The popularity of VCRs in the 80s and 90s led to the odd trend of the video board game. It would come with a VHS tape – later, a DVD – that would have atmospheric sounds and visuals to put on in the background while you’re playing. During the game, the video would announce special events, like some misfortune happening to the current player or a change to the board or the rules. Often, you had to win and turn off the tape before time ran out, adding a sense of urgency.
They’re a sign of the importance of home entertainment to the era’s culture and consumerism. There was, inevitably, a Star Wars video board game, as well as a regrettable game called Rap Rat which tells you everything you need to know about it and you should absolutely not click that link to the video.
One of the more successful video board games may have been Atmosfear, also called Nightmare, a series of horror games featuring characters inspired by infamous figures from folklore, history, and legend competing to escape from the afterlife. Much like video board games accompanying the rise of the VCR, when the CD-ROM became a big deal, Atmosfear made the leap to computers too, taking inspiration from the medium-defining ideas from Myst and similar titles released around then. Atmosfear isn’t a smooth fit for all of those ideas, and this version of the game makes for an interesting case of what’s gained and lost in reworking a board game for a computer. » Read more about Atmosfear: The Third Dimension
If you must play Hell Creatures Rotten Corpse for one reason, do it for the enemy designs.
The incredibly titled Hell Creatures Rotten Corpse is a gruesome game, a slobbering mutant of a game, with a bestiary that seems to have crawled out of an irradiated Hot Topic. It draws blatantly from Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins arcade game series. Both start with an armored knight fighting through a graveyard of the undead to rescue a princess. Capcom’s game, though, doesn’t play a MIDI of Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” on the title screen.
After a long-winded backstory about a damsel-in-distress who can save the world with magic, the game puts you on a journey through the woods, up a mountain, and into the Forgotten Castle of Terror. Standing in your way are hundreds of weird fucked-up monsters, winged demons, malevolent trees, and assorted supernatural forces of nature. All of them must die. » Read more about Hell Creatures Rotten Corpse
The best horror B movies treat their goofy subject matter sincerely. Parodies and homages to 40s and 50s horror movies seem to lapse too easily into tongue-in-cheek jokes about bad production values, cheap scares, and exaggerated cheesiness. Something like a Vincent Price film, or even a movie that’s fodder for Mystery Science Theater, plays it straight. They treat clichés with a straight face and are better for their earnestness towards shlocky material.
Horror Zombies from the Crypt does the same thing. It presents the game as an X-rated British horror film playing to a packed theater, but it doesn’t wink and nudge about the contents themselves, the haunted house, the zombies, the wolf men, and whatnot. It handles them like an actual campy horror movie would. At times, it’s fairly spooky. Less gracefully, it tries to bring the thrills of horror movie scares into the game too.
» Read more about Horror Zombies from the Crypt
18 seconds into a level in Enigma, I have to pause the game. This is Advancing, the eighth stage in the seventh set of levels, and at first glance, it looks like it’s going to be a hellacious version of the puzzle Rush Hour. A series of long blocks stand between me and the rest of the stage, and I have to slide them around in the right order to get to the end. It soon becomes clear that there’s another layer to this level: I can also push the blocks into the water to make bridges. At the moment it hits me, I pause the game and mutter, “Oh my god.”
It’s gonna be another one of those levels. They’re all one of those levels. There’s over 2000 of them.
That’s Enigma, a dastardly over-complex puzzle game so intricate and expansive that you can’t help but marvel at it. » Read more about Enigma