Horror at hand

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
October 28, 2002

So, all you have to look forward to this Halloween week is handing out crummy candy to the neighborhood rugrats. Where’s your treat? Fear not, we’ve ferreted out some of the best (and worst) video games to give you great big goosebumps.

SCOOBY-DOO! NIGHT OF 100 FRIGHTS • RECOMMENDED • FROM: THQ RATED: E for everyone • REVIEWED FOR: GameCube

Hijinks ensue when Daphne’s friend asks the Scooby Gang for help. Her house is haunted by something … or someone. When her uncle disappears, Scooby and Co. vow to find him.         This game isn’t as easy as you’d think by its goofy graphics and–Zoinks!–sound effects. You’ll find yourself busy jumping and grabbing (Scooby snacks) your way through the levels to try to solve the caper. But just when you think you’re there, you’ll slip, fall and have to start all over again.         Not scary enough for you? Try listening to Tim Curry and Don Knotts spar.         The game has the same look and feel of a vintage Scooby-Doo cartoon and is everything the recent film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. aspired to be: fun. (JHK)

ETERNAL DARKNESS: SANITY’S REQUIEM • RECOMMENDED • FROM: Nintendo • RATED: Mature (blood, gore, violence) • REVIEWED FOR: Gamecube

Like to get the bejesus scared out of you? Then “Eternal Darkness” is the game for you. Each vignette brings you into a spooky new scenario. A church hides a dark secret. A girl tries to solve her grandfather’s murder. And all the while, monsters attack, forcing you to fight–or die.         Each time you run into a monster, your characters chance losing a little of their sanity. Lose enough of this and you may lose your mind. Or your limbs. Or, more interestingly, turn into one of them.         You may want to leave a night light on. Yes, it’s that insidiously creepy. (JHK)

SILENT HILL 2: RESTLESS DREAMS • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED • FROM: Konami • RATED: Mature (gore, violence) • REVIEWED FOR: Xbox

James Sunderland receives a letter from his late wife written three years after her death. She wants to meet him in Silent Hill. Faster than you can say, “Don’t go in the basement,” you–as James–are in a car bound for the sleepy hamlet. Despite the dense fog covering the town and the eerie music in Dolby, you get out of the car and begin to search for residents. The goal of the game is to stay alive and solve the occasional puzzle, and fog isn’t all that’s surrounding you. This game creeps up on you, makes your palms sweat and your eyes peer at the dark corners of your living room. You’ve never seen anything like the disturbing creatures that inhabit “Silent Hill,” and they stay with you long after you’ve put down the controller. Never has a subtitle been more appropriate than “Restless Dreams.” That’s exactly what you’ll have after playing this game. (MD)

BLOODRAYNE • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED • FROM: Majesco • RATED: Mature (extreme gore, violence) • REVIEWED FOR: Xbox

She’s young. She’s beautiful. She’s scantily clad and carrying an arsenal of weapons. Move over Lara Croft–Rayne is the new pinup in town. Part human and part vampire, Rayne was reared and trained by a secret society whose mission is to hunt down and destroy supernatural forces that threaten humanity. To explain away her bloody carnage, the game is set in the 1930s, and Rayne must stop the Nazis from using the occult to conquer the world. You have to go through two long training missions, though, before seeing your first swastika. The game, much like Rayne herself, is something of a mixed breed: part “Blade,” “Matrix” and any World War II game on the market. (MD)

CASTLEVANIA: HARMONY OF DISSONANCE • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED • FROM: Konami • RATED: Teen (violence) • REVIEWED FOR: Gameboy Advance

Dracula’s back and he’s kidnapped your best friend, Lydie. Never mind you look like the lead singer from Poison–you’re the one who must head back into the castle and rescue her. Crack the whip, defeat the enemies, explore the castle and rescue your girlfriend, already. Graphically, “Castlevania” is the best title for the Gameboy Advance this year. The castle is a never-ending maze of rooms, halls and courtyards that should keep you busy long after your little brother has eaten his last piece of candy and wants his Gameboy back. (MD)

HOUSE OF THE DEAD III • RECOMMENDED • FROM: Sega • RATED: Mature (blood, gore, violence) • REVIEWED FOR: Xbox

I’m a little confused why this game–the latest in Sega’s franchise–is even called “House of the Dead.” Granted, there are dead people (and lots of them), but the game doesn’t take place in a house; it’s a top-secret research facility. “Covert Science Lab of the Dead” just doesn’t sound as cool, I guess. Despite the title, “Dead” is a gorgeous-looking third-person horror shooter. There aren’t many surprises here, but your trigger finger will certainly be happy. Added bonuses to make it worth the price: A full version of “House of the Dead II” is playable after you finish “Dead III,” and there’s also behind-the-scenes footage from the “House of the Dead” movie that will drag itself into theaters next summer. (MD)

RESIDENT EVIL • SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED • FROM: Capcom • RATED: Mature (blood, gore, violence) • REVIEWED FOR: GameCube

Good lord, this is frightening. The new version won’t be out until next month, but Halloween’s as good as time as any to revisit a classic gore game. Meticulously animated to depict realistic bloodshed, “Resident Evil” isn’t for the squeamish. It’s “Night of the Living Dead” with nothing left to the imagination. That said, you’ll be tempted to “die” at least once just to see what happens as you’re ripped limb from limb.         Of course, it’s difficult to play this game when you’re peering out from half-closed eyes. So open them. Play it. And then hide it away. Fast. (JHK)

CASPER: SPIRIT DIMENSIONS • SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED • FROM: Nintendo • RATED: E for everyone • REVIEWED FOR: GameCube

How’s this for creepy: When you come right down to it, Casper is a dead baby. But unlike the cherubic cartoon character many of us grew up watching, this Casper can sport a demonic smile and a tough-guy attitude. And this is a good thing, considering that the usually friendly ghost must rid the world of some unwanted spirits.

All this would be a lot easier to do if he could bully his way through all the walls. But he’s young, so he’s only able to navigate his way through a few, which–considering this is a kids’ game–isn’t always easy to figure out. Good witch Wendy is there to help, but she grows irritating fast and you begin to wish Casper would make her disappear, too.

The graphics are good, though too simplistic for older teens weaned on the likes of “Final Fantasy.” The little ones should get a kick out of this for at least a few hours. (JHK)

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