Month: June 2017



Find your way off of a monster-infested ship.

PC Release: May 20, 2015

By Ian Coppock

The final sequence of many horror movies is a pulse-pounding race to safety. The protagonist’s friends are dead, all other options are exhausted, and now it’s up to that character to outrun the monster. How fitting that Monstrum, the final game of this month’s horror lineup, channels that movie sequence in the extreme. The player is all alone, any potential allies are long dead, and now it’s up to them to find a way to safety while being pursued by a ruthless creature. Running into the night sounds like a fitting end to the horrors that have been witnessed here this month, so prepare to do precisely that with Monstrum.


Monstrum is a spooky escape adventure whipped up by the adrenaline junkies over at Team Junkfish. The game is a first-person exercise in unpredictability and ruthless survival horror, as players attempt to escape an environment while being pursued by a monster. Monstrum‘s usage of scary monsters and unsettling sounds is nothing new to the indie horror genre, but what is novel about the game is the tenacity with which it burns out players’ adrenaline glands. Even Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast have peaceful interludes. Monstrum does not.

Monstrum takes place on a derelict freighter drifting around the Pacific. The player character, a nameless crewman, wakes up stuffed inside a locker and emerges to find their ship devoid of life. The other crewmen seem to be long gone, and there’s a profound sense of something having gone horribly wrong on board. It’s up to players to navigate the dark corridors of the ship and find a way off of it, but they’re not alone. Monsters are about, and they’re none too keen on sharing the lifeboat.


When you see it, you’ll…

Rather than being a linear story-driven game like the other titles reviewed here this month, Monstrum is a hardcore survival challenge that changes every time players brave it. The goal of the game is to find a way off of the ship, gather the resources necessary to use it, and avoid getting killed by a monster all the while. There are no checkpoints in Monstrum; if players get killed by a monster while they’re running around the ship, they have to start over from the very beginning, losing all of their resources in the process.

To make the game even more difficult, Monstrum changes the ship’s layout with every single playthrough, reshuffling corridors and decks to make the vessel look different with each escape attempt. Some decks of the ship don’t change all that much, but others become nigh unrecognizable, and items randomly shift alongside the environment. The player’s spawning location changes along with the environment, so trying to form a strategy for quickly gathering resources or getting to an escape route is a pointless way to go in most cases.


Just bringing my radio to the crew lounge and- oh. This is no longer the crew lounge.

The true terror of Monstrum‘s penchant for randomness lies not in the layout of the vessel, but in the monsters themselves. When players start a new round of Monstrum, the game randomly selects one of three creatures to hunt them down and prevent their escape. Each creature uses different methods to track the player and has its own audio and visual cues. One monster sets traps and crawls around in vents, while another stomps around hallways breaking doors (and spines, given the opportunity). The telepathic creature that can suspend fleeing players in the air is particularly… visceral.

Players’ only hope for avoiding these creatures is running and hiding. Monstrum provides no weapons for self-defense, but does let players get creative with distractions and traps. Players can deploy radios and alarm clocks to draw beasties away or trick monsters into stepping over loose floor panels and crashing through to a deck below. The monsters’ AI is pretty ruthless; players can count on almost constantly being pursued through the ship as they try to find a way off of it. Even if the monsters don’t know precisely where the player is, they’ll usually spawn in too close for comfort.


Where’s the fire escape on this damn ship?!

Players have a few other options for dealing with monsters and making the most of the ship’s environment. Fuse boxes allow players to get into locked rooms full of goodies… provided players can find a fuse. Most rooms on the ship have plenty of places to hide, so players who have a monster hot on their heels can usually stuff themselves inside a locker or under a bed if they have no other choice. Players who aren’t being pursued still have to be careful, though; the ship’s security cameras sound a very loud, monster-drawing alarm if they spot the player.

Players still have to find a way off of the ship while dealing with this kerfuffle of bloodthirsty monsters and hypersensitive security cameras. In this regard, at least, players have a few options: maybe that deflated life raft or that dusty helicopter can do the trick? Some escape methods require more tools and equipment than others, but players can bet that it’s all scattered across the ship and takes some serious legwork to find. A single round of Monstrum can last anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, but the game’s procedural generation guarantees replay value.


Get to the chopper!

Monstrum‘s procedural environments and random selection of killing machines makes it one of the most visceral, pulse-pouding escape adventures in years. Hardcore survival horror enthusiasts who love the idea of crying in lockers or being two steps ahead of a 500-pound killing machine will want to play the game over and over again. As previously mentioned, the fact that Monstrum‘s environments and monsters change with every playthrough means that the game packs a lot of replay value, even if one round doesn’t take all that long. Despite the rounds’ shortness, Monstrum is quite difficult, hitting that sweet spot between too hard to beat quickly and simple enough to enjoy over and over.

Though Monstrum‘s adrenaline-fueled gameplay is a solid package, some of the game’s other design elements are less tightly focused. The game’s visuals start out strong with sharp textures and a diverse palette of lighting. That latter one is especially important for establishing atmosphere, as even the most brightly lit areas of the ship are illuminated with sour white light to reinforce the gloomy feel. On the other end of the spectrum, players are also expected to navigate dark engine rooms and shipping containers that have just enough light to get around and not a single lumen more.


Alright, let’s not set the ship on fire.

Less excellent than Monstrum‘s ship design is its character animations, which are painfully amateurish. Whether it’s walking, crawling or running, the player character’s limb and body movements are laughably unnatural. What’s more, the character has a penchant for holding items awkwardly in front of themselves, sometimes taking up the entire screen while doing so. The character holds up a fuse like it’s a lantern and hugs larger items like gasoline containers right to their face. Players can’t deselect items without dropping them, so holding them up like this is really the only option. It’s not easy to spot a monster when the character’s burying their nose in a submarine battery.

Monstrum could also do with a few more PSAs on how to play intelligently. The game provides a few basic control pointers but fails to point out a few things that can radically change the course of the game, like how to break through broken doors or stop security cameras from spotting the player. None of these are deal-breakers, but they do cross that fine line between leaving the player to figure things out on their own and flat-out refusing to drop any sort of hint (for the record, players can bust a locked door by throwing a sound-making device through it, prompting the monster to smash it open).


How to get in, how to get in…

Monstrum never claims to be a story-driven game, but that doesn’t stop what exposition the game does provide from being chock-full of spelling and grammar errors. Players can find notes and recordings throughout the ship hinting at its fate and why monsters are running around, but they’re full of bizarre abbreviations and careless alternations between American and British spelling (in addition to the usual rogue’s gallery of unnecessary commas, random capitalization, abrupt line breaks, and written-out ha has). Players notice those errors more than developers realize and there’s little to be lost by taking thirty seconds to look them up on Google.

All of that said, Monstrum‘s background story does a good job of setting a spooky stage for the gameplay. The notes look like something out of John Carpenter’s The Thing, with various crewmen discussing strange goings-on aboard the ship that culminate in the disaster the player wakes up to. Who the player is isn’t really divulged, but again, Monstrum prefers to focus on the visceral action instead of story. Because Monstrum‘s visceral action is so addictive, that’s just fine.


I guess this is the “brigde.”

The final piece of Monstrum‘s horror motif is its sound design. The game’s soundtrack is a fairly conventional mix of low electronic sounds that elevate to terrifying heights when a monster spots the player. The game’s other sounds are an inoffensive mix of footsteps on metal and rustling through lockers and bags in search of supplies. The monsters themselves sound absolutely terrifying, with a mix of hisses and roars that sound right at home in a Ridley Scott or John Carpenter film.

The only problem with all of these sounds is that they have a nasty tendency to be unbalanced. Monstrum cheats a little bit by making its monsters’ roars and growls about five times louder than the rest of the game. It gives players a good little jump, but it feels like a cheap shot. The other audio element of the game that’s way too loud is the tape recordings found throughout the ship, which assault the ears with a huge roar of static and whose words are usually incomprehensible anyway. Monstrum‘s options menu has a lot of toggles, but subtitles aren’t one of them.



Even though Monstrum suffers from almost every amateur design flaw in the book, it remains one of the scariest horror games ever made. Neither its awkwardly spelled notes nor its flat-falling character animations prevent the title’s escape gameplay from providing pure terror. The game’s procedural generation gives it an element of unpredictability that most conventional horror games lack, and its permadeath adds another level of terror to some already terrifying monsters. Monstrum is interested only in burning players’ hearts out with pure adrenaline, so anybody looking for that type of experience should pick the game up immediately. It’s fun, it’s varied, and oh so scary.


You can buy Monstrum here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

No More Room in Hell


Team up with other survivors and outlast the zombie apocalypse.

PC Release: October 31, 2011

By Ian Coppock

When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth. That George Romero tagline is the byword of No More Room in Hell. Apparently Hell is already full (phew) but that means the zombies have arrived once more! No More Room in Hell is not the first or only video game to envision the zombie apocalypse, but it might be the only one that puts such a visceral emphasis on teamwork. When the dead rise, the living can only count on one another to beat back the zombie tide. Even more than that Dawn of the Dead quote, the teamwork of the living is No More Room in Hell‘s central motif.


Created by the one-man band of Matt “Maxx” Kazan, No More Room in Hell is a co-op zombie survival game that draws heavy inspiration from Dawn of the Dead and Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. Like the other multiplayer games being reviewed here this month, No More Room in Hell is a Source mod that leverages gracefully aging visuals and Valve’s powerful programming to deliver its multiplayer experience. Unlike this month’s other multiplayer games, No More Room in Hell focuses less on players killing each other and more on them working together to survive against hordes of zombies.

That’s really all there is to this title’s gameplay. Grab some friends, sort the ones who are good with guns from the ones who are good with melee weapons, and get cracking on surviving the zombie apocalypse. There are only two game modes in No More Room in Hell, and they both revolve around teamwork. Objective mode forces players to work together to find an escape vehicle, while Survival consists simply of outlasting zombie waves. Both modes are fun, though it’s a shame No More Room in Hell only has two of them.


We must stop this bank robbery and bring the zombies to justice!

No More Room in Hell‘s modes are not that remarkable. Anyone who’s touched a zombie game has probably run to the chopper or made a last stand against the horde before. No More Room in Hell prefers to make its mark not with game modes, but with the actual gameplay and an acute focus on realism. In this case, “realism” stands for no heads-up display, limited health, and short-term stamina. Maxx Kazan decided to go with the low-key survivor motif instead of the flashy action hero. Even if zombies have been overdone to death in this medium, games that attempts to bring realism to the scenario are rare.

As a survivor, players have no ammo counter on their firearms. Their character will occasionally yell out how many mags they have left, but that’s about it. Even though the player is flying blind on their ammo, No More Room in Hell makes a curious attempt at forcing teamwork by allowing a player’s teammates to see their ammo readout instead. That’s an interesting choice for a game with such a strong focus on realism, and though it doesn’t make much sense, it does encourage players to keep an eye on each other. Conversely, it also causes players to scream “DUDE BRUH HOW MUCH AMMO I GOT???” every two seconds, which is irritating.


You started with two shells, now you have none. Do the math, Einstein.

Players also have no indication of where their health’s at, at least until they suddenly keel over and die. Indeed, No More Room in Hell‘s HUD might be one of the most minimalist such displays since 2005’s Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. This approach forces players to not only be much more conservative with their resources, but also to mentally juggle how many bullets and pills they’re carrying.

The tricky thing about the abject lack of a HUD is that it’s not necessarily more realistic than having one. No one knows what “percentage” their health is at all the time, but that’s why doctors give the the “scale of 1-10” question—because most people can at least approximate how they’re feeling, and that’s what a health meter represents. Stripping the health meter out is the video game equivalent of suspecting pain but being unable to feel it. As a stylistic choice, there’s nothing objectively wrong with it; but it’s not realism, per se.


Tap your knee? HOW ABOUT YOUR FACE!

All of this HUD business means that No More Room in Hell is quite difficult. Players looking for a cinematic Left 4 Dead-style arcade experience probably won’t get much out of No More Room in Hell, but survivalists and challenge seekers may enjoy it. For anything that can be said about No More Room in Hell‘s severe approach to heads-up displays, the game does a pretty good job of capturing the feel of an average person in the zombie apocalypse. With limited stamina, ammo, and health, the game feels much more like a harrowing escape challenge than a shooter.

Either way, No More Room in Hell could do with a few more tutorials. The game does provide a brief control scheme graphic while the map loads, but a few more pointers on how to, say, get out of a zombie choke-hold would be nice to see in-game. So would a warning that it only takes two swings of the shovel to leave the player character winded. Thankfully, No More Room in Hell‘s controls are conventional for a shooter, and the game leverages that awesome Source options menu to help players get the most out of the game on their machine.


Keyyyyy bindinnnnnnggggsssssssss…

No More Room in Hell‘s level design is more open than that of most Source mods. Rather than the constricting hallways and multi-tiered elevation endemic to Day of Defeat and Fistful of FragsNo More Room in Hell favors large single-story buildings with lots of corners for zombies to hide behind. Good stuff, especially for a game whose modes demand hunting for an exit. Just remember to stick together; No More Room in Hell‘s maps have a way of getting players separated.

The visuals that fill these maps out are more of a mixed bag than the level design. No More Room in Hell looks aged compared to mods and games that came out years before it. Most of the textures are pretty muddy, and the in-game objects could stand some more rendering. Curiously enough, the game characters’ arms look pretty good, but otherwise the game looks rough. No More Room in Hell also suffers from excessively dark environments, as in “too dark to see the room” type of dark. This doesn’t stop the game’s atmosphere from being morbid, but it might stop players from spotting an item.


Ooooh boy.

Co-op multiplayer games are best played with friends, but No More Room in Hell still has an active community for players feeling adventurous. Playing with randos is a mixed bag these days, but it’s a testament to No More Room in Hell‘s longevity that its community is still kicking six years after launch. Still, No More Room in Hell is best enjoyed with a cabal of zombie-killing friends, and the fact that the game is free means that everyone can at least give it a try (it’s fun to misinform friends of how much ammo they have left).

At the end of the day, No More Room in Hell‘s mission is not to create a small-screen zombie blockbuster, but to imagine how a team of normal people might work together to survive a zombie epidemic. Not much of what the game brings to the table is truly original, from shambling Romero-style zombies to getting to the chopper, but few games take to that subject matter with such acute attention to realism. Players need to work together to survive, just as the living might need to do against the dead. That experience is brought shambling to life like no other in No More Room in Hell.


Must… get… out…

No More Room in Hell presents an interesting take on surviving the zombie apocalypse, but the game remains rough around the edges in much of its production. The visuals look muddled, the lighting is mediocre, and the soundtrack isn’t all that memorable. However, the game is free, its gameplay is decent enough with a few wiki consultations, and it comes with nearly two dozen maps. Even though No More Room in Hell doesn’t hit all its notes, Maxx Kazan is onto something with his pursuit of realism and is hopefully refining what the original game missed in the forthcoming No More Room in Hell 2. In the meantime, this title might be worth biting into for the discerning zombie survivalist.


You can buy No More Room in Hell here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Fistful of Frags


Defeat enemy gunslingers and prove yourself the fastest gun in the Wild West.

PC Release: May 9, 2014

By Ian Coppock

If games like Fistful of Frags have anything to teach, it’s that contemporary notions of the Wild West are heavily romanticized. Indeed, there’s probably no other period of history in America or anywhere else that’s looked back upon (by pop culture, at least) with so much affection and unrealistic exaltation as the U.S.’s westward expansion. The reality’s somewhat different, but that’s lost on a lot of people—even though the first hint is in the name “Wild West.” In truth, the West was a lawless place rife with profiteering, robbery, and murder. How much profiteering, robbery, and murder? Ask Fistful of Frags.


Fistful of Frags is a multiplayer cowboy disagreement simulator created by (brace yourself) the Fistful of Frags Team. The game is a Source multiplayer mod built to use the same interface and in-depth options menu as a lot of Valve’s most popular multiplayer titles, but with a few tricks of its own. Rather than focusing on World War II or hunting terrorists, Fistful of Frags takes players back to the Wild West, pitting dozens of gunslingers against each other in beautiful maps. Just make sure the six shooter is full and the whiskey is topped off first.

Players start out each round by picking a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and which hand their character uses for shooting. Primary weapons usually consist of revolvers and shotguns, but players can also pick more specialized killing tools like a Native American longbow. Secondary weapons comprise throwing knives and more compact guns (like a Derringer), but players can also use their secondary weapon slot to pick a combat perk. Boots, for example, make the player’s kicking attack score more damage.


Negotiations are breaking down.

The most common game mode in Fistful of Frags is a good ol’ fashioned hoedown. And of course, in this context, “hoedown” means “every-man-for-himself deathmatch.” Battles in Fistful of Frags are 10-minute bouts of pure chaos, as players move up, down, and all around a diverse palette of maps shooting varmints and taking names. Being a good gunslinger in Fistful of Frags is all about accuracy; fast-moving players aren’t likely to hit much, so they have to slow down and carefully take aim while shooting. It takes a while to get used to, but a good rule of thumb is simply to move quickly while hunting foes and then slow down near cover when the enemy is within range.

The other combat modes in Fistful of Frags make for standard Source multiplayer fare; the game sports an Elimination mode, a Versus mode, and a Dino D-Day-style Objective mode in which players have to complete specific tasks. Fistful of Frags also features a homemade mode called Break Bad, where players start out as unarmed targets who can’t be shot at without incurring a penalty, but who can also gradually acquire weapons over time. It’s kind of like a Call of Duty Gun Game match where the acquisition of weapons is determined by time instead of kills. A bit clumsy, but not without entertainment value.



Fistful of Frags has maps with diversity to match its game modes. The game’s grand total of maps at the moment is 13, which, while not a ton, is an alright middling number for a Source mod. Each map succeeds in looking distinct from its fellows; players can battle it out anywhere from an old lumber mill to a snowy mountain town. Desert depots, steamboats, and labyrinthine mines round out the game’s impressive environmental variety. By setting each map in a distinct location, Fistful of Frags insures good gameplay variety and avoids falling into the samey environment trap that snared Day of Defeat: Source.

To top all of that off, Fistful of Frags is a beautiful game. The FoF Team has put the Source engine to gorgeous use creating a gritty western world replete with bright colors and object detail. Though it does look a bit aged by contemporary standards, the textures are pretty sharp and the lighting is beautiful. Players can explore brightly lit copses of trees or try their luck in a saloon decked out with pianos and card tables. The attention to detail is excellent and helps catch the eye whenever players aren’t too busy attempting to catch Jesse James. The environmental sound design, from waterfalls to speeding trains, is similarly intricate.


You can feel the desert heat.

Fistful of Frags also has some of the most varied level design of any Source mod available today. Each map has a lot of vertical space for players to explore; this means that it can be easy for players to get the jump on each other as they angle for the perfect shot. Each map in Fistful of Frags has at least three levels of elevation and some have even more than that. These typically range from constrictive, dimly lit cellars on up to saloon rooftops. Thus, running around these maps looking for enemies to murder is made even more chaotic… and fun.

This elevation is what binds Fistful of Frags‘ disparate group of maps together. Even though the maps may vary from a desert adobe town to a wooded village, players who master the rhythm of moving quickly between floors will find success in all of them. Like a lot of the Source mods out there, Fistful of Frags‘ maps also feature a lot of hidden alcoves and out-of-the-way rooms for players to catch a break. Just be careful when making sure someone’s not already hiding in there.


MY mine cart!

Fistful of Frags tries to do a bit more than just be a shooter set in the Wild West, and it’s at this point that some of the game’s more questionable design choices come out to play. One particularly weird little quirk is that the respawn button changes every time the player dies. Sometimes it’s CTRL, other times it’s S, other times it’s something else. The funny thing is that this button gets a prompt on the screen, so it’s not a programming error. It’s an actual feature. Why it’s an actual feature is anyone’s guess, but it’s jarring to see such a thing when players are trying to quickly respawn and jump back into the action.

Additionally, the game has no tutorial or indicators for most of its other gameplay mechanics. Players can buy new weapons between deaths (kind of like CS:GO) but the game doesn’t indicate where the buy zone is for new guns except when telling the player that they’re not standing in the buy zone. The game also omits mentioning that drinking whiskey restores health, which is ironic considering that the game’s “Pass the Whiskey!” catchphrase is plastered all over the place. Drinking whiskey is a great way to restore players’ vitality, but it also causes characters to stumble around, so drink responsibly.


Please direct my team and I to the nearest “watering hole.”

Apart from these small issues, Fistful of Frags has a lot going for it. Its community is thriving, so players can always expect to find a few matches going on at any given time. The FoF Team puts out near-daily tweaks and patches to address issues and is very proactive about interacting with the community and fielding questions and concerns.

The FoF Team is also currently working to add single-player tutorials and challenges to the game, including tutorials on how to use certain weapons and general gameplay guides. Though that part of the game remains unfinished, the team releases regular updates on their progress and the multiplayer core makes for a sturdy, fun experience. Plus, Fistful of Frags is currently free, so there’s literally no harm in downloading it and giving it a go.


That’ll teach Cletus to steal mah bourbon, I tell ya what.

So, once again, what does Fistful of Frags have to teach us? Not just that contemporary notions of the Wild West are incorrect, but that a Source mod set in that time period makes for a lot of fun. It’s free, it runs well, and it has the Source multiplayer options menu so that anyone experiencing performance problems can quickly adjust them as needed. Pick up a copy today and jump into a visceral Wild West world of shootouts and whiskey. But mostly shootouts. And whiskey.


You can buy Fistful of Frags here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.



Discover the whereabouts of three missing people and why they vanished.

PC Release: September 28, 2015

By Ian Coppock

What is it about murder mysteries that makes them so enticing? On the surface, a story about how and why somebody died doesn’t seem like fun fare… and yet those detective narratives (both fiction and non-fiction) are some of the most popular media around. Perhaps it’s the suspense of wondering where the victim went and why? Maybe it’s the challenge of figuring out why someone went missing or the motive driving the killer? Video games have taken to questions like these with gusto, but no game, TV show or movie presents a spin on the genre quite like Stairs.


Stairs is a terrifying plunge into survival and psychological horror created by GreyLight Entertainment, a Swedish indie developer. Players assume the role of Christopher Adams, a struggling freelance journalist who has spent the last few years investigating the disappearances of three people. Adams’ search has been pretty fruitless, but he gets an anonymous tip that one of the trio’s corpses was recently discovered at an abandoned factory. Stairs begins as he sets out for that factory and to write story that will get him back on his feet.

Adams finds the factory easily enough, but there he also discovers that the victim’s body has been moved. The hatch into the basement seems to be open though, and he takes a flight of stairs (hey) into a strange subbasement. From there, Adams quickly discovers that his vaunted story of the year is more horrifying than he anticipated and that he’ll be lucky if he escapes with his life. Perhaps some stories, Adams quickly learns, are best left unreported.



In typical survival horror game fashion, Adams has no weapons or tools to defend himself against the horrors lurking downstairs. He only has his camera, which is the player’s means of photographing phenomena and unlocking notes in his journal. Mysteriously enough, the camera has the power to unlock doors and even create doorways in certain places, giving Adams more flexibility to elude enemies and find clues. Barring that, Adams can only run, crouch, and pray.

The world of Stairs is not a pleasant place. Adams visits three different environments over the course of the game, and though each has its own nuances, they all share the same grim atmosphere. Most of the game focuses on psychological horror rather than in-your-face monster chases, but hardcore horror fans take note: there are plenty of monsters in this game as well. When players aren’t too busy eluding creatures or jumping at the sound of something moving around the next corner, they’re solving puzzles to get further down the rabbit hole.


Charming. Prime real estate right here.

The indie horror world is infamous for producing cheap jumpscares, but Stairs has more faith in its audience than to simply pepper its levels with jack-in-the-box parlor tricks. The game has a great sense of pacing, content to let players wander through the world and for the tension to build organically. Stairs does feature little scares and puzzling sights here and there, but they’re subtle. A can rolling across a distant doorway or the sound of something crashing around the next corner is not as up-front as a jumpscare, but it percolates in the back of the player’s head. It’s far more unsettling to keep hints at horror peripheral. These scares also pair well with Stairs‘ intricate level design.

None of this, though, is to say that Stairs is without much more visceral moments. The monsters in this game are deeply unsettling… not just because of their appearance, but also because of the circumstances under which Adams find them. Sometimes they prefer to stay hidden or on the very edge of the player’s vision, which in many ways is more terrifying than when they actually break cover and pursue Adams. Nothing begs being stealthy more than a hive of sleeping creatures or seeing black-cloaked figures move between misty trees.


Can you see it?

The monsters in Stairs are consistently creepy, but the puzzles that players solve between encounters are not consistently, well, good. The folks over at GreyLight are huge fans of number and letter code puzzles—to the point where they form the bulk of riddles within Stairs. Though not a bad type of puzzle per se, clues as to the numbers’ whereabouts can be a bit too vague.

Additionally, Stairs challenges players to solve a myriad of obtuse symbol puzzles toward the end of the game. These puzzles are out of character with the rest of the game’s slow-burning investigating and don’t even really make that much sense within the context of the story. It’s a bit of a leap to go from creeping around looking at notes to pressing on glowing runes and following floating lights around. They’re not all that difficult to figure out, but players will have a hard time looking at them without wondering why they’re there.


Whaaaaat is happening…

Stairs‘ atmosphere exudes pure dread thanks to a combination of gorgeous visuals and minimalist sound design. The former is a collection of bleak, dreary environments built in the Unreal engine that range from dirty factory basements to abandoned mine shafts. All of these environments rely on a palette of muted colors to convey a sense of morbid lifelessness, as well as dim lighting that is only just bright enough to illuminate the game world. Some object textures look a bit blurry, but Stairs excels at believable object placement. The sense of chaotic clutter makes Stairs‘ world seem real.

Stairs‘ sound design proves that games can benefit from a relative lack of audio. The game has little music, but it’s unmistakable: a mournful piano melody layered over a foundation of quiet strings. More than that, though, the ambient sounds in Stairs are kept to a minimum to leave the player only with the sounds of their own footsteps. Some areas have a bit of ambient noise running in the background, but others are starkly silent… and that silence is deafening. The lack of ambient noise makes Stairs more terrifying, because every footstep sounds far too loud and it reinforces the feeling that something scary will pop out at any moment.


Step. Step. Step. Step.

The sound design in the world of Stairs is rock-solid… except for the voice acting. Adams is voiced by a guy who’s trying to do an American accent and a Batman voice at the exact same time, and the result is… less than unfunny. It’s clear that the voice actor’s going for some kind of tough guy crescendo, but the strain put into making his voice that low is painfully audible. The other voice acting, especially that of a terrified victim found early in the game, is much more palatable.

Stairs‘ lack of eloquence with dialogue digs deeper than the voice acting. The game’s written documents and signage are riddled with spelling and grammar errors. As mentioned in previous reviews, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with English not being a dev’s first language… but that doesn’t mean a game marketed to English speakers gets the same pass for grammar errors. Besides, in this age of being able to Google anything, there’s really no excuse for having lots of misspelled words. Ruins immersion like nobody’s business.


Just look for the Exti sign…?

Despite inconsistencies with its voice acting and its written exposition, Stairs gets props for presenting a unique take on the murder mystery genre. It’s difficult to go into detail without throwing out spoilers, but suffice it to say that Adams’ tourney through hell has more to do with his being a journalist than he might think. The game presents a few interesting ideas simmering beneath its blood-soaked surface: what happens when someone paints a false portrait of another person? How does that affect another human being’s life? These and other questions form the philosophical core of Stairs.

Stairs also succeeds at keeping this central narrative core vague, but not so vague that it’s unknowable. The game relies on a lot of Half Life 2-style show-don’t-tell for its main narrative and backstory exposition. For any of the challenges afforded by Stairs‘ inconsistent puzzle design and hokey voice acting, the game does a good job of wrapping an overlooked question about truth and consequences in a masterful array of level design and pure horror. In fact, Stairs is second only to Soma as 2015’s masterwork of psychological and survival terror.


What does Adams have to do with all of this?

Stairs is worth picking up for hours’ worth of terrifying scares and probing psychological fare that both prevent falling asleep at night. The game runs well, has a decent options menu, and is a gem in a genre overloaded with cheap scares and incoherent narratives. The spelling and puzzle design irregularities won’t suit all tastes, but Stairs punches through these problems with acute level design and a horror atmosphere so thick that it can be cut with a knife. Pick it up and embark upon a murder mystery that poses some novel (and unsettling) questions.


You can buy Stairs here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Dino D-Day


Hitler has created an army of Nazi dinosaurs… because of course he has.

PC Release: April 8, 2011

By Ian Coppock

Is there any supernatural or sci-fi entity that the Nazis haven‘t co-opted for World War II? Hitler bolstering the Third Reich with everything from an army of zombies to a base on the moon to robot spiders has become its own sub-genre in today’s media. Video games haven’t been far behind in appropriating Nazi doomsday plots, taking to that same campy ridiculousness with as much gusto as their film and television counterparts. Take Dino D-Day, for instance, a game that, well… just look at the title.


Ever think about what would happen if Hitler brought back the dinosaurs and put them into his army? Dino D-Day does. That notion drives everything from the game’s visuals to its writing to its gameplay; it is described by developers 800 North and Digital Ranch as their take on “the overdone World War II FPS… that has become a running joke in the industry and the gaming press.” Funny, World War II being overdone is what we discussed in yesterday’s review of Day of Defeat: Source.

Dino D-Day is an entirely multiplayer title that takes team-based World War II shooting and turns it on its head with the introduction of Nazi dinosaurs. Players can join the Axis or Allied forces as a human or dinosaur soldier, but the Axis has way more dinos and is therefore way more fun to play. Honestly, who comes to a game called Dino D-Day intent on playing as a human character anyway? This might be the only context on earth where choosing the Axis over the Allies is the right thing to do.


That guy should’ve held still.

After picking between the team that has dinosaurs and the team that doesn’t, players can choose one of several characters that each have their own firearms and abilities. All but one of the Allied troops is human, and they range from conventional frontline rifleman to more specialized support troops. By contrast, the Axis has a few human troops and a ton of dinosaurs. The game usually enters third-person when played as a dinosaur, so that players can see their gun-toting dino in all its prehistoric glory.

Now for the question that everyone’s asking: how do players become the T. rex? Certain maps will randomly allow Axis players to spawn as a tyrannosaurus, and it’s an absolute god upon the battlefield. In case being a giant eating machine isn’t enough, the Nazi T. rex comes standard with jaw-mounted gatling guns and a thirst for Allied blood. Stomping around the map eating everything in sight is a lot of fun, but anyone who kills the rex gets credit for three kills instead of one, so stomp with some caution.


Put ’em up, Rexy!

Getting to play as a gun-toting tyrannosaurus is a lot of fun, but Dino D-Day has a hard time making other dinosaurs as exciting. Sure, the sight of a dinosaur with a machine gun strapped to its back provokes comic relief, but for all their scales and spikes, most dinosaurs are logistically similar to their human counterparts. This somewhat reduces the novelty of playing as a Cretaceous cannoneer. Most dinosaur weapons are a bit heavier, sure, but only 2-3 dinosaur classes have more novel gameplay. One dino shreds things with his claws, another is a tiny suicide bomber.

As can be expected, humans play similarly to their World War II counterparts in Day of Defeat: Source. Shoot the enemy until they die, repeat. Dino D-Day does change things up a little bit by making characters more durable and adding medkits, but that’s really all that’s done to shake up playing as a human character. As was previously stated, don’t come to Dino D-Day for the humans. Come for the dinos, stay for the dinos—and angle for a chance to play as the T. rex.


Didn’t know Jeanette MacDonald fought in WWII.

Whether players pick human or dino, Dino D-Day‘s controls leave a lot to be desired. The game’s default movement, shooting and utility controls are clunky, but luckily the game allows rebinding. Moving as a dinosaur feels unwieldy, as even the smallest of them have awkward turning radii. Though it makes sense from a premise standpoint that the Axis has all of the dinosaurs, that also makes the gameplay feel somewhat lopsided. All of the specialized, weird dino classes are on one team, and the conventional shoot-em-up classes are on the other. Three guesses which side is more fun to be on.

Dino D-Day also only comes with four game modes, which isn’t a whole lot even by 2011 standards. Players can duke it out in a standard deathmatch mode or in King of the Hill, where checkpoints have to be captured. There’s also Objective mode, which is conspicuously similar to King of the Hill except players fight for control of certain objects or buildings instead of areas. Objective mode allows Axis players to take control of a Panzer-hefting styracosaurus, but for some reason this can only occur in one map. This curious inconsistency, among others, makes Dino D-Day feel unfinished. The most recent mode, Last Stand, sees players face off against waves of enemies for as long as possible.



At least Dino D-Day avoids the samey setting trap that’s snared countless World War II games. Most of the maps are set in North Africa and Italy instead of the same dreary Belgian countryside seen over and over in other World War II titles, and that’s definitely a plus. Even so, Dino D-Day shipped with a mere five maps and only six more have been added to the game since (for an average of one map a year). That’s not a lot of content, even for a multiplayer game that came out in 2011. The Source visuals have helped prolong Dino D-Day‘s aging, but few maps means that there’s little aging to go around.

Still, just in case those Source textures are too much or the AA is too high, Dino D-Day comes with a Valve-sized options menu to ameliorate any potential problems. From multicore rendering to shader and effect details, few aspects of the game’s performance are beyond the reach of players. Modern machines should be able to run Dino D-Day with no performance issues whatsoever, since it’s a Source game that came out six years ago, but sometimes players never know what problems might hit their PC. Better to have an in-depth options menu even for a game this old.


Worst. Deployment. Ever.

Dino D-Day‘s options are more limited when it comes to finding an actual game. Much like the age of the dinosaurs, this game’s community was roaring a while back but underwent a crippling extinction event. Today’s roster of servers is looking a little thin, and most of the few games that do happen are on a private server, leaving lone wolves and randos without playmates. Dino D-Day‘s community perks back up whenever an update is released, but those have been fewer and further between in recent years.

At this point, Dino D-Day has a few options to get itself off the museum shelf and back into the action. Going free-to-play might work, but then the studio would alienate inveterate players who paid for the title and DLC. The gameplay could also be retooled to make the dinosaurs feel more like, well… dinosaurs. Maybe add a dino that can smash into people like a tank or something, because right now, the dinosaurs are functionally similar to humans. This gameplay issue makes Dino D-Day feel more like a funny skin pack than, say, Primal Carnage or Natural Selection II.


King of the dinosaurs, and of Italy.

As of writing, Dino D-Day is a no-go. The chance to play as a tyrannosaurus is more easily experienced in other games, and is not worth soldiering through hours of conventional shooting with mediocre key bindings to get to. If more dinosaurs were rebalanced to feel like terrifying creatures instead of a player skin, the game’s value proposition as a novel, funny World War II offshoot would increase tremendously. For now, though, Dino D-Day is a dying game that makes a humorous albeit shallow attempt at campy Nazi sci-fi. Only time will tell if future updates can give Dino D-Day the depth its concept deserves.


You can buy Dino D-Day here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Day of Defeat: Source


Beat back Axis or Allied forces in class-based multiplayer battles.

PC Release: September 25, 2005

By Ian Coppock

World War II used to be all the rage. Back in the 2000’s, for every one fantasy RPG or puzzle game the industry put out, there’d be five more re-telling the Battle of the Bulge or the fall of Berlin. After the release of 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War, publishers’ interest in World War II games died out, and the conflict has largely remained absent from big-name storefronts ever since. Though new games about World War II are much rarer than they used to be (at least until Call of Duty: WWII hits shelves this fall) the old guard of 2000’s World War II games produced a few famous titles. Day of Defeat: Source is one of them.


The original Day of Defeat was a third-party multiplayer mod for 1998’s Half-Life, which is also how such big-name titles as Counter-Strike and Team Fortress got their starts. As with those two games, Valve decided to acquire the rights to Day of Defeat and took the mod’s creators on as developers. Following that acquisition, Valve developed a new version of DoD that was built in the studio’s legendary Source engine: Day of Defeat: Source, which hit shelves in 2005.

DoD: Source is a first-person, multiplayer-only shooter set in the western front of World War II. Players can pick from one of six different soldier classes and fight for either the U.S. Army or the German Wehrmacht, taking objectives and bombing out each others’ favorite Belgian cafes. It only takes a few shots to bring even the bravest soldier down, and only a few seconds for that soldier to respawn and rejoin the match. (For some reason that last detail is always left out of real accounts of World War II.)



Day of Defeat: Source‘s gameplay is similar to Team Fortress 2‘s in many ways, as each of the six soldier classes can roughly be divided into assault, defense and support roles. Riflemen and rocket troopers make for great party crashers, while snipers and machine gunners can make short work of unwanted guests. In addition to their primary weapon, each soldier comes equipped with a backup killing implement (usually a pistol or grenades) and a trench shovel for when things need to get smacky.

Running around shooting people is not hard to understand, but Day of Defeat: Source having only two gameplay modes is much more of a head-scratcher. Even for a shooter that came out in ’05… two modes? That’s it? Not exactly a smorgasbord of choices there, Valve. The first mode is Territorial Control, which requires players to capture flagged areas scattered around the map and prevent enemy troops from doing the same. The other, Demolition, challenges one side to blow up vehicles and the other side to defend them.


Now… where did those damn Yankees hide the eclairs?

Okay, so there are only two modes in the entire game. Not the end of the world when one considers DoD: Source‘s fast-paced gunplay. Surely these firefights must play out across the whole of Europe? Nope, not quite. It’s hard to believe, but when DoD: Source shipped 12 years ago, it did so with only four maps. Four. That amount is unimaginable by modern standards, and even back then it wasn’t much. Valve released a few more maps in the following years, for a grand total of 10. Still not a lot of maps, especially when compared to the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

One of the reasons World War II games got old in the late 2000’s is that they all had the same setting: a bombed-out European hamlet somewhere between here and Berlin. DoD: Source suffers this problem in the extreme. Remember those 10 maps mentioned earlier? Only one of those is not a bombed-out European hamlet. Yup, with the sole exception of a sandy bunker in Palermo, DoD: Source‘s maps are all war-torn French and Italian villages that no amount of different rubble placement helps diversify. The facade and time of year may change, but the arrangement of demolished cafes and dimly lit house basements does not.


To France! No wait, to Belgium! No wait, to Italy! No wait, to… Belgium?

DoD: Source is hardly the sole offender in its near-exclusive focus on gutted baguette stands and ironically demolished churches, but it is one of the worst. The game’s relentless overuse of the western European setting is indicative of a larger problem, one that helped drive World War II’s power in video gaming down to embers: using the same setting over and over again. By focusing exclusively on the western front, World War II video games became mired in visual repetition, which helped interest in these titles die out by the end of the 2000’s.

Funny thing about a conflict called World War II… it took place all over the world. It’s refreshing when a developer takes advantage of that fact. Part of what makes 2015’s Sniper Elite III stand out is that it swapped out the samey European setting in favor of North Africa, which, despite being one of the most pivotal theaters of World War II, is rarely portrayed in games. If all it takes for a World War II game to stand out is showing something other than western Europe, that underscores the repetition problem the genre faced.


Scanning for pasta…

If DoD: Source has to mire itself in a samey European visage, at least it looks alright. Source engine games tend to age well, and DoD: Source‘s character and in-game models still look good even though they’re 12 years old. Character animations are a bit wonky though, and DoD: Source‘s textures, like the sun, are really best off not looked at directly. It’s easy to tell a brick wall from a French wine advertisement at a distance, but up-close the pixelated surfaces look much more conspicuous. However, the game does come roaring out of the gate with loud, crisp sound design and period-inspired music.

Because DoD: Source is a Valve game, it comes packed with one of the best options menus around. Virtually no aspect of the game’s visual design can’t be poked and prodded, so players having trouble running the game can make short work of most issues. Players can also toggle dozens of additional in-game options, like taking a victory screenshot or showing a progress bar while planting a bomb. DoD: Source isn’t the only multiplayer game to pack this kind of versatility, but having it there is a great way for players to control every aspect of the experience.


Press F to STERBEN! (die)

Even if players are willing to tolerate DoD: Source‘s relative lack of maps and each map being pretty much the same, the game may have already suffered its own day of defeat. Only a few matches are going in DoD: Source at any given time. That’s more than can be said for most 12-year-old multiplayer games on PC, but what few matches are alive and kicking are most likely on a private server and/or password protected. Shame, because that’s usually where any custom maps that break the base game’s mold are to be found.

Day of Defeat: Source‘s gameplay doesn’t reinvent the wheel and its small number of samey maps is unfortunate, but the game wasn’t bad in its heyday. These days, players yearning for a visceral World War II multiplayer experience are probably better off buying the recently released Day of Infamy. It never hurts to pay heed to a multiplayer classic though, one whose lessons in both tight, fun gameplay and repetitive maps are things that future World War II game devs would do well to heed.


You can buy Day of Defeat: Source here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.



Investigate strange disappearances in the Russian wilderness.

PC Release: June 9, 2015

By Ian Coppock

In 1959, a group of Russian college students disappeared while hiking in the Ural Mountains. It took three weeks for investigators to find the hikers, and when they did, they beheld a grim scene. Something had caused the students to cut their tent open from the inside and flee barefoot into subzero temperatures, where they all succumbed to hypothermia. Some of the hikers had also sustained major injuries: one woman’s eyes, tongue, and lips were missing. The bizarre circumstances of the incident have kept theories flowing for over half a century, and Kholat, named for the mountain on which the students died, has its own idea of what happened.


Designed by the Polish indie confectioners over at IMGN.PRO, Kholat is a first-person horror game that attempts to explain what befell those students in 1959. Players assume the role of an anonymous mountaineer who arrives to the region to conduct their own investigation, though whether the game is set in the 50’s or contemporary times isn’t made clear. Why the player’s heading into the mountains to find out what happened is also left ambiguous, but they head into the mountains nonetheless.

The region that players explore in Kholat is visually stunning. The game was built in the Unreal engine and boasts a stylish, haunting winter visage. Wind ruffles tree branches realistically and sudden gusts of snow brush across the screen with impressive motion blur. Combine this with eerie fog effects, and the result is a winter nightmare-land that’s as gorgeous as it is forbidding. All told, it makes for an ideal horror setting. What better way to chill the blood and goose the bumps than setting off into an icy valley of death?


Nope, nope, screw this, nope, nope, nope…

IMGN.PRO ices Kholat‘s world with creepy sounds and scary strings. The former is a mix of noises that play out in the player’s peripheral hearing, like distant rock slides and the constant moan of the wind. Sometimes the sounds will abruptly mute, particularly when the player nears the edge of Kholat‘s map, but they come through in otherwise crystal-clear quality. If previous horror game reviews haven’t beaten this point to death already, sound design is crucial to establishing atmosphere in a horror game. Kholat‘s apt mix of foreboding wilderness noises is up for that challenge.

The game’s soundtrack uses violins as a base, layered with low strings and exotic percussion for good measure. Kholat‘s score lends the game a primeval feel, one that assails the senses with gradually building strings and what sounds like rocks clacking together. These movements sometimes accelerate when an enemy creature shows up. Other times, the music will simply die down and leave players alone with the sounds of the mountain. It makes for a cloying sense of isolation… and vulnerability.


(rubs hands together)

What was that in the last paragraph? Enemy creatures show up? It seems that Kholat‘s winter wonder(not)land is populated by unfriendly beings. Strange, shadowy wraiths stalk the trees waiting for uncaring players to slip up and trigger their thirst for blood. Sometimes players will wander the mountain paths only for one of these creepy ghouls to pop out of the trees just in time for brunch. Kholat gives players no means of self-defense; their best hope is to run and try to break the creature’s line of sight. The AI that went into these creatures is questionable though, as sometimes they stand right in front of the player and seem content to idle rather than murder.

The rest of Kholat‘s gameplay is much more in line with Gone Home than, say, Outlast. Players complete the game by wandering around the region gathering notes as to what happened. How these notes weren’t discovered by previous investigators or blown away by the winter winds is anyone’s guess, but they contain pieces of a larger story. Sometimes Sean Bean will step in to provide additional musings on the player’s quest. He serves as Kholat‘s narrator, and he and the other characters’ voice acting is superb.


What happened here?

Less admirable than Kholat‘s voice acting is its script, which is one of the most scattershot and nonsensical horror game plots in recent memory. As players make their way through Kholat‘s chilly world, the notes they find lying around raise more questions than they solve. Some notes are diary entries left behind by the missing students, while others make various hints at supernatural activity, government cover-ups, and other tired cliches. It helps even less that all of these notes (and the subtitles) are riddled with countless spelling and grammar errors.

Kholat‘s narrative had an easy job: take one of the 20th century’s most mysterious stories and expand upon it. The result is a fragmented mess that tries to be sci-fi, fantasy and so many other things at once, only to fail. No indication is given as to who Sean Bean’s character is, and as the game goes on, it starts to become unclear who the player‘s character is, too. There’s nothing wrong with a game narrative being vague, but Kholat tries so hard to be vague and mysterious that it ends up almost completely unknowable. Indeed, the game seems disinterested in its original premise, preferring to wallow in shallow what-ifs about the 1959 incident.


What is happening?

Going the distance for a sub-par story is inadvisable, especially when given Kholat’s gameplay and level design. The game starts players out with a minimal navigation toolkit: a map, a compass, and a flashlight. The game marks the player’s camp and the locations of discovered notes on their map, but doesn’t tell players where they currently are. While this sort of minimalist navigation is refreshing from a survival gameplay standpoint, it makes it difficult for players to find specific coordinates. It’s also not always easy for players to discern their location, because while Kholat‘s scenery is beautiful, it’s also samey in places.

How samey, one might ask? Well, Kholat‘s mountain trails are often loop-shaped and can make it easy for players to get turned around. Some ledges can be safely traversed while others will cause players to fall to their deaths, in what seems to be a very arbitrary distinction on Kholat‘s part. A game that’s loaded with unfair deaths means that checkpoints are vital, but in Kholat they’re an endangered species. It’s easy to lose half an hour of progress because the player character hopped one ledge just fine only to suffer a fatal fall on the next one… somehow. Kholat‘s enemy creatures love causing unfair deaths too, as they’ll often just pop up without warning and send players back to their last checkpoint thirty minutes ago.



If Kholat is unnecessarily punishing and too vague for its own good, at least it runs well. The game’s system requirements are not baseline, but Kholat keeps a consistent framerate and suffers almost no performance issues. Some players have reported the occasional crash, but the other facets of the game run just fine. Kholat‘s options menu is pretty middle-of-the-road; players can expect detail levels and the other usual suspects. It’s not a ton of stuff, but it should be more than enough to scale down processor demand.

Kholat‘s smooth performance and jaw-dropping winter world are really all the game has to offer. The gameplay is mediocre and the narrative (if one can call it that) is a jumbled mess that grossly mismanages everything from the mystery story that spawned it to having Sean Bean as a narrator. It takes a true, terrifying story and ventures off into its own wilderness of half-baked sci-fi and aimless character development. These narrative missteps only make Kholat‘s failure to expand upon the 1959 incident in a meaningful way more glaring.


Where did we come from and where do we go?

Players who like the idea of traversing a haunted mountain will like Kholat, but the game demands a lot of suffering for fans of even that very specific niche. If Kholat has anything to teach other game developers, it’s that a horror game can’t just get away with using a popular ghost story to mask a bland experience. A well-written premise isn’t enough to disguise the taste of a poorly written narrative. Any horror game can spend its entire length flailing at theories and regurgitating jumpscares, but only a select few titles can weave exposition and narrative into a truly terrifying story.

Kholat is not one of those titles.


You can buy Kholat here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Dota 2


Defend your stronghold and destroy your opponent’s in a fierce tug-of-war.

PC Release: July 9, 2013

By Ian Coppock

What’s this?! Another unnecessary review of a game everyone already knows about? The truth is that my Potterhead of an editor-in-chief remains disappointed in my lack of knowledge on the subject, and reviewing well-known titles (even if they have nothing to do with Harry Potter) seems to get me back into her good graces. Reviewing Dota 2 serves more purposes than keeping me out of Harry Potter Boot Camp, though; even though everyone already knows what Dota 2 is, the game is ever in flux… much like its matches. And there’s never a wrong time to review a game that’s ever in flux, especially when it’s had as far-reaching an impact on video gaming as Dota 2.


Does anyone remember Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, the beloved real-time strategy game from Blizzard? Well, back in 2003 an anonymous developer code-named “IceFrog” made a mod for Warcraft III called Defense of the Ancients. The game is simple: put together a team of heroes and stop the enemy team from destroying the fortress, all while plotting to destroy theirs. Defense of the Ancients blew up in popularity, eclipsing the game from which it spawned and featuring at several major tournaments.

Defense of the Ancients‘ popularity soon caught the attention of Valve. The studio moved to buy the intellectual rights to the mod and got into a fierce tussle with Blizzard, who argued that they actually owned the mod since it had been developed as an offshoot of Warcraft III. Valve eventually won and hired IceFrog to develop a full-blown sequel: Defense of the Ancients 2 (or Dota 2, for short). The result? The most popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game ever developed. Blizzard licked its wounds and eventually developed the similar Heroes of the Storm, but Dota 2 remains much more popular.


To war!

Dota 2 makes some substantial improvements over IceFrog’s original mod, but the two games share similar themes. Players are divided into two teams of five: the Radiant, a lush love-and-peace themed team, occupy a spot in the lower left-hand corner of the map. The Dire, a faction whose interior decorators seem to come from Mordor, occupy the upper right-hand corner. Each faction has an Ancient, a mystical structure at the heart of their fortress, that the enemy team has to destroy in order to secure victory. Whichever team can annihilate the opponent’s Ancient wins the match.

Though the Radiant and the Dire couldn’t look more different, picking a faction has no bearing on which hero players can choose. As of writing, Dota 2 comes packed with a mind-boggling 113 characters that can roughly be divided into two categories: cores and supports. Cores are warrior heroes that start the match out in a weak state but can quickly level up, while supports provide healing, buffs, and other boons to the rest of the team. Supports usually have weaker attacks than cores, but do not underestimate them.


Dota 2 has a huge gallery of colorful heroes.

Each hero comes with a basic attack as well as four abilities that can be unlocked and improved with gained experience. Killing foes and destroying their structures is the most common way to gain experience, but players can also venture off the beaten path to kill dangerous animals and neutral monsters. Players can use experience to level up their character’s health, mana, and agility, which can also make a significant difference in battling foes. Players also gain gold from slaying foes, which can be spent on items like health potions and powerful artifacts. Though players can share these items with one another, they cannot share gold. Everyone has to be their own breadwinner.

Matches in Dota 2 are long, involved, and often quite tricky. Batches of computer-controlled warriors will periodically spawn at each team’s camp and rush down one of three lanes to fight each other. Meanwhile, each team’s heroes are free to move around the map to spearhead assaults and defend against attacks. Each match is a grand game of tug-of-war and cat-and-mouse, and demands careful teamwork in order to achieve victory. Players have to work closely to combine their heroes’ abilities into an unstoppable attack or immovable defense as the situation warrants. One break in the line can quickly spell doom for either side.


Hold the line! Fight to the last, er… goblin-thing!

Given that the original Dota was a mod of Warcraft III, it’s no surprise that Dota 2 looks much more like a Blizzard game than a Valve game. The world of Dota 2 is colorful, with bright pastels coloring everything from the map worlds to the heroes. Indeed, the heroes bear striking similarities to the hero units from Warcraft III: Abaddon, for example, is a doppelganger for Warcraft III‘s Death Knight. Many of the items available in Dota 2 will also look familiar to players of Warcraft III and World of Warcraft.

While it’s amusing how close Dota 2‘s visage cuts to a Blizzard game, that by no means stops the title from looking beautiful. Each world is replete with color and gorgeous lighting setups that help bring the game to life. Hero character models are similarly lively and well-detailed in their design, though the generic creep models look uninspired. Dota 2‘s visual feast is rounded out by rich sound design, with everything from the ring of a shop doorbell to the slice of a sword sounding satisfying.


Bruh, lemme drive this laser through your skull again, it just sounds so nice!

Dota 2 being easy to pick up and beautiful to look at comes with a single, serious caveat: it has perhaps the most toxic gaming community on the Internet. In a world where shooters are full of screaming six-year-olds and strategy games are dominated by teenagers hopped up on Rockstar and unadulterated rage, that’s a pretty bold claim to make. Unfortunately, it’s a claim with a strong case. Far too many gamers in Dota 2‘s community are obnoxiously hostile to newcomers. Even inveterate matches can descend into screaming rage and racial slurs at the slightest perceived slight. Harassment, doxxing and threats are sadly commonplace.

It’s strange, isn’t it, to think that people can descend into murderous rage over a video game. It’s fashionable here in America to lay the blame for Dota 2‘s community woes at the feet of Russian players, but to be quite honest, the worst offenders are a**holes of every nationality. Players who join any given match in Dota 2 can expect to be yelled at in anything from English to Portuguese. Unless a world’s fair of profanity is somehow a player’s cup of tea, Dota 2 is best off played only with friends or against bots. Valve’s versatile matchmaking is there to help in that regard—it’s just a shame that Valve isn’t also there to ameliorate the greater online community.


Not giving mana = enemy for life

Similarly to Counter-Strike: Global OffensiveDota 2 built its brand on being easy to pick up and difficult to master. Players who are new to MOBA games will find an easy time getting into the genre with Dota 2, which offers a plethora of tutorials and bot matches to help new arrivals get acquainted with the game. Dota 2 matches can become murderously complicated in the professional scene, but the basic gist of striking against enemies and defending against attacks is simple to understand. It certainly makes for a fun round of gameplay.

Dota 2 was also able to spread far and wide simply because it runs well. The game’s options menu allows players to attune the game to almost any PC setup, and its system demands are relatively low. Dota 2 is free to play, but like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, players can spend money on items and skins to accessorize their heroes. Unfortunately, also like CS:GO, this practice has given rise to shady gambling sites that allow anyone (including children) to bet skins on match outcomes. The lawsuits that Valve is facing over gambling in CS:GO have caused them to be proactive in ordering such sites to shut down, but their response will take a long time to have an impact.


Place your bets! Five-year-olds welcome!

Fortunately, Dota 2‘s other cultural impacts have been more positive than the proliferation of rageaholics and underage gambling. The game is currently one of the most popular eSports in the world, with huge tournaments that offer prizes worth millions. Watching inveterate teams compete is good stuff; even players who are there just to pick up a few new tricks will find a lot of entertainment in watching Dota 2‘s tug-of-war on a world-class scale. Dota 2 has majors just like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive; the last one was held in Kiev last month and the winning team walked away with a huge prize.

Dota 2‘s legacy in the gaming world is similarly far-reaching. This game was not the first MOBA ever made but it was the first in the genre to attract serious commercial and mainstream attention. The game’s success has spawned a plethora of competitors and imitators, including Heroes of the Storm and Smite. Dota 2 gave rise to MOBA titles as they are known today, and it’s thanks to the game having both a penchant for simplicity and the potential for complexity. It presents a colorful world with deep strategic energy simmering just below the surface and a visceral gameplay rhythm whose tension is comparable to other successful multiplayer titles.


These guys are gods.

In closing, Dota 2 is a clever strategy game best enjoyed with close friends. There’s no telling when and if the game’s community issues will ever be addressed, but that shouldn’t stop comrades in arms from getting into a match and making their own adventure. Plus, the title is free, so there’s absolutely no harm in at least trying to become a legend. Dota 2 is an engaging title. It wouldn’t have conquered the world otherwise.


You can buy Dota 2 here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive


Eliminate foes and complete objectives in tense team-driven battles.

PC Release: August 21, 2012

By Ian Coppock

Reviewing a game as well-known as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive makes about as much sense as letting everyone know about this cool new thing called breathing, but hear me out: my editor-in-chief is on a mad power trip. She threatened to put me through Harry Potter Quiz Boot Camp if this essential title wasn’t covered in some amount of detail. Being faced with the possibility of being trapped in a dark room until I knew everything about House Elf culture has a funny way of enticing reviews of well-known games. So, in the interest of not losing my mind to the sound of a Mandrake, let’s take a look back at one of PC gaming’s most venerable shooters.


Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is as endemic to the PC gaming scene as World of Warcraft or Team Fortress 2. Even PC gamers who’ve never touched it are at least familiar with its gist. A team of terrorists and a team of counter-terrorists spawn on a map and complete objectives, usually while trying to wipe out the entire enemy team in as brief a time as possible. The original Counter-Strike was a Half-Life mod that Valve bought and released to grand acclaim all the way back in 2000. Global Offensive is the fourth CS game in the series and hit digital shelves everywhere in 2012.

As one of the crown jewels in Valve’s multiplayer crown, CS:GO‘s impact on the world of video games is difficult to overstate. Since its debut half a decade ago, the title has attracted millions of PC gamers and remains one of the most popular multiplayer games on Steam. Ironic, considering that most multiplayer games released on that platform have a half-life of anywhere from a few months to a year. But then again, CS:GO isn’t most games. It’s a tense multiplayer experience, major eSport, and source of industry controversy all rolled into one.


Freeze! Or we’ll start shooting your hostages! No, wait, hold on…

CS:GO players are divided into two teams: the terrorists and the counter-terrorists. Depending on the map, terrorists either have to arm explosives at specific points on the map or protect hostages. Counter-terrorists, meanwhile, have to either disarm those explosives if they get planted or escort hostages to safety. Players earn money for completing these objectives (as well as killing enemy players) which they can use to purchase new weapons at the start of the next round. Players who can kill lots of foes and complete objectives can rack up cash quickly, but be careful: teamkilling and other negative actions cause a penalty.

CS:GO colors this simple setup with five different game modes. Competitive mode is the playground for hardcore fans, and is not a kind place for players new to the scene. Casual mode is a relatively safe spot for newbs to get into the game or for veterans to warm up before a big match. Players can also participate in Arms Race and Demolition modes, which are CoD gun game-style mode that rewards kills with better weaponry. Finally, there’s Deathmatch, which is a good ol’ last-man-standing-style free-for-all. Though these modes are fun, most of them have been in Counter-Strike games for years, which risks making CS:GO feel like a mere graphical update to its predecessors.


Lotsa ways to die, gentlemen.

One of the factors separating CS:GO from the hundreds of other multiplayer shooters out there is its tense gameplay setup. Rather than being able to endlessly respawn like in Call of Duty or Battlefield, players only get one life per round. That means that players only get one shot to complete their team’s objective, and if they die, they’re out for the rest of that round. This setup makes CS:GO‘s gameplay deliciously tense. Players can’t just charge into battle and respawn five seconds later if they die; instead, they have to play it safe. The only mode to which this setup doesn’t apply is Deathmatch.

Playing it safe and smart is the only way to succeed in CS:GO, which makes it a much more entertaining shooter than most of its contemporaries. It certainly results in more fidelity to actual hostage or bomb situations. Nothing beats the tension of creeping through a map, rifle up, ready to kill anyone who might be around the next corner. Players unconcerned with caution should remember that careless dying makes it that much harder for the team to win… and hell hath no fury like a CS:GO team that loses due to careless players.


Oh boy, someone’s not checking their corners…

Another factor behind CS:GO‘s success is its excellent map design. Though the maps in CS:GO are small by, say, Battlefield standards, they’re laden with intricate paths and lots of opportunities to set up ambushes. Players have to take care not to get turned around in hallway networks or get caught out in the open for too long at a time. Each of CS:GO‘s maps features different terrain elevations and multiple paths to singular areas. They also feature different areas that objectives may pop up in, ensuring even more variety.

CS:GO‘s maps are quite pleasing visually as well. Games built in the Source engine age well, and CS:GO‘s visuals remain competitive even five years after the game’s release. Part of that can be attributed to Valve’s constant tweaks and fixes, but CS:GO‘s core visage is colorful, lively, and fun to explore. Each map, be it an Aztec ruin or a besieged office complex, is replete with strong colors and lots of extra objects for detail. CS:GO‘s map variety is also to be envied, with dozens of core maps compounded by player-created levels available for download via the Steam store. Valve adds new maps and other new content every so often through its perennial Operation events.


The maps in this game are truly… global.

The world of CS:GO is further made engaging through rich sound design. Guns in this game sound and feel deliciously powerful; even as players can see a shotgun shell bowl an enemy over, the sound of the shot is loud and crisp. Same goes for everything from the rapid tempo of a machine gun to even running on different types of terrain. Sound design is key to making weapons feel as dangerous as their real-life counterparts, and Valve got that part of CS:GO‘s design down like a champ.

Speaking of guns, what type of armory can players new to CS:GO expect? Players who have a good round can spend hard-earned cash on most any type of weapon before the next match. Sniper rifles, SMGs, assault rifles, pistols, knives, shotguns… everything’s there and everything feels fun to use. Weapons are responsive and precise, which is key to a game in which reflexes can make the difference between victory and defeat. That different weapons can be bought between rounds allows players to test different loadouts to see what niche feels right in relatively short order.


To the armory!

So what exactly is CS:GO‘s secret sauce? Why has it remained insanely popular while entire batches of other multiplayer shooters have come and gone? The key is the game’s simplicity. CS:GO, though difficult to master, is easy for shooter fans new and old to pick up and get into. The game’s casual mode provides a relatively safe space (for the Internet, at least) for newbs to get acquainted with the game’s ins and outs without getting grilled by vets. It runs well on systems new and old, it has a stellar options menu, and Valve continuously breathes new life into the title with fixes and content updates.

However, as with most popular multiplayer titles, there’s a dark side to CS:GO. The first and most obvious is that the game’s hardcore multiplayer community can be quite toxic. Because playing multiplayer games for extended periods of time apparently causes intermittent explosive disorder, vets are quick to tear into each other for the slightest perceived failure. This problem is hardly exclusive to CS:GO, but it runs pretty rampant in the game’s professional community. Casual mode is as much a place for learning CS:GO as it is a haven from explosively angry players.


Dude, you’re sniping the wall. Calm down.

Though corrosive online communities are not exclusive to CS:GO, one problem the game seems to have in especially large spades is hackers. Valve Anti-Cheat is not the hack-proof software that Valve claims it is, at least if the sheer amount of cheater cheater pumpkin eaters in CS:GO‘s highest-tiered matches is any indication. There’s little to be done by railing against the evils of hacking, but it’s been a problem in the CS:GO community for years… one that players new to the scene should be aware of. Once again, Casual mode provides an inadvertent haven from a cancerous problem.

Even though Valve is less than effective at stopping hackers, the company’s good at matchmaking. CS:GO is pretty apt at matching players of a similar skill level, which helps minimize the aforementioned risk of a newb getting ravaged (verbally or in-game) by veterans. Valve runs dedicated servers for CS:GO but players can also try their hand at a private server, many of which have modes and maps not found in the core game. Some of these modes have nothing to do with running and gunning, challenging players to instead surf along walls or bunny hop between platforms.


In this custom server, we just set our guns on fire and dance.

CS:GO‘s biggest woes stem less from a game design flaw and more from some truly unfortunate business decisions. In 2013 Valve introduced skins to the game, and players can purchase boxes of random gun customizations in a microtransaction. The value of these skins ranges immeasurably, with some being worth a few cents and others thousands of dollars. While there’s nothing wrong with this cosmetics market per se, Valve’s hands-off attitude toward this market has cast a slimy shadow over CS:GO.

What is that shadow? A slew of gambling websites that allow players to bet on the outcome of matches using gun skins as a currency. These sites almost always nix verifying players’ ages, meaning that CS:GO has become a hotbed of underage gambling. Sure, some might say that the underage gambling is the fault of parents for allowing their kids to play an M-rated game, but Valve’s stunning lack of oversight has resulted in two class-action lawsuits against the company for doing nothing to prevent it.


Are there casino maps in this game?

Most of CS:GO‘s problems have less to do with game design flaws than they do Valve’s reluctance to regulate Steam. For the discerning gamer who says no to shady gambling and can find the relatively hacker-free matches, CS:GO has a lot to offer. The game’s tense matches prevent it from feeling repetitive, and its outstanding technical performance and easy-to-learn gameplay makes it accessible to gamers of all experience levels. Players will never hurt for finding a match in CS:GO, and probably won’t for many years to come. Failing that, the game’s momentous eSports tournaments always make for great entertainment. Pick up a copy of CS:GO but remember not to shoot the hostages.


You can buy Counter-Strike: Global Offensive here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.

Cry of Fear


Survive a nightmarish mirror world full of monsters.

PC Release: February 22, 2012

By Ian Coppock

Video games have never shied away from portraying mental illness. Their interactivity makes them an ideal platform for doing so; it’s easy to read about depression in a book or see it in a film, but interacting with it firsthand is much more visceral. While not the rosiest of topics, depression affects a lot of people, and media that portrays what it’s really like can be cathartic as much as it can be somber. Many video games have presented their take on depression and anxiety over the years, but no horror title is more famous for doing so than Cry of Fear.


Cry of Fear is a survival horror game developed by Team Psykskallar, a Swedish studio that also made 2005’s Afraid of Monsters. Like Afraid of MonstersCry of Fear puts players in a horrific alternate dimension and expects them to fight through a bloody blend of deformed monsters and creepy hallucinations. Cry of Fear is also a total conversion mod for Half-Life, running on the GoldSrc engine but using entirely original character models, sounds, textures and other production elements.

The unfortunate star of Cry of Fear is a depressed teenager named Simon, whose story begins as he walks around the streets of Stockholm in a depressed haze. Simon spots a wounded man begging for help on the sidewalk, and when he hurries over to see what’s wrong, a car comes speeding out of nowhere and strikes him head-on. When he wakes up, Simon finds himself in an unfamiliar part of town, with no people around and strange noises coming from around every corner.


Simon wakes up in a very dark corner of… Stockholm?

After spending a few moments wandering empty streets and catching glimpses of strange figures, Simon realizes that the entire town is populated not by people, but horrifically deformed monsters. These creatures stalk him relentlessly through the cold Swedish night, and no one’s around to lend him a hand or even answer the phone. As Simon, it’s up to players to navigate the horrors of this strange city with only a few weapons and a flashlight app. He fights not only for his life, but to discover what is happening in this ghoulish city.

Like any decent horror game, Cry of Fear is played in first-person. Simon starts the game out with his cell phone (useful only for its light, as no one is answering 911) and a switchblade. Players can find additional weapons lying around, but the monsters won’t take kindly to having their property stolen, and some items are much more difficult to obtain than others. Players can dual-wield certain items (like the cell phone and a melee weapon) and use morphine syringes found in the game world to restore health. Using too much morphine can have some nasty side effects, but it’s nothing compared to the side effects of letting monsters get too close.



Though the ability to dual-wield multiple combinations of items is a great way to let players find their groove, Cry of Fear‘s inventory system is rather clunky. Players can carry up to six items, but the user interface for assigning those items to quickslots and setting them up for dual wielding is… unrefined. Simon can quickslot up to three items, but there are no hotkeys for using syringes or other tools. That means at least one quickslot has to be devoted to a non-combat item. Sure, being able to pull out a syringe immediately is handy, but then players can’t quickly change between the knife and cellphone and, say, a pistol, for on-the-fly transitions between melee and ranged combat.

Fighting monsters in Cry of Fear is also clunky, because they use the same attack pattern over and over again. It becomes easy for players to encounter a monster, tease an attack out of it, and counter-strike while their combat animation is finishing up. Even though Cry of Fear features nearly three dozen different enemy types, about half of them use a slow melee attack that’s easy to dodge and then cut into. It renders many of the different enemy types redundant; the hammer psycho and fire ax lunatic may look different, but they’re logistically identical. Fortunately, Cry of Fear manages to preserve some variety with monsters that use ranged or other indirect attacks.



For all the sameness afforded by some of the monsters, Cry of Fear doesn’t pull any punches in making them scary. This game has a rogue’s gallery of truly nightmarish creatures, from eyeless mutants to screeching widows that have had their forelimbs amputated and replaced with blades. Unusually for a modern horror game, Cry of Fear also features boss fights, where Simon has to discover a monster’s weakness and then exploit it without getting chainsawed in half or smashed to pieces with a hammer. Simon can choose to run away from certain boss battles, but doing so may affect the game’s ending in adverse ways.

Because Cry of Fear was built in the GoldSrc engine, it’d be a lie to say that its visuals have aged gracefully. However, the game’s old-school visuals are more beneficial to its aesthetic than the most cutting-edge game engines around today (and they spare us from any potential CryEngine puns). Cry of Fear‘s rough, blocky character models help make the monsters look distorted and scary. The stiffness of some of these animations verges on amateurish, but holy crap do the creatures look more unnerving because of them. The game world itself has some pretty muddy textures, but the object models look good, and the muted color palette strengthens Cry of Fear‘s morbid atmosphere.


Cry of Fear is… not a bright game.

One of the most important elements in horror game design is sound, and while Cry of Fear succeeds in creating a visually forbidding world, the sound design is much more hit-and-miss. To start with what the game does right, the soundtrack is one of the grimmest sets of music in horror gaming. These scores alternate between low, unnerving sounds for tense treks through the city, and sad, somber piano melodies for quieter interludes. The piano especially is apt at capturing the agony of Simon’s journey, though the larger soundtrack is a perfect musical mirror for this lonely odyssey.

Less excellent than Cry of Fear‘s soundtrack is its monster sounds, many of which crackle with static or sound just plain canned. This is particularly true of some monsters’ death screams, which sound like they’re emitting from a World War II-era radio. Other monster sound effects may not sound so full of static, but they may be strangely muted. A chainsaw-wielding maniac is far less scary if his chainsaw sounds like it’s coming through a silencer. The game’s other sound effects are largely free of technical errors and sound right at home in this nightmare-Stockholm—doors creak convincingly, walls break loudly, and weapons strike with delightful slashing and crunching sounds.


Oosh. Cold.

Cry of Fear‘s design elements don’t hit every note, but they do create an atmosphere that drowns in dread. An entire nightmare city crawling with monstrosities isn’t light fare to begin with, but the game’s sounds, visuals and gameplay all combine to make Cry of Fear‘s environment even scarier. As players work their way through this frigid nightmare world, the constant attacks by the monsters and long stretches of walking through alleyways create a strong sense of isolation. Players will frequently catch glimpses of the rest of the city from afar, which is a great way to reinforce the feeling of being a tiny insect in a monstrous labyrinth.

The central motif of Cry of Fear is depression. Without going into too much detail, Simon’s journey has more to do with his crippling depression than he might think. Cry of Fear is a game that’s pretty rough around the edges, but it does an uncommonly good job of capturing the sense of futility that accompanies severe depression. The character’s resolve to press on is challenged as much by his depression as the hordes of monsters that are hunting him. He tries to do the right thing, but forces far beyond his control make it difficult, which is so often how depression affects the mind in real life.


Being chased by a chainsaw murderer IS pretty depressing…

Cry of Fear‘s story delivery is hamstrung by a few inconsistencies. The developer gets a bit of a break for not speaking English as a first language, but that doesn’t stop Cry of Fear‘s voice acting from sounding uninspired or the writing from being sub-par. The audio on much of the voice acting is also imbalanced, with even Simon’s loudest talking constituting a small whisper. Some of this game’s cutscenes are painful to sit through, both for the voice acting and for how clumsily they’re written.

No, the best parts of the story are the long walks through the freezing Scandinavian night, when Simon is learning the mysteries of the world around him and trying to find a way to press on. These sequences thankfully comprise the vast majority of Cry of Fear, and they’re also where that aforementioned sense of depressed loneliness really shambles to life. Cry of Fear‘s rawest storytelling comprises Simon, alone in the dark, battling a combination of horrid monsters and his own deep-set depression. The game also features a co-op campaign for players who are too afraid to tackle this world alone, but its storytelling isn’t quite as good as that of the main game.


A moment of peace is worth its weight in gold to a depressed person.

Cry of Fear‘s production is rough around the edges, but the game’s masterful presentation of mental-emotional hopelessness pushes through its more roughshod design facets to make it a visceral, meaningful horror game. Its solitary treks speak volumes that cutscenes cannot, and its sense of isolation is unparalleled. Not every depressed person shares the same perception of that condition, but they do know the feelings of isolation and hopelessness that come with it, and Cry of Fear captures them brilliantly. As such, it makes for a good horror game, one that fans of the genre should pick up if they already haven’t.

Here’s the first game hint: it’s free on Steam.


You can buy Cry of Fear here.

Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.