Genre: Horror Compilation
Developers: Adam Pype & Viktor Kraus, Amon26, Modus Interactive, Torple Dook, Moya Horror, Bryce Bucher, Basalt Tower, Redact Games, Corpsepile, Dirigo Games, Blood Machine, Breogan Hackett, KIRA, Wayward Preacher
Original Release: October 23, 2020
Publisher: Dread X
You know I like the Dread X Collection games by now. And you know I’m usually on the lookout for some new horror that I haven’t seen previously. And so here we are again, as Halloween looms ever closer. This time around, the theme for the collection was “Spoopy” and thus we have twelve games that have a spooky, yet cute atmosphere. And on top of that we have a hub area made by KIRA!
In addition, the story is a bit more up front this time! Leo, our familiar and beloved voice from the previous installments, returns with his live-in alien consciousness Prometheus. And boy those two have a really charming dynamic. I’m not saying that ironically, either. I laughed and smiled at each of their exchanges. It was a pleasant addition to the game while I explored the hub castle.
So instead of finding tapes this time around, you have to find ritual candles in order to conduct a séance, which in turn launches each of the games. And even the ghosts are cute! As ever, I’ll be discussing each of the games in the order that I played them, as well as including some tweets about each game from the publisher if I can find them. Some I’ll have more to say about than others, but I definitely enjoyed each game in the collection.
SPOOKWARE @ THE VIDEO STORE
Developer: Adam Pype & Viktor Kraus
Spookware, as its name might imply, is a microgame collection inspired by WarioWare. Three skeletons, Righti, Midi, and Lefti, decide to have a three-night horror movie marathon together in order to honor their ancestors. The games are split into two groups: keyboard and mouse respectively. You have a short amount of time to meet the criteria and move on, otherwise you’ll lose one of your lives. Lose all three and you’re out.
I was excited for this one when I learned it was part of the collection. I love WarioWare so much, if only because the games are so ridiculous. And SpookWare did not disappoint at all.
I found it a little tricky to clear some of the minigames once the speed-up happens, but it’s not impossible and it was a lot of fun all the way through!
SpookWare @ The Video Store just speaks to me. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s skeletons watching horror movies, maybe it’s the loving nod to WarioWare. Either way, I love it.
Bete Grise puts you in control of a night shift manager named Pom at the Bete Grise hotel. Your job consists of making sure the vending machines are working, cleaning up empty rooms, wiping off bathroom mirrors, and picking up lost items you find in the hotel while you search for the penthouse key you misplaced earlier. I’m not sure what exactly it is about Pom, but I love her so much. Maybe it’s her genuine love for her work.
Moving around the hotel is interesting. The perspective is isometric, similar to The Sims. You have free reign over the hotel, barring rooms where guests are sleeping. Not every room will have something that needs tending to, and not every room that needs something will need the same thing. It’s a little repetitive, but that also kind of speaks to the daily grind of most jobs these days.
I know this kind of game won’t be for everyone, but I couldn’t help but smile as I wandered through the hotel cleaning up. The music helped me relax as well!
Eden: Garden of the Faultless
Developer: Modus Interactive
Have you ever played Sonic Adventure or seen someone play it? If so, you definitely know about the Chao Garden. Those adorable little…things. I have no idea what they are, honestly. They’re Chaos. Like Chao plural, not chaos like chaotic.
Anyway, Eden: Garden of the Faultless is basically a game in the vein of the Chao Gardens. You raise a (biblically accurate) angel from creation and raise it to compete in various leagues.
While Sonic Adventure had at least three separate Chao Gardens, Eden has one. You can only have three angels roaming around at any time, but as you win races, future eggs will provide stronger angels capable of further growth and development. Each race takes place along the same track, but depending on the league you’ve entered the race will be longer and more involved. Your angel, meanwhile, will perform according to its three stats: flight, speed, and power. There are three fruit-bearing trees in the garden proper that you can direct your angel to eat from to increase their stats.
I really enjoyed Eden: Garden of the Faultless. The game itself had a simple, but enjoyable gameplay loop, and it really did feel like I was involved in the growth and care of my little nightmarish friends. For as strange as they might look, the angels are definitely cute.
Developer: Torple Dook
You guys know I love Torple Dook’s work by now. Hand of Doom was amazing and I launched into a tangent about second-person games with Undiscovered, so it’s likely I’m going to love Chip’s Tips in a game collection with a theme of Spoopy, right?
Yeah. Yeah I love this game unironically.
See, Chip’s Tips is a point-and-click game in the vein of Pajama Sam or Freddi Fish where you walk or run (or swim) around and find various items to solve puzzles to find more items that you need to collect the items needed for the end of the game, except where those two are animated, Chip’s Tips is Full-Motion Video! And it works so well! I also saw comparisons to Harvester prior to the collection’s release, but I have never played that before. Needless to say it’s on my list now.
I could not stop smiling the whole time I was playing Chip’s Tips. The nostalgia factor was so potent that I remembered all of the days I had to go to work with my mom and just sat in the back room of her office playing various Humongous Entertainment games and everything just felt right. Heck, there was one point where Torple Dook even popped into my stream and just hung out for a bit! And let me tell you, I am still floored and honored by that almost a week later at time of writing. He’s super chill and even pointed out some neat stuff I would have missed otherwise! Word of advice: click on the disco ball when you see it.
Thank you for bringing some fond childhood memories back to the forefront Torple Dook. I’ll be thinking about Chip’s Tips for a while to come.
Nice Screams At The Funfair
Developer: Moya Horror
I don’t really know what to say about Nice Screams. It’s definitely the shortest game in the collection and incredibly surreal. The premise of the game is that you are put in charge of the ice cream stand at the Unfair Funfair in order to distract the patrons from the fact that none of the rides work. You aren’t allowed to take tips, which is enforced by the presence of a robotic cat with a circular saw in place of its right hand who I’ve taken to calling Murdercat. But friend Murdercat isn’t always watching, so if you can juggle the orders with depositing the cash you get, you can make some nice bank for yourself!
Getting the controls figured out took a bit of doing. There’s a sign on the wall to the left of the ice cream bin that tells you exactly what to do (scoop, throw, serve, cash), but I wasn’t sure how to put down the scooper and serve the ice cream. As it turns out, all you have to do is fill the ice cream cone with the requested flavors, then click on the cone and you’ll put the scooper back. From there you just have to hand over the cone and you’ll get cash! At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. I ran into some really weird glitches when I played, like being able to hold two cones at the same time.
Honestly though? I liked this one. It was simple, but it worked well! That and it reminded me of that ingrained fear of making mistakes while I was on shift with a manager. Hoo boy that does not bring back pleasant memories.
Disparity of the Dead
Developer: Bryce Bucher
Disparity of the Dead is another game in the collection that I really like. You play as an unnamed detective in the land of the dead, where people from the land of the living have stopped showing up. It’s one part platformer, one part collect-a-thon, and one part puzzle game. You have to collect errant soul energy scattered around the land of the dead and compile enough evidence (even if it’s just anecdotal) to make your way up to the land of the living and figure out what exactly is going on. Fortunately, your secretary is very good at their job and gets your evidence board set up so that you can piece things together as you go!
If I had one complaint about Disparity of the Dead, it’s probably the fixed camera angle at times. Like it’s definitely not a major issue or a deal-breaker, I just felt silly trying to go into my office and suddenly beelining into a wall when the camera changed, then spinning around trying to get my bearings. I’m a good detective, I swear.
Being able to explore the land of the dead at your leisure is kind of relaxing. It’s unsettling, due in part to the low-poly models, the overarching theme of death in various forms (there is a content warning when you first load up the game), and for what you find at the end of the game, but I like it for that. It kind of made me wrestle with some uncomfortable subjects in my own life while scaring the daylights out of me. Like with many of the other titles in this collection, I would absolutely love to see a full version of this some day.
Matter Over Mind
Developer: Basalt Tower
Matter Over Mind is a reverse-horror title where you control a coconut and vanilla-scented blob capable of taking over its victims’ bodies and moving around the research facility with their help. Kind of like the headcrabs in Half-Life.
Friend blob can be killed either by patrolling armed guards or falling through grates. It makes sense, you’re a living blob of slime and it lends a sense of diegesis to the game that you can’t move over grates yourself without falling through. I like that. Sadly I didn’t take a lot of screenshots this time around, but I don’t really think I need too many for this one. The game is simple enough: scientists have different levels of clearance based on the coloration on their uniforms, so they’re able to open blue, green, or red doors respectively. It’s a bit of a puzzle, trying to figure out how to get around, but it’s not bad! I liked this one a lot, but man it is punishing when you die. You get sent back to the very beginning, but after a few tries you get a feel for what to do and how to approach certain puzzles.
Another solid game of the collection, and definitely worth playing if you can.
Developer: Redact Games
Like with Nice Screams At The Funfair, Sato Wonderland is pretty short. You are an AI Handler at the titular Sato Wonderland. The park’s mascot, Kitsuhime, has recently malfunctioned and as such there’s been an incident at the park. It’s up to you to interrogate Kitsuhime and figure out what happened and whether or not to return her to service.
A part of me felt compelled to draw comparisons to Five Nights At Freddy’s given the subject of a malfunctioning animatronic mascot. My sister and I actually got to talking about it and something we appreciate Sato Wonderland for is that it maintains that ghost story vibe while actually providing answers for the story rather than leaving the audience/community to piece things together. Don’t get me wrong, FNAF is impressive in its own right (a subject for another blog post), but I feel like Sato Wonderland does the spooky animatronic vibe better.
Obviously I like Sato Wonderland a lot. It was cute, but also creepy and left me deeply uncomfortable trying to figure out what happened and what was the better choice between returning Kitsuhime to service or retiring her. Definitely worth playing, and absolutely one of my favorites in the collection.
Submission is a delightfully strange part of this collection. Beyond what you see in the above tweet, almost nothing about it was revealed. I figured it would be some twisted game where you go with Potato the Donkey to the farm and he forces you to kneel before him, thus the name. But that was not the case and I have to say what I got instead was actually pretty sweet.
I find myself at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to talking about games like Submission where they don’t tell you much about it. Like part of the joy is discovering what the game actually is, but sticking to that makes it kind of hard for me to talk about what all I like about the game specifically. So while I won’t go into specific details, I will say that what you see of Submission above is only the very beginning of the game. The real meat of it happens after the opening.
As it turns out, Submission is a game about making a game, hence the title. And from experience, it’s surprisingly accurate to the game development process.
So the meat of Submission is all about iteration and testing: Choose your preferred environment, try to find a place to use all of the mechanics in each environment, and put things together as much as you can to do what you need to get a build ready to submit.
I’m going to leave everything else for you to figure out, but Submission is definitely worth your time to play through.
Developer: Dirigo Games
I mentioned in the previous Dread X Collection article that I find isolation sort of romantic. Something about being alone with your thoughts in an unfamiliar location where anything could happen and it’s yours to explore. A real test of one’s autonomy as it were. Reactor plays with this in a way similar to The Diving Bell, but instead of being undersea and completely alone following a disastrous accident, you are a lone scientist on a remote planet with only an AI companion to keep you company. They’ll encourage you, point you in the right direction, and handle some routine tasks while you handle some more complicated matters.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to go. Let me just say that as much as humanity’s curiosity is as dangerous as it is rewarding, I could never be a scientist. I’ve seen so many movies that I know anything that can go wrong will. Murphy’s Law rings true with every step in sci-fi movies, despite Peter’s Laws (The Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive) saying that if anything can go wrong to fix it, not everything can be fixed.
Reactor was delightful. I have a feeling it wasn’t the intent, but when the opening theme began I couldn’t help but start singing “Making Christmas” along to it. Normally you’d think something like that would detract from the atmosphere (something I’m apparently very good at), it didn’t. Reactor is absolutely worth the time it takes to play through. It kind of gave me some Evolution vibes if you’ve ever seen that movie.
Developer: Blood Machine
Soul Waste is another game I didn’t get a lot of screenshots of. Fortunately, the tweet linked above covers a good chunk of the gameplay. Similar to how Eden: Garden of the Faultless was very much like Sonic Adventure’s Chao gardens, Soul Waste takes the 3D Sonic approach with momentum and free-movement. The added benefit here is that as your speed increases, so does your damage output. So if you can attack and land a hit while you’re running, you’ll do well.
The plot of Soul Waste is that you are an immortal hero traversing a ruined city as part of a quest to kill god. Along the way you’ll find machines and various creatures trying to stop you, but nothing can truly stop you. Even if you die, you’ll return to your most recent checkpoint.
Soul Waste is another game I would absolutely love to see more of. The music was great, the controls were a little wonky, but not so much that you can’t get the hang of them with a little bit of work, and it has that great mix of creepy, cute, and stylish. I felt myself getting really into the world at large at appreciating the design at every turn. I found it was easier to play this one with a controller, but you might prefer keyboard and mouse if that’s your cup of tea.
Bubbo: Adventure on Gerald’s Island
Developer: Breogan Hackett
Call me crazy, but I think the devs had something of a contest going on with each other. Bubbo makes a cameo in a few of the other games in the collection (the CD cases in Bete Grise, for example) and as silly as it might sound, it really brought a sense of community to each of the games.
Anyway, Bubbo is an N64-styled platformer. You play as Bubbo, a new delivery person who’s just come to Gerald’s Island as part of your work. You collect coins, interact with the islanders, and explore the island. It’s cute, it’s effective, and definitely sinister. Like with Submission, I’m not going to go into specifics because it’s something better discovered for yourself, but I found myself exasperated by the shenanigans of the islanders at times. Playfully, of course. I never found myself frustrated by the plot development and had a really good time with Bubbo from start to finish.
Like with the other games, I feel like Bubbo would benefit from a full game in the future if the stars aligned properly. I would definitely play it, at least.
Dread X Collection 3 is another solid installment of twelve games, bringing the total to thirty-four. Each developer’s brought something new to the table and further reinforced just how many different ways there are to interpret horror. Sometimes it’s existential, sometimes it’s direct, and sometimes it just gets you thinking.
I’m not sure if you can tell by now, but I’m pretty analytically-minded. I think a lot about what goes into games and why characters act the way they do. My brother was always a bit annoyed by this when I was younger, and I can’t blame him for it, but it’s definitely helped me find my niche and I’ll always be thankful for that.
So yeah, Dread X Collection 3 is well worth your time. And what’s even better is that all three games are currently on sale on Steam!
I can’t stress enough just how much I love the indie horror community. They’re doing such awesome work and deserve all the love. Honestly, these games are why I’ve recently taken such an interest in exactly who was involved in each game I play. That and I like to know so I can credit them properly as part of the book I’m working on, but that’s neither here nor there. Either way, I highly recommend Dread X Collection 3. Should there be another one in the works I will absolutely pick it up. In the interim, go support indie horror!