Speed Dating with Olivia White: Special 2-Part Halloween Debut Edition Part 1

Speed Dating

It’s Halloween. I’m home alone. My boyfriend is either at a party, or he’s been kidnapped by a deadly killer with a thirst for revenge. I’m not sure which. Some kids popped the balloon on my door that I’d used in place of a pumpkin (there’s a national pumpkin shortage, dontcha know?) and the Trick or Treaters seem to have stopped. It’s Halloween, and I’m not scared. This is very distressing. So I thought, hey, why not begin my hopefully-regular column, Speed Dating, with an iconic Halloween special?

Hello. I’m Olivia White. You may remember me from such things as writing and directing horror games under the pen name Ashton Raze. I did The Charnel House Trilogy, Richard & Alice, The Prom King (& other stories), and other stories. But now I’m here to find a date.

So the concept is this; I play a bunch of games as if I’m speed dating them. This means I play them briefly; either until I get bored and want to move on, or until I’ve decided that yes, I’d like a second date with this game. I can’t really remember what the whole ‘base’ system is since I’m not American, but at a guess I’d say I won’t be getting Home Runs (finishing them) on a first date, but I might get to Third Base with some of them (oral? The video game equivalent of oral. That’ll do.) Unless they’re really short. Then I might go all the way. Anyway, who cares about that? I’ll be playing games, fast, then writing about them. It’s pretty easy to follow. Normally I’ll just be looking for things like ‘are they good?’ but tonight, since it’s Halloween, I’ll be looking for games that scare the pants off me. So exactly like speed dating. Although I’m told you’re not meant to lose your pants AT speed dating. Coincidentally also why I’m banned from speed dating.

Moving on. Game 1, please, scare me.

Rake

Paranormal non-activity

Game 1: Rake
Time played: 5:46.7
Okay, look. I love cryptozoology. I’d love to find a chupacabra or bigfoot or some shit. I’d even settle for a really big wolf. I don’t exactly know what a Rake is, but according to this game, it’s some kind of cryptid. The Wiki entry takes me to the ‘creepypasta’ section of the ‘List of Internet Phenomena’ page. Anyway, the game involved me having to hunt this Rake using cameras, animal feed, and apparently a pig. I didn’t get that far. It seems like it could be a decent enough game, except it’s really difficult to have a quick go on it. The tutorial kind of just vanishes after telling you to pick up a camera, and of the Rake, there was no sign. Maybe if I took it on a second date I’d get to see more of the Rake, but for the purpose of speed dating, it’s a non-starter. Sorry, Rake. Maybe another time.
Second date: Yes, probably.
Scary: Not even slightly.

Game 2: Sylvio
Time played: 13:54.4
This one is about a woman who records ghost voices. I love the idea here. It’s also one of the ugliest games I’ve played in a LONG while, so that’s a shame. The main character has adorable voice acting though. But also no subtitles that I could find. Anyway, I broke into a park of some sort in a really ill-advised platforming bit, then fell into a house underground (!) where I found a key attached to what looked like a brain, and a gun that fires both potatoes and nails. I wandered around corridors for a bit, and oh boy. Remember how Rake was a bit light on tutorials? Well, Sylvio just thrusts them down your throat CONSTANTLY. The same tutorials you’ve just seen a moment before. All the damn time. And then closing the tutorial also puts away whatever you’re holding, for ??? reasons. So I had this gun, and eventually found a large room in a house underground that for some reason had a car in it. Then I got stuck in the car and a ‘black orb’ of malevolence ate me and sent me back to the start of the house. Then I turned it off.
Second date: Maybe.
Scary: Literally no.

So why am I we- oh.

So why am I we- oh.

Game 3: Distraint
Time played: 8:41.9
Yesssss! Firstly, I LOVE the art style of this game. It’s a bit like Lone Survivor, and obviously cribs from that, but also has these weird Pop Funko style characters which, in a horror game, is super eerie. The plot seems to be about this little big-headed debt collector who’s faced with the dilemma of the inhumanity of his job. And growling monsters, suicide, and weird lawyers. I’m very intrigued though. The puzzles were a bit naff, if you can even call them that; pick up a thing and put it somewhere else to trigger something elsewhere, including a very tenuous ‘key in an ice cube’ moment, but the atmosphere is just wonderful, and I’m super curious to see where it goes next.
Second date: Definitely. Take me now.
Scary: Unsettling, for sure.

Game 4: Gynophobia
Time played: 5:09.0
So we’re off to a good start when my next date is basically Fear of Fannies: The Game (I’m British, so bear that in mind). Still, let’s see. Right. So I was actually really interested in this, because I think gynophobia is a super interesting topic to be tackled in a game, of all things. It opens with your character standing in his mom’s bedroom, her underwear strewn across the bed and floor. Then you walk into the hallway, he has an anxiety attack over seeing a (pretty horrifying) spider on the floor, then you access his PC. Suddenly, there’s a game within a game, and you’re playing a zombie FPS, and it’s set in a sewer, and it just goes on and on and…look, I just want to delve into the psychology of phobias, okay? I don’t want this meta bullshit. Then zombies and a giant ogre man ate me while I was trying to find wheels for a van (all in the game inside a game) and I ragequit. Gynophobia? More like Gynophobiaphobia for me.
Second date: Probably not.
Scary: No.

Game 5: Stairs
Time played: 11:27.3
Over 11 minutes and, well, nothing happened really. Which sounds negative but it isn’t, entirely. Okay, so the pacing’s off, and it does that thing some horror games do where they try for the slow build-up but forget there has to be a purpose to it, a bit of tension. This is more just…wandering. But it was quite intriguing wandering. You’re a journalist investigating a murder/missing persons case, and you go to a warehouse and have to take photos. I was getting pretty into it, really, until I stepped over a crate I shouldn’t have and got stuck in the scenery. I’d probably let this game at least cop a feel, though, but only after buying me dinner on the second date.
Second date: Yes.
Scary: Nah.

Stone fanny, stone fanny, take me away.

Stone fanny, stone fanny, take me away.

Game 6: Verge
Time played: 7:58.3
THIS GAME HAS A VAGINA IN IT! Made of stone, admittedly, but be still my loins. Alas, that granite fanny is literally the only thing Verge: Lost Chapter has going for it. Otherwise, it’s a mindless trek through generic pathways and corridors, with vague references to mental illness dotted about the place, and some kind of government conspiracy going on where ‘the government’ is conducting experiments (on children! Just to be extra nefarious) to trigger madness. Because ooh-err, INSANITY HORROR eh. ‘The government’ has conveniently written their evil plans on the walls in creepy font, then left the facility open for this random protagonist, who also spent most of his/her years in an asylum, to stumble upon and oh god who cares. NOTHING HAPPENED. Then I got lost in a maze of cylinders filled with evil madness gas, and quit.
Second date: Not even slightly.
Scary: NO.

Game 7: Shutter
Time played: 9:54.4
Hey! You know what? I really liked this one. You play as a camera person operating a little remote camera robot to explore this house. It set it up a bit like it was gonna be a Five Nights At Freddy’s clone, but then it’s not really, cos you can fully explore the house, and it actually makes use of the concept of playing as a drone in cool ways. Yeah, I really dug it. I only stopped because I reached a chapter divider and it seemed like the right moment to, but I would’ve happily kept playing for sure. There were no outright scary moments, and no cheap jumpscares (yet), but some nice unsettling effects and eerie goings-on. Plus I really loved how you download software patches to improve the camera and drone functionality (even if it’s a little unbelievable, but hey, suspension of disbelief). Some real neat visual filters on the camera and that. Pleasant surprise.
Second date: Absolutely. And I’d at LEAST let it suck my tits.
Scary: Creepy!

Game 8: iDeliverance
Time played: 7:15.0
I play Victim #3, apparently, the prospective victim of, according to the description, ‘a man dawning a serial killer streak with no plans to stop’. Okay. I never saw him in-game. At one point I saw a random ghost appear and disappear for no significant reason. I found a flashlight, turned it on, and whispering began. It sounded less like whispering and more like someone giving an over-eager blowjob. Then I wandered around empty, boring corridors for seven minutes while occasionally a voice said ‘where are you.’ Eventually I ended up back in the room I started in, with no progress made, and quit in disgust.
Second date: Literally never.
Scary: Laugh Out Loud.

Twist it, turn it, still can't see a dick on it.

Twist it, turn it, still can’t see a dick on it.

Game 9: Kidnapped
Time played: 15:17.5
You know what? I actually really got into this one. It had a few of the usual ‘cheesy first person horror’ trappings, BUT also a really cool atmosphere and setting. I’m so bored of the whole haunted forest/asylum/factory asset packs they all seem to use, and this one was a (possibly) haunted house. It was a bit different, and there were a bunch of nice details like catalogues and a guide to lady’s glove etiquette lying around. Also: blood on the walls. And at one point I’m sure I saw a little ghost run across my path. I was tasked with finding five fuses to open a door, which seemed a bit tenuous, but I was enjoying the atmosphere, a decent use of lighting (it’s not PITCH BLACK like a lot of these games are), and I found a small statue of a naked man with a great ass. I spent a good 30 seconds of my time turning it around in my hands to see if I could see his dick (I couldn’t properly). So I’ll definitely be going back to this one in case there’s hidden dick I can uncover later. And some good scares, yeah.
Second date: Definitely.
Scary: I did jump once.

Game 10: Into The Dark
Time played: 3:22.5
Oh fuck off.
Second date: no.
Scary: no.

[TO BE CONTINUED…]

Title graphic by Zaceron

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