Review: “Meddling Kids” By Edgar Cantero (Novel)

A few weeks before I wrote this book review, I ended up watching several episodes of “Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and was amazed at how good this modern Saturday morning cartoon was.

A couple of weeks later, I was looking around online for second-hand horror novels and happened to find a modern novel from 2018 called “Meddling Kids” by Edgar Cantero, which seemed to be a Lovecraftian dark comedy parody of “Scooby Doo” ๐Ÿ™‚

So, let’s take a look at “Meddling Kids”. Needless to say, this review may contain SPOILERS.

This is the 2018 Titan Books (UK) paperback edition of “Meddling Kids” that I read.

In 1977, the four young investigators of the Blyton Summer Detective Club (and their trusty dog Sean), solve the mystery of the Sleepy Lake monster. Far from being a giant salamander monster, it was actually a masked criminal called Thomas Wickley who would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.

Flash forward to 1990 and Wickley is up for parole. But, soon after he leaves prison, he is ambushed by Andrea “Andy” Rodriguez, a former member of the detective club who is determined to get the truth out of him. There were things in Sleepy Lake that were too strange to be part of an elaborate criminal scheme. Unexplainable, unworldly horrors that have haunted the nightmares of the club members ever since that fateful summer holiday.

As a result of that horrifying summer, Andy has ended up living a life of crime, nerdy redhead Kerri has ended up in a series of dead-end jobs and weedy, nervous Nate has found himself in a mental hospital (but, at least he has the ghost of tall, athletic Peter to keep him company). About the only club member who is vaguely ok is Tim, Sean’s canine descendent.

Rattled by the mysterious incantations that Wickley babbles after she questions him, Andy decides that the only thing to do is to get the club together again and return to Sleepy Lake……

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is WOW! It’s a funny, creepy, thrilling and mysterious mixture of dark comedy, Lovecraftian horror and retro nostalgia ๐Ÿ™‚ In other words, this novel is kind of like a mixture of H.P. Lovecraft, “The Last Door“, “Blood“, “Twin Peaks”, “Supernatural”, “The X-Files”, “Scooby Doo” and some kind of alternative punk comic from the 1990s. So, yes, it’s pretty awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

The novel’s horror elements are pretty interesting. As you would expect from a modern Lovecraftian horror story there’s a really good mixture of ominous horror, occult horror, monster horror, suspenseful horror, jump scares, psychological horror, implied horror, scientific horror, economic horror/ post-industrial decay, claustrophobic horror and gruesome horror. Although this novel isn’t likely to leave you frozen with fright, there is a wonderfully creepy and ominous atmosphere in many parts of the story ๐Ÿ™‚

The novel’s comedy elements also work reasonably well. Although there were only a couple of moments that really made me laugh out loud, the novel has a wonderfully irreverent attitude, some moments of bizarre slapstick comedy, numerous retro pop culture references, a gleefully farcical denouement, lots of amusing dialogue and some brilliant dark comedy plot elements too.

The novel’s detective elements are fairly interesting too. Although the novel enters the realms of fantasy and science fiction, pretty much everything in the story has a logical scientific, practical and/or paranormal explanation. Even though fans of H.P. Lovecraft won’t be too surprised by the premise of the story, there are enough clever plot twists and intriguing clues, locations etc… to keep the story intriguingly gripping.

Interestingly, this novel starts out as a slower-paced mystery, psychological thriller and character-based drama novel. These elements all work surprisingly well and, although this means that the first two-thirds or so of this novel are relatively slow paced (but still really compelling), the novel then segues into this absolutely spectacular action-packed final act that occasionally reminded me a little bit of the classic computer game “Blood” (which, again, is never a bad thing ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

The story’s atmosphere is really cool too. In addition to the kind of ominous atmosphere you would expect from a Lovecraftian horror story, this story also includes the cynical nihilism of the 1990s (in addition to some vague hints of that decade’s more famous optimism) and a brilliantly dark and twisted version of the fun atmosphere of “Scooby Doo” too ๐Ÿ™‚

In terms of the characters, they are brilliant ๐Ÿ™‚ Not only do all of the main characters come across as stylised, but realistic, people with a huge number of quirks, flaws and emotions but the novel’s characters are also both a brilliantly inventive parody of both “Scooby Doo” and Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” too. In short, the level of characterisation here is on par with Neil Gaiman’s amazing “Sandman” comics and Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality” ๐Ÿ™‚

The novel’s main characters also allow for the exploration of numerous themes such as mental illness, memory, non-conformity, friendship, love, trauma etc… too. Seriously, I cannot praise the characters in this novel highly enough ๐Ÿ™‚ They’re a glorious band of misfits who are so much fun to hang out with.

In terms of the writing, this novel’s (mostly) third-person narration is amazing. It is this wonderfully weird mixture of formal descriptive narration, highly informal narration and more experimental/avant-garde narration… and, somehow, it really works ๐Ÿ™‚

In true punk fashion, this novel isn’t afraid to break the rules by doing things like using film script-like dialogue segments, breaking the fourth wall (usually subtly, but one instance of it – involving a chapter ending- is truly epic) and occasionally inventing new words just for the hell of it. The inventive, irreverent and unique writing style in this novel is an absolute joy to read ๐Ÿ™‚ Still, if you’re used to more conventional writing styles, then you might not enjoy the narration as much.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is interesting. At 442 pages, this is one of those novels that will sometimes feel like reading a DVD boxset. However, although the first two-thirds of the story are relatively slow-paced, they remain really compelling thanks to the atmosphere, the characters, the writing style and the mysterious plot. These slower-paced segments also contrast really well with the brilliantly gripping and fast-paced final act too ๐Ÿ™‚

All in all, this is a punk Lovecraftian horror dark comedy parody of “Scooby Doo” that is set in the 1990s ๐Ÿ™‚ Need I say more?

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

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Today’s Art (5th December 2018)

Well, since I was tired, I decided to make a digitally-edited drawing instead of a painting. Since the opening chapter of the novel I was reading at the time (The Pharaoh’s Secret” by Clive Cussler & Graham Brown) was set in Ancient Egypt, this seemed like a good theme. Of course, the drawing quickly went in much more of a gothic horror/ Lovecraftian horror- style direction. And, for something that I made in 30-40 minutes when I was tired, it turned out a lot better than I expected.

As usual, this drawing is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Procession” By C. A. Brown

Three Basic Tips For Making Lovecraftian Art

First of all, if you’ve never heard the word “Lovecraftian” before, it simply refers to things in the horror genre that have been influenced by the fiction of an early-mid 20th century author called H.P.Lovecraft.

Although Lovecraft himself held some fairly terrible opinions, his influence on the horror genre is undoubtable and he pioneered a distinctive style of sci-fi influenced horror fiction that focuses more on things like atmosphere, implied horror, mysterious cosmic events beyond the comprehension of humanity, the limits and misuse of science, unreliable first-person narration etc…

However, since Lovecraft was a writer rather than an artist (although he did make this sketch), knowing how to translate Lovecraftian horror into art can be somewhat confusing for novice artists. So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips.

1) Read the original stories: This is pretty obvious, but it’s important to take a look at the original source material in order to get a deeper understanding of what sets Lovecraftian horror apart from other genres of horror. Luckily, this isn’t as much of a time-consuming or costly task as you might think.

First of all, due to the state of the publishing industry at the time Lovecraft was writing, he mostly wrote short stories (in addition to one novella). Although some of his short stories contain an over-arching mythology and/or a few common features, they can be read in any order. As such, you also don’t need to read literally all of them if you don’t want to.

Likewise, all of Lovecraft’s works are out of copyright in both the UK and mainland Europe (since 2008). So, if you live here, you can legally read them all for free on the internet or find inexpensive “classics” reprints of them. However, if you live in America, then things are a bit more complicated.

From what I understand (and I’m not a copyright lawyer), any of Lovecraft’s stories that were published before 1923 are out of copyright in the US – in addition to several post-1923 stories whose copyright was not renewed properly under the system in place at the time.

But as easy as it is to get hold of the works of H.P.Lovecraft, it can take a while to used to his narrative style – which deliberately imitates the more formal, complicated and verbose styles of 19th century fiction. Even so, after you’ve read a few stories, you’ll probably get used to his slightly old-fashioned writing style.

2) Visual style: Generally speaking, most things that take visual influence from H.P.Lovecraft tend to have a few common visual features. These include things like gloomy lighting, old buildings, tentacles, slimy monsters, old books, bleak landscapes, rural and/or coastal locations etc…

Although Lovecraftian horror-themed artwork can include gruesome elements, these should be kept relatively subtle (eg: trickles of blood, bloodstains/ pools of blood etc..) and should focus more on blood than on gore. Still, if you are going to include gore in Lovecraftian horror artwork, then it must also have some other underlying element that makes it disturbing (eg: the gore itself shouldn’t be the main source of horror).

The general emotional tone that you want to go for in “proper” Lovecraftian horror artwork is one of gothic bleakness, infused with a foreboding sense of mystery. As such, your colour palettes should include things like muted browns/reds, cold blues and eerie greens.

Although Lovecraftian horror art has traditionally favoured a more realistic style, there’s certainly something to be said for fun, cartoonish art that uses the main features of this style. Not only is the juxtaposition of cartoonish art with “gloomy” horror inherently amusing, but there’s also a certain knowing geekiness to making Lovecraftian art in this style. Like in this upcoming painting of mine:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 18th July.

3) Add other stuff: One of the best and most creative ways to make Lovecraftian art is simply to blend it with another genre. For example, the picture I showed you earlier also includes elements from the film noir genre too.

Although blends of Lovecraft and film noir are quite common, Lovecraftian horror can be blended with pretty much any type of art. The only real limit is your own imagination and creativity. But, a good way to learn more about this is to see things that include some elements of Lovecraftian horror whilst also fitting into another genre.

For example, the movie “The Thing” includes some Lovecraftian elements (eg: unknown horrors, desolate arctic locations etc..) whilst also including relatively more modern-style science fiction and horror elements.

Likewise, the movie “Alien” is a blend of Lovecraftian-style horror (eg: mysterious alien civilisations, unearthly monsters etc..), futuristic science fiction and traditional gory horror. Then there’s “The Evil Dead” which blends ludicrously gruesome dark comedy and some vague elements from the zombie genre with more traditional style Lovecraftian horror.

In terms of games, the classic computer game “Quake” uses some vaguely Lovecraftian-style settings, monster designs etc… whilst avoiding the slow, implied, psychological horror of Lovecraft’s stories in favour of thrilling, fast-paced gory combat-based gameplay. Another good gaming-based example is “The Last Door” which adds some surrealist and Edgar Allen Poe-style elements (in addition to a few modern-style jump scares) and 1980s/90s-style pixel art to it’s Lovecraft-influenced story.

———–

Anyway, I hope that this was useful ๐Ÿ™‚

Short Story: “Deadline” By C. A. Brown

Against the night sky, the falling snow almost looked like the screensaver on Diane’s computer. Even in the gloom, the snow was as white as the breeze block walls of her halls of residence room. She grinned. It almost looked like something from a dystopian sci-fi movie.

It was harshly beautiful. There were no other words for it. The only thing missing was music. As she jabbed the computer mouse, the screensaver disappeared and her half-finished English Lit essay about Edgar Allen Poe stared back at her. She sighed. The department’s deadline was tomorrow. But, how often does it snow like this?

For all she knew, it could happen every winter. Maybe this small town was famous for snow? The university prospectus had included a few beautiful snowy photos. Maybe she should just finish the damn essay and enjoy the snow next year or tomorrow or whenever? But, she found herself minimising the essay and opening Media Player instead.

A second later, the grimly melodic tones of Cradle Of Filth’s “Nymphetamine” echoed through the room. Diane watched the furious flurries of snow for a few minutes, wishing that she’d brought her DVD of “Gremlins” with her to uni. No, she thought, I’ve got to stay focused. She sighed and rifled through the stack of photocopied pages on her desk.

Even though it was two thousand and six for heaven’s sake, the university still insisted on references to physical books in essays. Given how much photocopies cost at the library, she was sure that it was probably a way of extorting money from poor students. Either that or the beardy old lecturers hadn’t heard of the internet.

Finding the right sheaf of stapled photocopies, Diane flicked through it until she found the passage she had highlighted earlier. No doubt that it was slightly longer than the scary copyright warning posters in the library allowed. Still, if they were charging 10p a page, then the posters were probably just for show. But, given that her halls room looked like something from a dystopian space prison, she wouldn’t have been surprised if there was some kafkaesque network of contradictory rules and goals at play.

Taking a deep breath, she focused and fired out another few paragraphs. Then she checked the word count. 1230 words. She shrugged. After she added a concluding paragraph, it would only be a hundred words shy of the limit. It would lose her a few marks, but she’d probably still pass. Anyway, it was snowing.

Diane got up and walked over to the square window. She gasped and staggered back. The view was different. Instead of snow-capped halls blocks, twenty dilapidated refinery towers stared back at her. The snowy ground below was an uneven moonscape of pits and mounds. She blinked and rubbed her eyes. The view didn’t change.

Common sense told her to stay put. To knock on everyone else’s doors and see if they had noticed it too. But, it was 3am. Everyone else on the floor would be out drinking. If only she’d been sensible enough to join them. Still, the deadline probably didn’t matter any more. And, she thought, how often do you get to explore somewhere like this? If she took a few photos, then no-one would question her sanity either.

Finding her jacket and an old Cradle Of Filth hoodie, she grabbed her bag and digital camera before walking out into the hallway. It was as silent as a tomb. She walked over to the kitchen and checked the windows. The refinery towers stared back at her once again. One of them moved. She took a couple of photos.

When she reached the stairwell, she noticed that the carpet was missing. She took a photo of the cracked grey tiles. Common sense urged her to turn back, but she kept walking down the stairs. Finally, she reached the thick wooden door. Diane took a deep breath and flung it open.

The halls blocks stared back at her. The snow was light on the ground. The towers were nowhere to be seen. She checked her camera. The photos were still there. She blinked. A smile crossed her face. Clutching her bag, she strode out into the snow. The university library would be still be open. Something about H.P. Lovecraft seemed like the perfect thing to fill up the remaining hundred words of her essay.

Short Story: “A Mรคrchen In March” By C. A. Brown

As Becca crunched through the snow, she realised that this had been a bad idea. More than that, it had been a frigging terrible idea. Yet, here she was and there wasn’t any turning back now.

It had all started about twenty minutes earlier when she’d woken up, looked out of the window and noticed that it had been snowing. Of course, there had been rumours that a snowstorm was heading her way. They’d even said as much on the news. But, she’d just expected a few light flakes and maybe a symbolic dusting of snow. It was March, after all. What she hadn’t expected was to pull back the curtains and find herself staring at something out of an old Christmas movie.

Thick, fat flakes whirled and gusted past the window as if blown by some off-screen wind machine. Every roof, pavement, lamp-post and tree in sight was covered with a chunky layer of icing. The pale grey sky was the same colour as the snow. The streetlights glowed like jewels. This was, she realised, one of those snowstorms. One of those impossible days where this tiny corner of suburbia looked like something out of a cartoon sitcom Christmas Special.

After finding a sweater and throwing on an old hiking jacket, she looked at her phone. There was no signal. Not only that, it wouldn’t do to ruin an expensive new phone by getting it covered in snow. Still, she wanted to document it. To keep some of it for when the world became bright and boring again. So, she dug out her trusty old digital camera, dropped it into her jacket pocket and set out on her expedition.

At first, it seemed perfect. The pristine snow crunched satisfyingly under her feet and the world seemed so much more vivid and alive than usual. It really did seem like something special. Like a cosy Christmas movie come to life. Occasionally, she’d fish the camera out of her pocket and take a couple of snaps. Even though the little screen on the back of the camera was polka-dotted by melting snowflakes, she was sure that the pictures would look ten times better when she copied them to her computer.

Yet, as she set off down another road, she realised that the pavements were completely deserted. Worse than that, she realised that she’d forgotten to wear any gloves. Her fingers stung like scalding water. She crammed them into her pockets and kept walking. But, this empty pavement had been well-trodden by many others and was filled with slippery compacted trails that threatened to send her sliding to the ground if she didn’t focus everything on every step.

Soon, she realised that it was safer to walk on the grass next to the pavement. Surprisingly, none of the other nameless souls who had been there before had thought of this. And, although it felt a little bit like sacrilege to disturb the perfect snow, at least there was less risk of tripping on the soft grass.

After what felt like a hundred trudging, crunching steps, she realised that she was in a different kind of movie to what she’d expected. It was one of those bleak survival thriller movies, one of those The Thing-inspired Arctic horror movies. Even though she was sure that this street was just an ordinary, cosy suburban street most of the time, it felt more like a harsh ice planet. An alien world where everything was in flux and anything could happen.

Becca kept trudging along, realising that going home would take the same amount of walking regardless of which route she took. That was, if she’d got her directions right. All of the streets looked pretty much the same. The same collection of dark shapes floating in grey nothingness. Like something from a glitched-out computer game.

Then, slowly, the dark shapes began to get lighter. By now, her face felt slightly numb and the only noise was the constant sniffling of her nose. After a while, the only thing she could see was shifting white television static against the greyness. It felt like she was nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Yet, she kept walking forwards. Forwards. Forwards. There had to be something if she kept walking forwards.

For a second, she thought that she glimpsed something in the greyness. It had many long, twisting arms. It almost seemed to beckon to her. Maybe it was just a gnarled old tree? Maybe it was something that wasn’t meant to exist in everyday life? Some unthinkable cosmic horror that preyed on lost wanderers. Something that called this grey void home. Some long-forgotten monster that was once whispered about to scare people away from walking in the snow.

Becca didn’t care. She turned and ran, every frantic footstep crunching silently above the sound of her breath. The white static seemed to get thicker and her face felt more numb. Then she saw an orange light.

At first, she froze like a deer, terrified that she’d stepped out into the road and was staring at the last pair of headlights she’d ever see. After what felt like two hundred thunderous heartbeats, she noticed that the light hadn’t moved. Slowly, she trudged towards it. As a large angular shape emerged from the greyness, she realised that it was the local pub.

The pub looked like something from an old German fairytale. A mรคrchen, or whatever it was called. With the barn-like roof, the stout trees in the beer garden, the glowing orange light on the wall and the thick coating of undisturbed snow, it could have come straight from the pages of The Brothers Grimm or whatever.

As she shoved her frozen hands into her pockets and trudged towards the door, she remembered the other thing about the old fairytales – for all of their beauty and splendour, they were cruel, harsh things. This really was a fairytale winter.

Review: “The Last Door: Collector’s Edition” (Computer Game)

2017 Artwork The Last Door Review Sketch

Well, it’s been a while since I played a horror game – so, I thought that I’d check out an indie game from 2014 called “The Last Door: Collector’s Edition”.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that this game is the first half of a continuous two-part series (I haven’t got the second game yet [Edit: I write these articles/reviews quite far in advance, so the second game will be reviewed in July]), so don’t expect it to contain a complete story.

I bought a DRM-free download of this game last summer during a sale on GoG for ยฃ1.39. However, at the time of writing, the game costs ยฃ7.99 at full price. The GoG version also comes with downloadable extras (eg: a MP3 copy of the soundtrack etc..) too. For comparison, the game costs ยฃ6.99 on Steam at the time of writing, but it obviously also comes with all of Steam’s “internet connection required” DRM.

I should probably also warn you that this review might contains some SPOILERS and some (unrealistic) DISTURBING AND/OR GRUESOME IMAGES.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Last Door: Collector’s Edition”:

The last door - Title screen

“The Last Door: Collector’s Edition” is a four-part point-and-click horror game set in Victorian England.

You play as a man called J.Devitt who is investigating the mysterious suicide of his old friend Anthony Beechwood. This investigation takes him on (the first half of) a disturbing journey, where madness is only inches away and malevolent forces lurk just out of sight….

Yes, when the opening scene of a game looks like THIS, then it probably isn't going to be one of those "cheerful" horror games.

Yes, when the opening scene of a game looks like THIS, then it probably isn’t going to be one of those “cheerful” horror games.

The first thing that I will say about this game is that it is actually a horror game! Don’t be fooled by it’s cartoonish pixellated graphics, this game is a proper, old-school horror game!

It's Forest! He's been pecked to death by ... Ooops! Wrong game!

It’s Forest! He’s been pecked to death by … Ooops! Wrong game!

Unlike some modern “designed for ‘Let’s Play’ videos” horror games, “The Last Door” actually contains a variety of different types of horror. Yes, there are a few well-placed jump scares, but they are merely the icing on a very bloody and very disturbing cake.

As well as a gradually building atmosphere of tension and mystery, the game also includes a variety of genuinely disturbing events, creepy background details, gruesome tableaux, ominous locations and chilling in-game documents. This is how you make a horror game!

So, yes, scenes like this AREN'T the only type of horror in the game...

So, yes, scenes like this AREN’T the only type of horror in the game…

The main inspirations for this game are H.P.Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and the developers do a good job at emulating these writers (thematically, the game is closer to Lovecraft – but many of the game’s events are closer to Poe) whilst also giving the horror in the game a slightly bloodier and more modern twist too.

Although the bloody writing looks like it's been drawn in MS Paint (using a mouse), this scene is significantly creepier in-game! Especially now that I've looked at the screenshot again, remembered the backstory, connected the dots and suddenly realised that it wasn't JUST a random "shock value" scene.

Although the bloody writing looks like it’s been drawn in MS Paint (using a mouse), this scene is significantly creepier in-game! Especially now that I’ve looked at the screenshot again, remembered the backstory, connected the dots and suddenly realised that it wasn’t JUST a random “shock value” scene.

One interesting feature in the game is that each one of the game’s four episodes begins with a short interactive scene where you control another character, who performs some kind of incomprehensible and/or disturbing sequence of actions (eg: you actually play as Beechwood in the first scene of the game).

Not only does this create an ominous sense of mystery, but it also helps to show that there are events that happen outside of the main character’s knowledge or control.

Some of the horror in this game is also counterpointed with rare moments of dark humour. Although most of these are fairly subtle Poe/ Lovecraft references (as well as a cynically hilarious fable about a rabbit), one stand-out moment is an old-timey film that you’ll see during one of the cutscenes, which somehow manages to be both extremely gross and extremely hilarious at the same time (probably due to the combination of jaunty piano music with the events of the film):

Yes, this is probably the only screenshot from it that I can show without spoiling the gross hilariousness of it.

Yes, this is probably the only screenshot from it that I can show without spoiling the gross hilariousness of it.

However, as creepy as the game is – the first half of the game is probably slightly creepier than the second half. Although the latter half of the game certainly has it’s fair share of creepy, disturbing and/or shocking events, they lack of some of the ominous sense of mystery that the first two episodes have.

The fact that the game’s Lovecraftian elements also get slightly more convoluted and “mysterious for the sake of mysterious” in the later parts of the game doesn’t exactly help either.

 Yes, when words like "zha'ilathal " start appearing, some of the horror turns into silliness!

Yes, when words like “zha’ilathal ” start appearing, some of the horror turns into silliness!

As for the gameplay, it’s fairly standard “point and click” gameplay. You talk to people, read documents, find items and solve puzzles. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

In the first episode, the puzzles are reasonably straightforward and logical. As someone who is terrible at adventure game puzzles, I took this as a good sign. However, by about halfway through episode two, I found that I had to consult a walkthrough on a regular basis.

Yes, some of the later puzzles can be solved without a walkthrough (and some of them made me think “duh!” when I looked at the walkthrough) but there are at least a couple of puzzles that border on moon logic:

Fun fact: To get this tree to grow to this size, you have to use a musical instrument in an unusual way in another part of the level.

Fun fact: To get this tree to grow to this size, you have to use a musical instrument in an unusual way in another part of the level.

However, THIS puzzle is the kind of annoyingly cryptic thing that used to turn up in the original "Silent Hill". Seriously, you'll probably need a walkthrough here...

However, THIS puzzle is the kind of annoyingly cryptic thing that used to turn up in the original “Silent Hill”. Seriously, you’ll probably need a walkthrough here…

The visual style of this game is fairly interesting though. Although the ultra-large pixels make the game’s occasional moments of “pixel hunting” significantly easier, they were initially one of the things that made me mildly wary about this game. Although I really love cartoonish 1990s-style pixel art, I vastly prefer this art style when it contains lots of visual detail (eg: with slightly smaller pixels). So, ironically, I was mildly reluctant to play this game because of it’s ultra-primitive graphics.

However, thanks to the game’s compelling and chilling story, I soon ended up ignoring the super-blocky graphics because I was too immersed in the story. In addition to this, I have to admire how the game’s designers can create the impression of some fairly detailed landscapes using only a relatively small number of pixels:

Yes, this somehow manages to look both extremely blocky AND extremely detailed!

Yes, this somehow manages to look both extremely blocky AND extremely detailed!

Wow! Just wow! Art made with gigantic pixels should NOT look THIS detailed!

Wow! Just wow! Art made with gigantic pixels should NOT look THIS detailed!

In terms of length, this game is certainly on the shorter side of things. Each of the game’s four episodes can be completed in an hour or less (possibly slightly longer if you don’t use a walkthrough).

Although the “Collector’s Edition” of the game also includes four additional semi-playable, non-playable and/or fully-playable vignettes in the “extras” menu, which help to flesh out some of the backstory, they are all extremely short too (each one is three minutes long at most). So, for length reasons, I’d recommend waiting until this game goes on special offer if you’re buying games on a budget.

For example, this bonus scene is literally nothing more than one medium-sized dialogue tree.

For example, this bonus scene is literally nothing more than one medium-sized dialogue tree.

I should probably also mention the game’s soundtrack too, which is the kind of wonderfully ominous and opulent classical soundtrack that you would expect to see in a game like this (despite the game’s visual style, the music is high-quality recorded music, rather than MIDI/ Chiptune music). It really helps to add a lot to the creepy atmosphere of the game. Plus, if you get the game on GoG, then it comes with a MP3 copy of the soundtrack too.

All in all, this is a much better game than I expected! Yes, it is only the first half of a larger story, but it is probably one of the creepiest horror games that I’ve played in a long time. Even though some of the puzzles are a bit too convoluted and/or tricky for my liking, it’s still an extremely compelling and disturbing game. It’s proof that you don’t need a large budget, lots of jump scares and/or flashy graphics to make a genuinely chilling horror game.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.