Tag Archives: Horror

Phantasmagoria (PC, MS-DOS & Sega Saturn)

Developer(s) – Sierra On-Line

Publisher(s) – Sierra On-Line

Director(s) – Peter Maris

Producer(s) – Mark Seibert, J Mark Hood & Roberta Williams 

ESRB – M for Mature


Released in 1995 to resound commercial success, in fact going on to become Sierra On-Line’s best-selling game overall, Phantasmagoria is a point-and-click adventure horror game making use of digitized character sprites, similar to Night Trap, and sold as well as it did despite a mixed reaction from critics at the time. Roberta Williams even went on record to call it the greatest achievement throughout her career, despite her work on the King’s Quest series along with her husband Ken Williams. 

This is a game that had piqued my interest for a long time, and one that I’d wanted to play and review ever since, given the lasting impression that it’s had on the industry ever since its release. While it’s certainly not a great game (nor even a good one), and I ultimately cite its shock factor as the reason why it sold so well, it does have one or two positive points, and it wasn’t quite as bad as what I was led to believe.


Graphics – 5/10

The first thing that gamers will be drawn to is the game’s graphics. It uses digitally imposed actors and actresses as character sprites, and everything else, including objects and settings, are conventionally rendered to around early sixth-generation quality. So the problems I have with it can be summed up in that last sentence ostensibly; because of the disparity between the graphical quality of the character sprites and the settings, it renders the entire thing very hard to either look at or take seriously; especially nowadays. Back then it would have simply looked inconsistent, but now, it looks inconsistent and horribly dated. The conceptual design, like many other things about this game, ranges from average to passable, being set in an isolated haunted house. There’s not much else I can say about it apart from that, since the haunted house has been the setting for many horror films and games that came before this, and there’s not a great deal that separates this setting from the many others it’s kind that came before it.


Gameplay – 5/10

Phantasmagoria relies on finding interactive items and solving puzzles in order to progress, typical of most point-and-click adventure titles. The issue is that nowhere near as much thought went into the gameplay as what went into many other great games of the genre, such as Broken Sword and Grim Fandango; and I put this down to the fact that most emphases seemed to go on storytelling and artistic direction; despite the fact that not much went into it in that respect either. The best thing about the gameplay is that sometimes, particularly toward the end, the player is challenged to think on their toes in order to progress as fast as possible in order to prevent death; this adds a welcome bit of tension to the experience. 


Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls work just as well as any other point-and-click adventure game, and this is one aspect the developers mercifully got right. The HUD is straightforward to interact with, and nothing is made overly complicated.


Lifespan – 5/10

The lifespan of Phantasmagoria can range between around 3 to 4 hours, which as is documented, is far longer than the average lifespan of a film, which in truth this game was mainly marketed as, it was nowhere near the average lifespan of a blockbuster game, even for the time, and certainly doesn’t hold up today. A point that I frequently raise whilst writing reviews is that if more depth was added to the gameplay, they could’ve made it last longer than the time it already does having used up the budget on making it last as long as it does through other means, such as extended scripts and screenplays.


Storyline – 6/10

The story of Phantasmagoria follows mystery novelist Adrienne Delaney and her husband, photographer Don Gordon, as they purchase a remote mansion previously owned by a famous magician known as Carno. Adrienne gradually learns of the mansion’s sadistic past, as she learns of an evil demon that possesses the house’s residents, and drives them insane making them do evil and twisted things. The story was heavily inspired by the novels of Stephen King down to the main character being a writer, but the quality of story-telling, however, doesn’t even come close to being on the same level as King. Many plot elements are not particularly distinguishable from the stories that it drew inspiration from, and the only thing the plot has going for it are the few shocking moments there are in it (one scene, in particular, going much too far for my liking). In terms of the acting, if looking at this as a film, it again ranges from average to passable. I think the only actor who put in a passable performance was Robert Miano, who played the magician Carno. He definitely brought the right amount of maniacal zeal to the character without overdoing it. Everyone else either overacts or underacts as far as I’m concerned.


Originality – 3/10

As I’ve alluded to several times throughout this review, there is very little going for this game in terms of uniqueness. Its influences are far too evident, and where it does stand out, it stands out for the wrong reasons, including how inconsistent the graphics and the acting are. The developers clearly neglected the gameplay as well, which should’ve been the main focus, and as a consequence of that, it makes it stand out even less.



Phantasmagoria, whilst having those few little plus points, is a fairly disappointing experience in my opinion. The areas in which the developers concentrated most were not handled particularly well, and the areas they chose not to concentrate on, were handled even more haphazardly, making it ultimately a regrettably bad gaming experience. 



5.5/10 (Below Average)

The Addams Family (Super NES & Mega Drive)

The Addams Family

Developer(s) – Ocean Software

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software & Flying Edge

Designer(s) – Warren Lancashire

PEGI – N/A (Suitable for all ages)

Initially released in 1992 by Software for fourth-generation hardware, The Addams Family game, based on the 1991 movie starring Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd, received mixed reviews when it came out, (much like the film), is described as a boring Mario clone, or Mega Magazine even advising players to either “watch a tree, or grow something instead”. Versions for older consoles, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and even handheld consoles were also developed, but each of these versions is like its own game in and of itself. 

With the original port, however, it’s interesting to me how the perception of an old game can potentially change over time. If I’d been reviewing back in the time of the Super NES, I may very well have had similar concerns to the likes of Mega Magazine, but even still, my overall opinion would have been very different, since not only do I enjoy this game a lot today, but I also played the hell out of it back when it was released. I enjoyed it thoroughly back then, and I still enjoy playing it now. 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals differ slightly between both the Super NES and the Mega Drive versions. But both versions capture well the feel of not only the 1991 film but the franchise in general. It’s one of those games based on a license that tries to celebrate the license as well. And I always enjoy a licensed game for that reason. The game takes place in and around the Addams residence plagued by night creatures that Gomez Addams must contend with. Each area of the house is uniquely designed, giving it a strong vibe of classic Castlevania games. In particular, the portraits on the walls of the portrait gallery are excellently detailed in terms of technical performance. Characters bear striking resemblances to the real-life actors; not only Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester but also Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Jimmy Workman as Pugsley. 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The Addams Family is not quite a traditional 2D side scroller. The player has the option to come and go as they please, giving it far more of a Metroidvania feel. The objective is to navigate the Addams residence and rescue each of the other family members; Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma Addams, Uncle Fester, and finally Morticia. Throughout the game, there are several secret areas to uncover along the way, as well as different power-ups to use in order to reach otherwise impassable areas or to give the player an edge in combat. There’s also a series of pretty challenging boss fights to contend with at the end of each area. And challenging is the right word for this game, as there are also many different platforming sequences that will test even the most hardened of platformer fans. 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls are also as fluent as any good platformer was at the time. Featuring other items to use throughout, it’s actually given more variety in terms of gameplay than the average side scroller. And therefore, more functionality in terms of controls than in other games of the same ilk. There’s so much in this game to differentiate it from others in terms of controls alone. It made me wonder how even reviewers at the time couldn’t recognize that back then. 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

The lifespan is even longer than the average platformer, clocking in at around an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether or not the player decides to complete it to 100%. Of course, there would be other games in other genres that would blow this amount of time out of the water, and would only continue to do so going into the fifth generation of gaming, but there’s a lot to be said for a game like this that dared to defy convention, even if it went pretty much unnoticed at the time. 


Storyline – 7/10

The plot of the story follows the second half of the film quite closely. Tully Alford, the Addams Family lawyer, has taken over the Addams estate and captured the remaining Addams family members. And Gomez resolves to rescue them. The plot element of the film concerning Uncle Fester is present, as he has amnesia and is cured once released. The plot is presented nowhere near as well as what it is in the original film. But it does a good enough job setting up the premise of gameplay.

Originality – 8/10

It’s very easy to overlook how quietly innovative this game was back in its time. It perpetuated a lot of the same ideas that the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night did birthing the entire Metroidvania genre a full two years before the release of Super Metroid. It was quite easy for me to take it for granted back then since I was unfamiliar with the concepts of gaming history and even the differentiation of gaming genres at the time. But as I’ve grown older and learned far more than I knew about games since, It’s made me appreciate truly how innovative this title was. 


Overall The Addams Family remains every bit of a joy to play today as it was when it was released. I recommend this to anyone looking for a challenge or looking for an original game that fell through the cracks. 



8/10 (Very Good)

Skul: The Hero Slayer (PC)

Developer(s) – SouthPAW Games

Publisher(s) –  NEOWIZ

PEGI – Not Rated (some graphic violence)


An early indie title released in the first part of 2021, Skul: The Hero Slayer is a rogue-lite that provides a new gameplay experience with every playthrough offering intense combat, platforming, and an insane amount of customization options for the player character throughout each time playing. Similar to the likes of Rogue Legacy and 88 Heroes, the game can make for hours upon hours of playability and a level of variety in gameplay that I haven’t seen for quite some time. It makes for a far better game than either of the aforementioned examples as well as other games of the same ilk developed in recent years. 


Graphics – 8/10

Skul makes use of a traditional 8-BIT visual style with a mythology heavy inspired by high and dark fantasy; it’s basically The Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons in 8-BIT form, featuring creatures straight from the works of Tolkien and Gary Gygax such as ents, chimeras, liches, and demons. But it also has elements inspired by the modern world too; for example, one of the power-ups allows the player to take the form of a biker who attacks with chains and rides a motorbike for a limited amount of time as one of his special moves. It fits interestingly with the tableau of the game, as the character was clearly inspired by the comic book Ghost Rider, but that, along with many of the other powerups found throughout the game, such as the genie and the samurai, add an unexpected, yet welcome level of diversity in character design that I never saw coming at all. 


Gameplay – 9/10

The game is a rogue-lite whereby players must face off against hordes of enemies whilst both conserving as much as what they have as possible, including health, whilst at the same time, using items and upgrades collected throughout as wisely as possible. There is an insane amount of power-ups that can be used by players to adopt a ridiculous amount of playstyles, making each playthrough a completely different experience. In that respect, you can draw comparisons to 88 Heroes, only in this case, the feature of being able to play as what are essentially different characters throughout is a lot better thought out in this title and makes for a much more accessible experience overall. Because with 88 Heroes, characters are given to the player at random, and it can hinder the gameplay through no fault of the players. But here, the player gets far more of a choice, making for a better experience overall. On top of that, there are also a great number of perks that can be acquired throughout each playthrough that offer increases in attack, speed, and magic and that also offer passive benefits such as freezing, poisoning, or burning enemies for dealing additional damage. The base stats can also be upgraded before each playthrough such as the attack power and amount of health that the player starts with, making each playthrough more accessible over time, like in Rogue Legacy. But again, in this game, that element is also handled in a far better manner. 


Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is also very interesting indeed. Whilst there are common control elements with each playthrough, such as the ability to attack, jump and dash, each character is controlled differently through all their different movement capabilities, attack patterns, and special moves; so the player has to strategize in accordance with what power-up they have equipped. The controls will seem familiar to players whilst at the same time also offering more than what they’ll be used to in the form of the different power-ups, and it’s really quite an impressive feat that’s been achieved. 


Lifespan – 8/10

Seasoned players have been able to play through the main game in its entirety in just shy of an hour. However, this is a game that has clearly been designed to be played through many, many times, and players should not stop at one playthrough by any means; even if they somehow manage to beat it on the first time of asking. With everything taken into account in terms of gameplay, there is enough on offer to make this game last an ungodly amount of hours; players may wish to go through the game using different power-ups, or they may wish to try and go through it without using any power-ups or passive abilities at all. The customization options are that insane.


Storyline – 7.5/10

But in addition to the compelling gameplay, there’s also a surprisingly touching story behind it as well. The game follows Skul, who is a lowly minion in service to the army of a Demon King. As heroes of humans storm the Demon King’s castle and take him captive, Skul evades capture and resolves to destroy the human army and free his master. The game puts the player on the side of evil and paints Skul, the Demon King, and their allies as the heroes almost, and it’s done in a way that I’ve never seen in a video game before. There have been games that have tried similar things, like Overlord for example, but it’s presented much differently in this game. There’s a sense of elegance about it in each intermittent cutscene that I wasn’t expecting at all. 


Originality – 8/10

I’ve mentioned throughout this review that this game threw stuff at me that I was not prepared for in the least bit, and I was pleasantly surprised by all of it. It’s a game that gets the fundamentals right as if it was created by a team of seasoned developers, but yet it also gives players an experience unlike most that have been created throughout the years, and considering that it came from an indie studio really is something. It wasn’t the first game developed by the South Korea-based studio (that would be an app game called BSTG), but their first effort of creating a game designed for conventional consoles, really is phenomenal. 



Overall, Skul: The Hero Slayer is a fantastic rogue-lite with almost limitless possibilities in terms of gameplay, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an exciting and dynamic title in every respect and is not one to be overlooked. 



8/10 (Very Good)

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PC, PlayStation & Dreamcast)

Developer(s) – Crystal Dynamics & Rixxes Software

Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive

Director – Amy Hennig

Producer(s) – Amy Hennig, Andrew Bennett & Rosaura Sandoval

PEGI – 16


Developed and released by Crystal Dynamics following a lengthy legal battle with original creators of the Legacy of Kain series, Silicon Knights, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, like Blood Omen, was also met wide widespread critical acclaim in what was considered an ideal time, as it coincided with the release of several horror films, such as The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project. It went on to be considered the best game in the series by most critics, and whilst I don’t agree with that assessment, (by far I think the best game in the series is Soul Reaver 2), the original Soul Reaver is still to me, a classic of the fifth generation and still an absolute joy to play through.


Graphics – 7/10

Soul Reaver easily has one the darkest approaches taken to conceptual design out of most games I’ve played throughout my lifetime. It takes the players back into the fictional dark fantasy land of Nosgoth, but in a post-apocalyptic state. There are new locations added to Nosgoth’s landscape, as well as the ruins of some of the previous locations found in Blood Omen, such as The Pillars of Nosgoth and Nupraptor’s Retreat. It also has the player alternating between the underworld and the physical world in order to gain access to new areas, or areas otherwise impassable in the opposite. Gamers may argue that in terms of the technical aspect of the game, it hasn’t aged particularly well, and with that, I would agree to a certain extent, but the conceptual design more than makes up for that in my opinion. For the best version of the game, I would recommend the Dreamcast port, which runs at 60 frames per second and has the most polish to it. The Dreamcast version actually makes it look far more like a sixth-generation game than a fifth.  Both planes of existence within the game are as dark as the other, with a wonderfully horrifying soundtrack to accompany the game. 


Gameplay – 7.5/10

Somewhat similar to Blood Omen, Soul Reaver plays out more like a 3D platformer than a top-down RPG, but combat is still at the heart of the game’s design, with players having to subdue abominable enemies throughout and being able to learn new abilities and increase their health and magic capacities to use these abilities more efficiently and frequently. Although the main combat system is not as diverse as Blood Omen, it does make up for that by challenging players to strategize in accordance with their surroundings, as the enemies are only killed in a handful of specific ways, at least in the physical world. The boss fights, though fewer, are also far more creative than in Blood Omen; again requiring specific actions to take in order to best each one. Like in Blood Omen, there is also a fast travel system and a plethora of hidden items and abilities to discover along the way.


Controls – 10/10

Even when 3D gaming was pretty much in its infancy during the fifth generation, there were some games like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon that handled their control schemes extremely fluently; Soul Reaver is one such example; there are no issues with the controls whilst playing with a joypad, and it also handles stealth combat in a very fluent manner as well, which at the time, was a relatively new concept. 

One thing I would advise, however, is this; avoid the Steam version like the plague. Controller support is not officially part of it with players having to rely on keyboard commands, and keyboard mapping doesn’t currently work for some unknown reason. The same also goes for every other Legacy of Kain game ported to Steam. No one at Valve, Square Enix, or Crystal Dynamics has ever seen fit to rectify this, and it’s a great shame. Again, the best way to play this game is on the Dreamcast; in every respect.


Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last for a total of around 25 hours, which was relatively impressive at the time. The one thing I would say is that, although there are a good few collectibles to obtain throughout the game, the game’s world is still a bit too bare for how big it is, and more could have been added to it, in turn, add to the substance of the game. Nevertheless, there is enough in it to make it last for a fairly impressive amount of time. 


Storyline – 10/10

The story continues over 100 years following the events of Blood Omen. Having condemned Nosgoth to an eternity of decay by refusing the sacrifice of his own life, Kain has since established his own vampiric empire out of his own contempt for humanity. However, things change after his first-born lieutenant, Raziel, surpasses Kain in terms of vampiric evolution by growing a pair of wings. In anger, Kain tears off Raziel’s wings and condemns him to death by throwing him into The Lake of the Dead. Burnt by the acidic touch of the lake’s waters, Raziel is then resurrected by a god-like entity, known only as The Elder God, as a wraith, endowed with the hunger for souls and other supernatural abilities, unlike any vampire. Raziel then resolves to destroy Kain and his vampiric brothers and consume their souls returning them to the wheel of fate. 

Like Blood Omen, the story of this game, as well as the dialogue were masterfully executed. The voice acting of Simon Templeman, Michael Bell, and Tony Jay help to truly bring this title to life in a story centered around the nature of death and immortality and the price of power. To me, The Legacy of Kain easily has the best story ever told in all of gaming, and it’s that more impressive considering how much of a strong note of finality there is to the original Blood Omen. To have picked up where Blood Omen left off and evolved the series into what it would become in terms of story, was truly an impressive feat of video game narrative and helped to establish Amy Hennig as one of the greatest storytellers in the medium, as she would later go on to establish the stories of Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed.


Originality – 9/10

In terms of gameplay, as well as the story, it’s also impressive to think of how the developers took the concept of Blood Omen, made something drastically different from the former, and make work and work well, is also extremely impressive; especially given how young the concept of 3D gaming was at the time and how risky it would have inevitably been to make that transition. Some people have even cited this as an early example of a 3D Metroidvania, predating Metroid Prime by a full three years, which although I don’t think you can consider it a 3D Metroidvania, as it plays out more like a 3D platformer than anything, it’s still interesting to think about, and it all still works to separate this title from most not only released at the time, but most games released since.



Overall, the original Soul Reaver remains a classic to this day, and if anyone can pick up a copy of it on either the original PlayStation or the Dreamcast, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a game with terrific combat, a plethora of gameplay variety, additional sidequests, and a level of storytelling, which in my opinion, has never been topped within the medium of gaming since. 



8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Primordial Game Studios

Whist scouting for even more exciting-looking games on crowdfunding platforms, I came across yet another ambitious and promising title boasting a lot of very potentially groundbreaking gameplay features. The Silent Tombs, currently under development at Dundee-based Primordial Game Studios and recently posted on Kickstarter, is a procedurally generated, puzzle-based exploration game planned for release on Steam in December 2021, whereby players must explore tombs and uncover deep-rooted secrets of ancient British civilizations such as the Celtic, Gaelic, and the Anglo Saxons. The gameplay makes use of a decibel meter, which incorporates a strong element of psychological horror, similar to the likes of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, but in a much more open-ended environment.

Wanting to know even more about this project, I reached out to the game’s principal designer Vaughan Holloway to ask some further questions in regards to the project, and about what gamers can expect to indulge in whilst playing this wonderfully innovative title. Here’s what Vaughan Holloway of Primordial Game Studios had to say about The Silent Tombs:


The Silent Tombs 1

What were the influences behind the game?

The original idea actually came from the tabletop game ‘Escape: Curse of the Temple!’; I used to play it with friends when I was working at Junkfish; while brainstorming betas, I put together a culling system that allowed for a real-time progen system that kept 95% of the game culled at any time. I put those two things together with my love of history, and the original build of ‘Silent Tombs’ was born!


What has the developmental process been like?

It’s been about 8 months since I met Konstantinos at a networking event in Dundee, and since then we’ve gathered a really great team of people around this central theme. We all have full-time jobs, so we’ve been working on ‘the Silent Tombs’ in our evenings and weekends, mostly. I did the design and programming and constructed the build, while Konstantinos built and imported artwork and Alasdair provided the music.


How close are we to seeing the final product?

We’re hoping to have a soft release for our Kickstarter patrons in Nov 2021, and the game will be officially released in Dec 2021.


The Silent Tombs 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

The first time I was able to test the game using Konstantinos’ artwork in the game was amazing; we were able to build the game and test it with the HDR Pipeline. The Volumetric Lighting and new materials just completely blew me away.


What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Before we did the Kickstarter, we were preparing a video and pitch deck for the Global Games Pitch in Nov 2020; before that, we mostly working in our spare time and suddenly having a set deadline, especially for a Livestream pitch was the most challenging and nerve-wracking part of the development, so far.


Have there been any Gameplay elements planned for inclusion that have been scrapped or reworked?

Originally, we were planning on having ghosts and skeletons coming after the player if they make too much noise, but the animation / AI elements of creating enemies would have been too much. Like a lot of games like Slenderman / Phasmophobia, it’s not the enemy that’s scary but the anticipation of running into the enemy anywhere… so, instead I wanted to have the feel of the tomb itself bearing down on the player. We’re planning on using scripts called Proximity Shaders to change the level around the player. We haven’t ruled out the possibility of physical or otherworldly enemies in the game yet in some form, but I want the threat to be more subtle.


The Silent Tombs 3

How well has the game been received so far?

It’s been slow going trying to get the game out to the community at large, but of the people that have looked at the game on our website, socials, or Kickstarter, it’s been a mostly positive response! I think people are excited to see more, and we’re looking forward to buckling down to developing the game again.


You and the team clearly have a deep-rooted passion for ancient British history. Where did all that originate from?

Personally, my grandfather was a teacher, and we visited a lot of ancient sites in my childhood; I’d visited Sutton Hoo at least three times before I was 15. As I’ve grown up I’ve tried to get out and visit places myself, especially after my grandfather passed away. I’ve been lucky to find work in Scotland, there is so much to see! I don’t think people, especially people outside of the British Isles realize how deep and amazing British history is, and I’m hoping this game not only inspires them to have a look but also gives them some information on sites that can get them started!


What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC, to begin with; we will be launching on Steam and GoG.com in Dec 2021.


Have any elements of the previous titles game that your or the rest of the development team been incorporated into The Silent Tombs?

For me, there haven’t been any direct elements to inspire ‘The Silent Tombs’; I drew a lot of design inspiration from ‘Escape: Curse of the Temple!’, which I played a lot during my time at Junkfish. While working on Monstrum 2, I did a lot of work using procedural generation and I tended to experiment with building progen prototypes. It was these two elements, plus my passion for British history combined to make the first early build.


Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Absolutely! First, it sounds kind of rough, but ideas are cheap. If you want to build something people want to play, build a lot of -one-day prototypes’ (really simple gameplay concepts that only take an afternoon or evening to flesh out) and get lots of different people to test them. Don’t get discouraged; you learn more from negative feedback than positive feedback.


Where on the Internet can people find you? 

We have a website at www.primordialgamestudios.com, and our Twitter / Insta handles are GamePrimordial; our Kickstarter is currently running under ‘The Silent Tombs’, go check it out!


You can also check out The Silent Tombs on Kickstarter via the link below if you’d like to support the project:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/vfholloway/the-silent-tombs/?ref=kicktraqKickstarter Page

but for now, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Vaughan for sharing as much about The Silent Tombs as he could, and to wish him and the rest of the development team the best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign and the release of the game. The Silent Tombs is one of the most unique upcoming games I’ve come across in a long time, and I for one can’t wait to sink my teeth into this title upon release. I hope you guys have enjoyed learning more about this, as indeed I did.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Scumhead

For my first Q&A of 2021, I reached out to Arizona-based developer and comic writer Scumhead regarding his newly posted and successfully backed Kickstarter projected entitled Vomitoreum. Vomitroeum is a Metroidvania-style first-person shooter, similar to Metroid Prime, but is heavily influenced by artists such as Zdzisław Beksiński and Dariusz Zawadzki, as well as what has been the mainstay of Scumhead’s developmental portfolio, eldritch horror; the subject has been a staple in a mast majority of Scumhead’s work such as his comic Blackseed and previously developed games like Orogenesis and the two games in the Shrine series. Wanting to find out more about this fascinatingly surreal-looking title, I asked Scumhead a few questions about his upcoming game and what players can expect to see of the finished article. Here’s what Scumhead had to say about Vomitoreum:


Vomitoreum 1

What were the influences behind your game? 

Well, of course, there’s Metroid. Metroid Prime to be specific, as there is a huge lack of first-person Metroidvania games that take advantage of 3D space. Dark Souls would be another one since It’s my favorite game- taking inspirations less from the difficulty and more from the interconnectedness of the world and atmosphere. For artistic inspiration, the main artist I’m pulling from is Zdzisław Beksiński and Dariusz Zawadzki. Other than that, my inspirations come from all over the place. 


What has the developmental process been like? 

Challenging. We’re breaking GZdoom and doing things it’s not really meant to be doing, and somehow it’s functional. The art side of things has been an absolute blast, but it’s been a challenge to get this to flow in the engine. 


Vomitoreum 2

How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

The Demo is roughly 1/8th of the final game, unpolished of course. It took about 3 months of work to get everything to where we are now, but it’ll go faster once we build out the project’s skeleton. Just getting mechanics to work and feel good so I can get back to workin’ on the good stuff is top priority right now. 


What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

For me, it’s been the visual presentation. Adapting Beksinski and Zawadzki’s artwork into a playable format has been a great challenge, as well as using their styles as a starting point to create my own work. However, the most exciting part was realizing that a dream project like this was actually possible in the engine. 


Vomitoreum 3

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

Game feel. The visuals are all there, it’s just the gameplay that has been a big challenge. It’s still a work in progress, but making the game feel good to play has been tough. 


How rewarding has it been already seeing this game develop into what it is now? 

Very rewarding, it’s been a dream project for me since I was a young teenager. Finally being able to create it has been wonderful. How well has the game been received so far? Mostly positive, the most valuable stuff is the bug reports. I have a feeling the final game will be much more positively received because all of the elements will be in place for a complete experience. 


Have there been any early ideas considered for inclusion that have since been scrapped or reworked in? 

I generally lay out the entirety of my games before jumping fully into them, so other than a few sprites and models, not much has been cut. Mostly they were just improved from their base ideas. 


You posted on Twitter recently that pitfalls in the game are now designed to send players back to their original position to relieve frustration, and rightly so in my opinion. But how challenging are you looking to make this game for players? 

I have a really hard time with balance. It’s why playtesting will be so important. I find myself making encounters too easy and platforming sections too hard. Fixed the platforming part but making encounters a challenge without being terribly frustrating is going to be a big learning experience for me. 


What platforms are you looking to bring the game to? 

Windows, Linux, and hopefully Mac. 


If you had the chance to work with any mainstream developer of your choice, who would it be, and why? 

I’m not sure I’d take the chance. I think the best thing about this project is that it’s a bunch of indie types coming together to make a really disgusting game. I worry that a mainstream studio would get in the way of that.


Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Make stuff. You can try and improve by yourself for eternity, but it’s honestly better to just learn as you go along. People can see the improvements you make from title to title, and you will have a big catalog of stuff people can play and that you can look back on. Getting started is the hard part, but if you love game development it won’t matter how good or bad your projects are. 


Where on the Internet can people find you? 

Mainly on Twitter. 


They can also find me on youtube.


They can explore my game catalog here: 



Do you have anything else to add? 

This project would be nowhere without the help of my team, please show them some love. Here’s their Twitter @’s 

Programmer: Mengo @Mengo329 

Art and Animation Help: Batandy @Batandy_ 

Music: Immorpher @immorpher64 & Primeval @PRIMEVAL


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Scumhead for taking the time out to talk to me regarding this ambitious-looking title. Vomitroeum, under its wonderfully disturbing exterior, looks like it will have a lot to offer gamers upon release and I’m very much looking forward to what the final build of the game has to offer. You can also check out Scumhead’s Patreon page here if you’d like to become a patron of his:


You can also find the link to Vomitoreum’s Kickstarter page below if you’d like to support the project:


The link below is for scumhead’s itch.io page, which has a playable demo of the game in its current build:



In the meantime, I’d like to congratulate Scumhead on the successful funding of his Kickstarter campaign and to wish him the best of luck with Vomitoreum upon release.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Q&A With Monster Finger Games Volume 2

Last month, I played and reviewed a new PC release entitled Alien Scumbags. Developed by Monster Finger Games under principal designer James Ross, it’s an 8-BIT shoot’em up made as a love letter to the likes of Doom, Quake, and Duke Nukem, but also features a plethora of discoverable references to a wide range of classic games, as well as modern-day hits whilst also delivering on a nice blend of horror and comedy. After having interviewed James before the release of the game:


I once again got in touch with him to find out more about the future of this title as well as the additional content planned for future inclusion and his experiences following the game’s official release. Here’s what James Ross had further to say about Alien Scumbags:


How has the game been received since it’s release? 

Sales are not as high as we hoped but the majority of people who have played it absolutely love it which is really great to see.

Is there scope to bring Alien Scumbags to other platforms in the future? 

Possibly Switch, but it depends how well it does on Steam really.



The last time we spoke, you mentioned further content being developed for the game and even showed me this piece of concept art. Can you tell us more about it? 

I have created several pieces of concept art and the plan is for everything to make it into the game, the last big release added another new enemy to the mix which needed another strategy to kill, the next big release will be adding another new enemy, the first projectile-based enemy so excited for people to see that.


You also mentioned the importance of community feedback throughout the game’s development, but how active has the community been since its release, and have you had any more important feedback after which?

The game has evolved since its release in a variety of ways due to feedback, including how certain guns work, being able to aim above, etc. A lot of the feedback has come from the amazing Twitter community and streamers.


What further video game references are you planning to include with the introduction of new content in the game?

I can’t tell you much about that, you will have to wait and see 😉


If you could develop a game in any franchise, indie or mainstream, which one would it be?

I would love to be a part of creating another Road Rash game, I think a pseudo-3D game similar to the originals would make for a really interesting title.


What is your favorite easter egg you’ve added to Alien Scumbags? 

My fave easter egg is the secret room that takes inspiration from a certain plumber.


In our last Q&A, you also mentioned developing a game entitled Super Bombardier. How has development been progressing? 

Currently, I am only working on Alien Scumbags, more levels/content will continue until the end of the year with the final ending coming at the start of 2021.


After your current projects, what do you envision maybe next for Monster Finger Games? 

We have a few ideas rolling around, but not sure just yet, possibly more work on the Shmup Super Bombardier or Super Mega Shark maybe, one thing is for sure you will be the first one to know about it 🙂


Following on from the advice you gave readers the last time we spoke, you mentioned that releasing a game can teach you a lot of lessons. Are there any further lessons you or the team have learned yourselves following the release of Alien Scumbags? 

Yes, I think the next time we release a Steam game the page will be up a lot earlier, we suffered a little from not building up a big enough wish list before launch.


Do you have anything else to add?

Just want to say a huge thank you for the insane amount of support you have given me with Alien Scumbags.


Again, I’d like to thank James for taking the time to talk to me further about this exciting game, which will have even more to offer in the future as updates are introduced. Alien Scumbags is already an extremely impressive title as is, but it looks set to be an even better game in time. As always, I hope you guys enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it and I’ll see you for the next.

Game On,

Scouse Gamer 88

Alien Scumbags (PC)

Alien Scumbags

Developer(s) – Monster Finger Games

Designer – James Ross

PEGI – Not Rated (mature content)

The first title from Southampton-based studio Monster Finger Games, Alien Scumbags is an 8-BIT sci-fi side-scrolling shoot ’em-up survival horror game with light RPG elements. It presents a very balanced mixture of horror and comedy littered with references to classic games. I’d been following this title for some months before its release having drafted up first impressions article and interviewed the game’s principal designer James Ross:



I’d been excited for the release of this game for quite some time and when it finally made the jump from its original platform on Game Jolt to Steam, I wasn’t disappointed.

Graphics – 8/10

The game is set on a spaceship gone dark named the Nostrami, which is infested with hostile alien lifeforms. The best way I can describe the overall feel of the game is that it’s like an 8-bit version of Dead Space. Like the game Lone Survivor, it makes use of lighting despite its retro 8-BIT visual style. But in my opinion, this game makes better use of lighting than the former, as there is lighting from more sources, therefore making it look much more detailed and there much more atmospheric. 

The scenery design is also unprecedentedly varied for a game set in one location. There are references to other games scattered all over the place. And also references to popular horror movies like Alien and It. The game’s soundtrack also accompanies the horrific atmosphere of the Nostrami particularly well in addition, to making use of otherworldly synthesized tunes and sound effects designed to emulate the human heartbeat present in the first level. 

Gameplay – 8/10

With a gameplay structure similar to Doom, players are tasked with blasting their way through hordes of alien enemies and uncovering secrets throughout each level, such as hidden areas, additional perks, and easter eggs. There are also multiple characters to unlock (again, modeled after iconic video game characters), with their own unique abilities, giving the game replay value since each character offers a new experience with every playthrough. It’s a survival horror with the vast majority of focus being on gameplay, which, unlike many in mainstream survival horror series’, does pretty well. 

Controls – 10/10

The side-scrolling genre has been redefined and reinvented over many decades in gaming. Therefore, the control scheme presents no issues in this title. It’s a very bread-and-butter style of play that both fans of retro gaming and newer generation players alike. They will be able to pick up and enjoy it very easily without having to worry about the controls. 

Lifespan – 8/10

The game’s lifespan consists of around 20 hours of gameplay, which goes above and beyond many classic side-scrolling titles that gained popularity throughout the NES era, but there is also new content being planned for the game in addition, as the game is still being tweaked and by the developers. In the future, depending on the game’s final lifespan when all content is released, then the game’s score may have to be updated, but even in its current state, 20 hours is an exceptional amount of time for a game of its ilk to last. 

Storyline – 7/10

The basic premise of the game is extremely simple. Board the Nostrami and take the ship back from the horde of aliens that have killed the crew and invaded. There’s a comedic intro at the beginning giving the player the rundown of the situation. But where the game’s story lies is in its backstory which is discovered by the player as the game progresses. Provided they can find the crew recordings scattered across each level. It adds a real layer of horror that players may not necessarily expect going into it. It provides that unique balance of scares and laughs that’s quite frankly unusual for a survival horror title. 

Originality – 7/10

Although the game is one giant easter egg of references to gaming and popular culture, its unique balance of comedy and horror certainly helps it stand out among many survival horror series to have been released throughout the years. All the while keeping the emphasis on what truly matters, which is the gameplay. I’ve been frustrated by games like The Last of Us, Journey, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. They’ve shown promise and not delivered on what was expected of them as games. But with this title, you know exactly what you’re getting from the get-go. And what it delivers is what players want. 


Overall, Alien Scumbags is an extremely enjoyable title. A labor of love that gamers old and new will not be disappointed with. It’s’ a scary, funny, and intense experience throughout and I can’t recommend it enough 



8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Monster Finger Games

This week, I have been reaching out to a vast number of independent video game developers to discover new titles in the works throughout 2020. One such game is Alien Scumbags; A 2D 8-BIT side-scroller survival horror shoot ‘em up developed by Monster Finger Games operating out of Southampton, England. The game offers players a balanced blend of horror and comedy, with it being set on the Nostrami; a ship that has gone dark and is then invaded by a hostile alien race, which the players must combat to survive, whilst on the way, uncovering what happened onboard the derelict spacecraft. I composed an article details my first impressions of the game in its preliminary stages of development:


However, I have also been in contact with the game’s principal designer James Ross, who agreed to answer a few questions ahead of the game’s release, regarding how the game’s development is progressing and what players can expect to see with the finished article. Here’s what James had to say about Alien Scumbags:


Alien Scumbags 1

What has the developmental process been like?

The development has had its ups and downs, it’s crazy to think how much can happen in 2.5 years spent working on a game. Life can get in the way and it’s tough to push through it. One of the hardest things was creating the lighting system as ending up rebuildings the existing levels from scratch, the way the lighting looks now is so worth it though. I’ve learned a lot on the development journey, one lesson, in particular, is to always keep backing up regularly. I lost around 3 months’ worth of work just before Christmas which hit me hard, but again Alien Scumbags has come back better than before.


How close are we to seeing the finished product? 

I aim to have it finished by the end of the year, of course, we still have the game in early access as we like the idea of people who play it having the opportunity to have their say. 


Though the influences for the game’s style of play have been outlined on your GameJolt page, where do you draw influence from where the story is concerned? 

It’s a tough one as I just came up with the story out of the blue really. I watch a lot of horror films and wanted the story to reflect my love of that film genre. A lot of what created the story is the monsters that I created prior to it being created, I needed to be able to link everything together.


What has been the most exciting aspect of development? 

Seeing it grow from being a gamejam title to something that people really love to play. I would say also managing to create the lighting system was super exciting as I really enjoy playing around with the different effects I can create with it.


Alien Scumbags 2

What has been the most challenging aspect of development? 

Staying motivated when something goes wrong, losing all my data, issues in my private life, sometimes it makes you want to throw the towel in and give up, not to mention having anxiety issues too can also give you the feeling that your game is not good enough. I have kept pushing forward though and every step is worth it when I look back. 


How important has community feedback been in shaping the game into what it is now?

Extremely important, for example, the game didn’t have an aiming reticule, to begin with, no run, no air boost, and right at the beginning no health bar. A lot of these improvements may not have happened if it wasn’t for the amazing Streamers/YouTubers and other devs that have given their feedback. 


What further cultural references are being planned for inclusion in the final game? 

The cultural references are things that tend to be added as my mind thinks of them, I can tell you that I have planned for a while to add some other gaming references including Metal Gear Solid, you will have to wait for the next update to see that though. 


Alien Scumbags 3

How well has the game been received so far?

So far people have really enjoyed playing it, throughout its development people have found little bugs and such but the majority of people have really enjoyed it. I make sure to patch out any issues people find on streams asap as I want the game to be as polished as it can be. We have built a small community of great people and hope this continues as we continue with Alien Scumbags.


What platforms are you looking to bring the game to? 

PC is the only platform at the moment, however, we would be open to chatting with publishers about bringing it to other platforms if there was interest.


What would be next for Monster Finger Games? Have further ideas for games been considered yet?

Not sure what our next title will be following Alien Scumbags. We had started work on Super Bombardier, but who knows what the future will bring.


Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this? 

The best thing to do if you want to make something is to do it, I would also say to try and think about something small initially and work up from that, releasing a game really teaches you a lot of lessons. Above all else enjoy the journey and don’t think too much about the finish line.


Where on the Internet can people find you? 

I am most active on Twitter @kkindiegame, you can email us at:


We have a Facebook page too at https://www.facebook.com/monsterfingeruk/ We also have a website at www.monsterfingergames.com 


Do you have anything else to add?

I want to thank you for this opportunity, it’s been great, and really enjoyed chatting, DM me anytime. I also want to say a massive thank you to every Streamer, YouTuber, Blogger, and fan that has supported the development of Alien Scumbags.


I would also like to take this opportunity to thank James for agreeing to answer what questions I had and to wish him the best of luck with the game. I certainly had a lot of fun playing Alien Scumbags even this early on in development and if anyone wishes to experience this title for themselves, the game is available to download from the team’s GameJolt page via the link below:


I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed composing it and hope you all enjoy playing Alien Scumbags.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The Darkness (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Starbreeze Studios

Publisher(s) – 2K Games

Designer(s) – Jens Andersson

Producer(s) – Lars Johansson

PEGI – 18


After problems arose with development concerning publishing rights, with Majesco originally owning them before having to sell them amidst financial problems, it would have been very easy to assume at that time The Darkness would suffer as a result, most likely due to creative or artistic differences from the various different parties involved; thankfully, it doesn’t suffer to any great deal and turned out to be a fairly enjoyable game. A linear first-person shooter, it introduces some very interesting gameplay mechanics into the genre, and does pretty well to stand out among many others in turn; this is especially impressive, as, at this point, the genre had dominated mainstream gaming


Graphics – 6.5/10

What I enjoyed most about the game’s conceptual design was it’s exceptionally dark tone as the player wanders around back allies and open streets of a very gritty-looking New York City. It all works extremely well to set the tone of the game and make it highly representative of the dark directions the game’s story is taken in. What I didn’t like about it, however, are the dream sequences in which the main character is placed in a World War I environment known as the Otherworld. In these sequences, in particular, I found there to be much less textural detail, and ironically, looked considerably less dark than in real-world sequences.


Gameplay – 7/10

At first, the game seemingly plays out like a run-of-the-mill first-person shooter, with the same kinds and variety of weapons that would typically be found in any installment of either Medal of Honour, Battlefield, or Call of Duty. As players progress, however, it becomes apparent that this title has a little more going for it than that. The player gains the ability to summon small dog-like demons in order to solve puzzles and attack enemies, as well as a pair of snake-like demons in order to reach otherwise impassable areas and see where enemies are positioned in order to gain a tactical advantage. There is also a couple of side quests involving collectible items, like most first-person shooters, which adds a little bit more to its longevity, but it all did leave me wanting a little bit more for how much variety there is in combat.


Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I had with the game’s controls in The Darkness is that it can be a little bit awkward to move the snake-like demons whilst trying to move around impassable areas or detect enemy patterns and positions. It can also be a little bit needless annoying, as they can only stretch to a certain distance, and without warning, they can immediately retract. Otherwise, however, the game plays out as any good first-person shooter should. Movement and attacking are straightforward, and it tried something different without messing with the core formula too much. There are other FPS games of the seventh generation that suffered worse problems with controls; Fallout: New Vegas for example.


Lifespan – 6/10

The game lasts about the average length of time for a linear first-person shooter to last, which is around six to seven hours. As I alluded to earlier, it would have been nice to see the developers add more things to do within it to in turn add to its longevity, making it stand out even further than the average first-person shooter than what it already does, and therefore, it would have most definitely been held in much higher regard than what it was. For example, they could have easily expanded on the brief morality mechanics seen throughout the game.


Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of The Darkness involves a contract killer for the Mafia named Jackie, who becomes an assassination target, along with his girlfriend Jenny, for his uncle Paulie after a failed job, and later on requires a mysterious power known as the darkness, which gains him an edge over his enemies, but has unforeseen consequences, which unfold as the game progresses. Overall, the story is reasonably immersing, and there are elements of tragedy to it, along with the fact that Jackie is portrayed quite well as an anti-hero wrestling with his perceptions of right and wrong. However, one fatal flaw I found with it is that it would have made much more sense if Paulie wasn’t Jackie’s uncle because I personally found it unbelievable that an uncle would immediately decide to kill his nephew for losing some money, and the way this plot element was portrayed seemed nothing short of tacked on.


Originality – 7/10

I have to commend how well this game stands out amongst a genre that was already destined for commercial success throughout the seventh generation, given the launch and prior success of many other first-person series, such as Half-Life, Red Faction, Halo, and Call of Duty. Like BioShock, but nowhere near on the same level, it presented players with a new way of playing these kinds of games, and did well to remind them that they don’t have to be anywhere near as generic as a vast majority of FPS franchises either were at that time or what would later become in the future.




Overall, The Darkness is a pretty enjoyable gaming experience, and I would recommend and FPS fan tries it at least once. Though flawed in several different ways in varying degrees, it made for a decent early seventh generation title that still holds up reasonably well.



7/10 (Fair)