Hello? Hell…o?, Ghost Party, and The Desolate Hospital

Three short games! Hello? Hell…o? and Ghost Party were quite fun, while The Desolate Hospital was surprisingly blah for such a pretty game.

 

I really enjoyed Hello? Hell…o? It’s short, unusual, and I like how it tells its story.

The biggest problem I’m running into with the horror games is that sudden deaths are good, but losing your progress is frustrating and ends up numbing you to whatever cool thing was being pulled out. The best way of handling it I’ve seen was in Misao, where you could quicksave easily and just learned to do that before touching anything, thus allowing you to enjoy the jump scare of getting killed for looking at paper without suffering the annoyance and tedium of having to redo everything. Of course, this still ends up ruining much of the horror. This game takes it a step forward, where the endings actually build, and the lack of control over events keeps things frightening.

Interacting with just about anything ends the game and kicks you back to the start screen. But getting endings causes the room to change and the overall storyline to progress, unlocking new endings as you progress to the ultimate endings, and as you do so, the start screen changes word by increasingly worrying word.

Then there’s a sort of bonus mirror section after you hit the ultimate endings to access the secret endings, weird as that sounds. I’m a bit more ambivalent about that one. In order to progress in the girl’s story, you need to choose to examine the room as the guy at the end and call on the phone so it’ll ring in her room, which just seemed really unintuitive to me, and there’s no logical reason for that to change anything – why does ghost boyfriend kill you immediately if the phone doesn’t ring? For that matter, I don’t see why ghost boyfriend is so much more murderous than ghost girlfriend. I guess it’s there to clue you in that you need to fix something, but I was told was the fireplace was important so I kept poking that, and even checking the phone didn’t do anything unless it was while fleeing now-murderous girlfriend to examine the room and why would you pick up the phone and call her to beg her to move on when she’s right in front of you? Making it easier to get the wrong number end would’ve been the best fix. Maybe have her able to call but not get any response, then make that alter the ghost girlfriend side so his phone rings right when ghost girlfriend shows up. Then it’s more obvious you should check out the phone and try to call.

I also enjoyed Ghost Party. It has some very simple graphics, but they work. It also has a small area jammed full of delicious, delicious flavor text written in an adorable style. There are several areas with walls of windows, and every tile of those windows says something different! If that doesn’t sound as delightful to you as it does to me, run screaming from this game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you didn’t enjoy that you have no soul.

And the game itself is all about talking to people – there’s a number of humans and lots of bats, all of whom say something different in each segment. My only problem with it is that while it seems to hint at a backstory, it doesn’t actually deliver on any of it, and the endings are just AND THEN IT IS RESOLVED IN MANNER A OR MANNER B depending on if you manage to figure out the answer in time to save anyone or not. (I did like how things progress.once you talk to everyone – it’s a good way of handling time passing. If you talk to everyone rather than working on what you need to do, well, murder won’t wait.) Still, while the ending wasn’t much, the ride there was gorgeous and full of flavor text.

Finally, there’s The Desolate Hospital. I don’t know what’s wrong with this game. It’s got nice graphics depicting an an unknown gas-masked protagonist using a flashlight to explore a ruined hospital with a creepy girl and blood everywhere.

 

But it’s just so…eh. There’s a couple good moments, but there’s not enough sense of threat, especially since you have a gun. And in order to finish the game, you have to find all the notes, which requires checking everywhere, but trying to examine anything else but the six notes and a really obvious monster has no reaction, so I was only looking in the most obvious places. Then to defeat the girl at the end, you have to use a completely different mechanic, aiming with the mouse and clicking, that I wasn’t aware even existed. And the resolution is that it’s some sort of game where the girl gives out the jewel to anybody who comes in and goes through the hospital, and something about the world ending probably being a damper on that, so I guess that’s why there’s no sense of threat but wtf? It’s basically the evil mirror twin of Ghost Party.

6 Comments

  1. SpoonyViking says:
    I think the main problem with horror video games is that horror tends to rely on the characters not having any control, while video games, by their very nature, require the player to have at least a measure of control over their character.

    Not that it’s impossible to find a good balance, of course. There’s a first-person shooter, “Clive Barker’s Undying”, which is awesome at creating atmosphere and is genuinely scary for about half of its run (at least, the first time you play). After that, as your character grows more powerful, it tends to not be as scary anymore, although it’s atmosphere is still unsettling (and very enjoyable!). I’d recommend it.

    In fact, consider that an official recommendation, if you don’t mind. :-D

    1. Farla says:
      Ooh, I’ll have to check out someone playing it.

      (Hello Hello was at about the limits of what’s “fun scary” in games for me.)

      1. SpoonyViking says:
        Hm, that might kill all tension; but then again, if something’s not fun anymore, there’s no point in doing it. :-) Do check it out! :-D
  2. Roarke says:
    “There’s a couple good moments, but there’s not enough sense of threat, especially since you have a gun.”

    This is something Resident Evil, Dead Space, and many other “survival horror” series don’t understand. Any means of fighting gives you a feeling of security.

    In fact, any game that doesn’t send you back to the beginning is no longer capable of feeling urgent to me, because I’ve played video games for most of my life. If you let me save, I don’t care about dying. If you let me fight, I don’t care about horror.

    This is why I eventually moved to Roguelikes and online multiplayer (I was a longtime WoW PvP’er) – like someone used to drugs, I needed to get a stronger dose or a stronger drug to get the same high. Roguelikes, you probably know, are difficult, complicated games that remove your save file upon death. That was the only way for me to find tension in a single-player game, because the sense of loss is much more real when you’ve invested 5+ hours of effort that could all be erased.
    Online multiplayer on the other hand is self-explanatory, I hope. Competing with humans on equal terms is always tense.

    1. Farla says:
      I think the original Resident Evil ones work well enough because of limited items. You may have a gun but you don’t necessarily have bullets, and you’re also at risk of running out of healing items. (The game doesn’t even have to actually have few items, just make them scarce enough to make the player feel like they could run out.)

      Dead Space’s problem was that it handed the player enough ammo that you could probably have killed everything just by crushing them.

      Hm…I wonder how well it’d work to combine a roguelike character generator with a regular save system, where you retain progress but you have to continue with a new character (and you can’t change any attributes, so no remaking the previous one). It’d only matter to people willing to get invested, but it’d give a sense of loss when you got a character killed.

      I think I remember hearing about a dungeon delver where when you die you start as your character’s kid.

      1. Roarke says:
        I think I remember hearing about a dungeon delver where when you die you start as your character’s kid.

        That is called Rogue Legacy. It is a good game, and I would recommend it to you or Act, actually. Hm. I might have to go make the official recommendation on the proper thread in a bit. It’s not quite a roguelike, because rather than progressing until you die, at which point you lose all progress, you play until you die, at which time the money you earned passes on to the “heir,” and you use those points to upgrade. So dying actually leads to progression, at least in character strength. This is an inversion of the roguelike standard. Still, the game is not only fun and quirky, but it is surprisingly very well-written. Like, seriously. The plot is confined to 25 notes left by a former adventurer in the same dungeon, but goddamn is it surprisingly good. Still, there is a gaping plothole that I could never figure out. Oh well.

        Hm…I wonder how well it’d work to combine a roguelike character generator with a regular save system, where you retain progress but you have to continue with a new character (and you can’t change any attributes, so no remaking the previous one). It’d only matter to people willing to get invested, but it’d give a sense of loss when you got a character killed.

        A game in which you come back as someone different every time you die would be interesting, and it is a mechanic that almost made it into some games I have played. It would be hard to use a proper leveling system in that, since half the fun is making your own build. Having that work broken every time you die is typical of roguelikes, but with roguelikes you can at least recreate what you have done before, whereas this game you are suggesting kind of forces you to work with the new one. It can work, though.

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