attached to the doll that a malicious spirit took control and began to possess Akane. When her father realized what was happening he aimed to destroy the doll and the spirit within; but upon finding out about his plans, Akane, in her possessed state, killed her father in order to save the doll. Exploring this area of the game pits you against Akane and Azami at the same time, yet only one can take damage from the spirit camera. A very sad and haunting story. No matter how keen the resemblance, a doll can never replace a life.

Fatal Frame 3 also uses dolls as a means of representation and sacrifice. Wara Ningyo are a type of Japanese doll often used to represent a person or particular aspect and it is believed that a person could become cursed if a doll in their likeness is nailed to a sacred tree. In Fatal Frame, this practice was used through numerous rituals of various levels from only using a doll to transfer sin and misfortune to the other world to sacrificing an actual person through an impalement ritual in which the villagers sins would be taken with that person to the spirit realm.

Lastly, in Fatal Frame 4 a particular type of doll, called a hozuki doll, can be found throughout the game and photographed for completion of a lengthy side quest. These dolls  were made by parents who had lost a child and are generally considered to be extremely unlucky and bring disaster. Although merely used to represent the dead, the mere presence of these dolls adds to the overall feeling of dread as the player explores the island and slowly uncovers its bloodstained history.

Whether the story be one of horror, suspense or simply unnerving at times, there is no denying the effect certain elements can put into play. Dolls may not necessarily bring terror about instantly, but rather do so gradually…psychologically. Barely seeing a distinctly human-esque figure out of the corner of your eye in the darkness, knowing what meaning lies behind certain dolls, a reasoning for their presence; it isn’t that they are necessary terrifying unto themselves, but rather the thoughts and imagery that manifests within our subconscious that brings about a true horror. It is the same tactic that places us on alert in dark situations and similarly can make even the bravest of men jump at mere shadows.

Beautiful. Enchanting. Tragic. Terrifying.

Fear Grows Here

“On the dark side of the gardens there’s so much you will find,

The only thing you have to lose is a little of your mind.

Come play in my gardens”

Everyone is brave when they have daylight on their side, but do you think you stand a chance when night falls over the land?  Scares and entertainment abound while the sun is high, but once the hours dim, the creatures that emerge are something found only within your deepest nightmares. Here lies a recipe for one of the greatest culmination of ideas: a world class theme park  infused to the brim with the terrifying spirit of Halloween.  Howl-o-Scream at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg presents the perfect amusement park thrill – and this time thrill refers to much more than roller coasters.  This years theme taking on a life of its own as The Dark Side of the Garden: Fear Grows Here.

Without even going on the rides the park offers a spectacle of horrors as your worst fears lurk just beyond reach.  Blood flows from ornate fountains in Germany, ginormous grotesque spiders spin webs and take claim over much of France, a macabre carnival resides in Italy, and werewolves prowl the alleys of Ireland.  The day presents a family friendly atmosphere of sights and sounds with rides and shows in the All Hallows Eve spirit taking place; however, once the bell for 6 o’clock tolls the park transforms into something comprised more from nightmares than dreams.

So tell me of your worst fears – is it spiders, snakes, doctors, heights, the dark, or some other amalgamation of terror? No matter what it is you won’t be safe as you travel through 13 – Your Number’s Up. Would you care to see what lurks amidst the catacombs, or perhaps the Fear Fair would create more of the side splitting laughter and chills that you seek? No matter what your choice, be prepared; because it isn’t just the haunted houses to be feared…it’s the entire park.

Are you brave enough to visit the Dark Side of the Gardens?