Horror Themes – D, Escape From Monster Manor, Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller

I know it’s not Halloween, but horror or thriller style games are on just about every video game system so there’s no need to wait until October to cover them all. The 3DO wasn’t any different than other consoles of the era in using a variety of styles & methods to create unsettling or disturbing themes. The three games in this post don’t have a lot of similarities besides the console they were developed for and these overarching themes. They certainly don’t have a similar level of quality.

D is an interactive horror adventure game that relies heavily on FMV cut scenes, puzzle solving and exploration tactics. You play as the character of Laura, the daughter of a well respected Los Angeles doctor that has been accused of mass murder. You attempt to find him as he’s barricaded in his hospital only to realize that it has been transformed into a (WTF?) castle! You want to understand what could have driven him to commit these ghastly murders but now you’ve been thrust into the same otherworldly & malevolent environment that may have driven your father mad. D is a game filled with gruesome imagery (dead bodies, flashbacks to murders, ghosts, etc.) that provide the player with a uneasy sense of dread. This, of course, is by design and is very effective. As mentioned, you spend most of your time examining things, solving puzzles and basically playing the lead role in an interactive horror film. This style of game is not for everyone but if done properly, can really be a lot of fun. D requires you to have at most, 2 free hours to play through as there is no option to save your game. Capping the amount of time you are allowed to solve the mystery of D at 2 hours was done purposely in order to truly make the experience “film-like”. Best option for an adult gamer like myself is to wait for family to go to bed, turn down the lights, and immerse yourself in the haunting brilliance of D.

When it comes to interactive movies, D does a lot of things right. Unfortunately, Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller, cannot lay that similar claim. D’s detractors will say that it’s too much of a spectator game and there’s not enough “action”. I can understand that, but as a horror movie fan, D is effective in it’s thrills. Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller is everything that is wrong with this style of game. First thing you’ll notice about Hell is that the graphics are pretty awful. Yes, it’s a 1994 game, but the characters and FMV animations are worse than you’d expect. The dialogue, for the most part, is pure cheese and is delivered by some of the most wooden voice actors in the business. Hell is known for having a few big names providing voices/characters such as Dennis Hopper, Stephanie Seymour and Grace Jones. Hopper plays Hopper, and if you’ve seen any of his movies, you’ll know what I mean. Hi voice acting is maniacal and strange with a few “mans” peppered in just in case you weren’t sure it was him. Stephanie Seymour is the only actor that is played by her own likeness (as a hologram) which is nice because she’s beautiful, obviously being a former model. Grace Jones plays a baddie with an attitude not too dissimilar from her iconic View to a Kill character.

Hell’s “gameplay” is bogged down by never-ending FMV scenes with dialogue so boring and groan inducing that you’ll want to skip past it but can’t in the off chance they offer some piece of information you need to progress. As a player, you are attempting to find out why you and your partner (who is also your lover) have been framed for cyber-crimes (i.e. porn) in the year 2097. I don’t really want to get into the plot too much because it’s convoluted as hell (pun intended) and the game doesn’t deserve this much of a write up. You barely play the game at all and you primarily point and click items, talk to people while managing your characters and inventory. Hell is more of an exercise in tedium getting through all the hours of dialogue just so you can advance and eventually make your way into hell (don’t ask). Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller barely qualifies as a game and while it has weird characters and a portion of the game takes place in hell, it isn’t frightening or disturbing in the slightest. The only disturbing thing about this game is the amount of time you’ll wish you had back if you play it all the way through.

Escape from Monster Manor is much more effective in creating an atmosphere of horror through sounds, music and images. Played as a first person shooter, the goal of the game is to explore a mansion filled with demons & ghosts in order to find pieces of a lost talisman, then escape to the mansion’s exit. You are given an enemy blasting weapon but with limited ammo. There are a number of ammo refill destinations, as well as health refills, scattered throughout the vast levels but my biggest issue with the game is that so many of the areas look the same, it’s easy to get lost and forget where these refill stations are located. Thankfully there is a map that you must fill in as you progress, so it’s fairly easy to see where you’ve been and where you’ve yet to explore. The first level is relatively easy but level 2 ramps up the difficulty with the sheer volume of monsters you must kill in order to find the talisman. I often find myself running out of ammo and then having to backtrack to a refill station, then working my way back to where I was where the enemies were located originally. You can’t take many hits before you die so running away is usually your best option because if you get cornered or boxed in with enemies coming at you, you will not make it out alive. The eerie screams and groans can genuinely give you the creeps especially when you think there’s something coming after you and there actually isn’t. It’s also quite frightening when you enter a room and turn around only to be met face to face with a ghost! They seem to pop up out of nowhere just to provide a bit of a jump scare. I like Escape from Monster Manor, I just wish the difficulty was a little more even. Like many FPS games, I cannot play for extended periods of time without feeling nauseous so that it a limiting factor for me to enjoy this game and may be for you as well if this style of game typically bothers you.

Currently in my collection:

D – game, manual, jewel case A-

Escape from Monster Manor – game, manual, long box case B

Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller – game, jewel case F

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