Visual Memory #8 – ‘The House of the Dead’

The House of the Dead title cardAfter an extended hiatus, Christopher Bell is back with our gaming retrospective column, proving that rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. The same can’t be said for the residents of the Curien Mansion, however. It’s time to take a look around The House of the Dead

On the night of December 18th 1998, Agent Thomas Rogan receives a frenzied telephone call from his fiancée Sophie, a researcher working for the infamous geneticist Dr. Curien. She’s at  Curien’s mansion but the call ominously cuts off before she can fully explain her situation. Rogan hurries to the scene with his partner – a mysterious man by the name of ‘G’ – to find and rescue her. The agents have no choice but to explore the mansion and face with the horrors within…
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Visual Memory #7 – ‘Spy vs Spy’

Box art for 'Spy vs Spy'

Christopher Bell digs another gaming classic out of the archives…

This month’s article looks at the cat-and-mouse espionage game inspired by a slapstick classic that originated in the pages of MAD Magazine.  Welcome to the MAD-cap (see what I did there?) world of Spy vs. Spy!

The game has the player take control of either the white spy or black spy in their quest to smuggle a set of blueprints to the level’s extraction point, and to do each other in, given the chance.  There are no differences or advantages in their playing styles, but one or the other may have an advantage in a particular level due to starting points, position of blueprints, etc.
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Visual Memory #6 – ‘The Black Mirror’

Creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky… Our resident games expert Christopher Bell salvages another classic title from the scrap heap.

After the comic fantasy of Monkey Island and Discworld, it’s time to look at the darker side of point-and-click adventures. The Black Mirror involves murder, a family curse and creepy English (and Welsh) manor houses. Those of you of a fragile disposition, turn back now…

The Black Mirror was developed in 2003 by Czech developer Future Games, under the title Posel Smrti (Death’s Messenger). You play a nobleman by the name of Samuel Gordon, who returns to his ancestral home of Black Mirror Manor, in the ominous-sounding Willow Creek, near Norfolk, after an absence of 12 years.  Samuel’s grandfather, William, has been found dead, impaled on an iron fence.  Most people believe that he went mad and threw himself from the manor’s tower, but Samuel suspects a more sinister cause. Then the visions, nightmares and unexplained headaches begin. Samuel’s sanity will be stretched to its limits over the game’s six chapters…

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Visual Memory #5 – ‘Discworld’

In this month’s column, Christopher Bell revisits another comedy classic…

I’ll start with a quick question: What do Doctor Who, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Gavin & Stacy have in common (apart from the fact that they’re all well-known British TV shows)? The answer is that some of their stars (Jon Pertwee, Eric Idle and Rob Brydon) lent their voices to this point-and-click adventure based upon Terry Pratchett’s best-selling series of comic fantasy novels.

The game’s story is loosely based on two of the most popular books, Guards! Guards! and Moving Pictures, requiring players to fill the billowing robes of Unseen University’s most inept wizard (or should that be wizzard?), Rincewind, voiced by Eric Idle. A shady sect of hooded villains has managed to summon a dragon into the streets of Ankh-Morpork, and it’s running amok. The fate of the city now rests upon Rincewind’s shaky shoulders (because no-one else wanted to fry), forcing him to rely on his wits and sarcasm. Oh, and a piece of luggage with feet.

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Visual Memory #4 – ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’

Welcome, ye scurvy landlubbers, to a rum-fuelled edition of Visual Memory!  The grog isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s rather fitting for the game Christopher Bell has loaded into the cannons this month.  Prepare to set sail for The Secret of Monkey Island!

This classic point-and-click adventure was created by a triumvirate of designers and writers, Ron Gilbert, Dave Grossman and Tim Schaffer, as an alternative to heavy-handed adventure games where one slip meant instant death or inability to complete the game.  This was meant to be a more forgiving (there’s only one place you can die, and that’s by drowning), and thus more enjoyable experience.

Players take on the mantle of Guybrush Threepwood, a young scallywag out to prove himself as a mighty pirate on Mêlée Island. To do this he needs to complete three tasks to impress a trio of pirate lords. Along the way, he will meet the love of his life (the governess of Mêlée Island, Elaine Marley), as well as battling the ghost of LeChuck, an infamous pirate out to marry Elaine by any means necessary.

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Visual Memory #3 – ‘Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors’

Its cult following may be more famous than the game that spawned it but, as evidence of a Darkstalkers reboot continues to mount, Christopher Bell looks back to 1994 and the birth of Capcom’s original monster mash.

As franchises go, Darkstalkers is one of the few to have flourished beyond its video game origins. It’s been turned into a popular manga comic, a couple of animated series (avoid the Saturday morning American TV version at all costs!) and a 15th anniversary coffee-table tribute book, packed with gorgeous artwork. Its most popular characters, meanwhile, have gone on to star in a host of other high-profile titles including the Marvel vs Capcom series and a Magic: The Gathering-style card game. Most noticeably, they’ve become a mainstay of the cosplay circuit, with (mostly female) characters drawing eyes and camera lenses at conventions across the globe.

Not bad for a series that hasn’t seen a new release since 1998.
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