Amnesia: The Dark Descent – true horror and amazing game

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a horror game unlike most others I’ve previously played. It’s first-person, and you spend the vast majority of your time completely alone – no allies, no enemies. You spend your time interacting with the environment by exploring and solving puzzles. Sometimes you might have to hide from a monster, but the real conflict is internal as you battle to keep your own sanity.

Amnesia is a first-person adventure game that’s a little over two years old. The graphics and interface looks like it might be older, but once I tried the game, I found it worked very well. When you approach an item with which you can interact, a hand icon appears. You can move things or hold them by clicking on them. If they’re not an inventory item for use later but are able to be picked up, they’ll float in the center of the screen. You interact with everything in a similar way. For example, you don’t go through a door by running up to it and pressing the enter-key. Rather, you press the left mouse button and either pull or push (depending on the door). This leads to some interesting situations when running from a monster. I hear something, and my heart begins to beat faster. Is something near me? As I look around, I see something move in the corner. Now my heart’s racing, and I bolt for the door. When I reach it I use the left mouse button and push forward only to find that it’s a pull door! In my panic, I don’t realize this soon enough. The controls make the game feel very immersive.

Light and darkness plays a large part in the game. Being in the dark will slowly drive you insane, which, among other things, will make you hear things that aren’t real. This is particularly scary because then you can’t be sure whether something’s really there. Being in the dark drops your sanity, so you need to keep your lantern fueled or be able to light enough candles. Lantern oil and flint and tinder become very valuable resources. The screenshot above shows a look at a room while relatively sane.

This screenshot shows the same room with less sanity. Note that it can get a lot more distorted than this. Looking at monsters drives you insane, you have to be careful not to look for too long. You can hide in the dark from the monsters (but that drives you insane as well), but if it wants you dead, you’ll die. There really isn’t any fighting the monsters. Your best bet is to run as fast as you can, and if you’re cornered, to hide or attempt to distract it with the flesh of another. Fright and panic were two emotions that fought to be dominant in my body as I played the game.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of creepy imagery. Here’s a closer look at the pile of bodies from the last two screenshots. This was a relatively tame shot, which is why I chose to share it. There are other bodies that can be found, including anatomically correct, fully nude bodies. There are also limbs and even mangled torsos that can be found (and used as distractions for monsters). As you go insane, you’ll see other things as well. One room had metal cages hanging from the ceiling. When sane, they’re empty, but as your sanity drops, you begin to see bodies in them. It was particularly unnerving when I saw bodies in them after having previously seen them empty.

It has a really fascinating story. Your character,  Daniel, has purposely given himself amnesia and left himself with a letter telling him to kill Alexander. Daniel assures himself that Alexander deserves to die even if he doesn’t like it. The plot examines what it means to be good and evil as well as the concepts of fear and torture. It’s extremely fascinating but also frightening and disturbing. As I progressed through the game, I heard audio flashbacks and occasionally was given full, playable flashbacks in which Daniel’s past was examined. By the end you find his past troubled and complicated, and might question whether his actions were correct. Near the end of the game, you’re given a few choices. Morally they’re a little ambiguous, mirroring life.

The game suggests you play it in the dark with headphones. I didn’t do either of those things. However, the fact that I played without the brightness maxed meant I’m at least trying to play by the rules. There’s also the fact that I played it all the way through even though most people I know stopped playing after finding it too frightening. DLC, Justine, is also available. It provides a new story, but there’s no saving; When you die, you have to restart. I didn’t enjoy that, so I didn’t complete Justine. However, the base game is fantastic. If you like horror, you should absolutely try Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It could be the perfect game to play on Halloween!


Joystiq was my preferred video game news site for a long time largely due to the Joystiq Podcast. While I don’t always have time to play the newest games, I loved listening to Chris Grant, Justin McElroy, Ludwig Kietzmann, and sometimes Griffin McElroy talk about video games and their lives in general. I got to know each of them and began to understand their frame of reference for video games. I came to realize that Griffin’s top 10 list each year would give me more “oddball” choices, so I’d eagerly wait for his list.

When I learned that Chris Grant was leaving Joystiq, handing over the Editor-in-Chief position to Ludwig, I was happy for Ludwig but very sad to hear Chris was leaving. When I heard that Justin and Griffin were leaving, I actually got excited. No, not because I was glad to see them go. If all three of them were leaving, surely they were leaving together! They went to work for Vox Media, who owns The Verge.

Eventually it was revealed that the new game site would be called Polygon. And they forgot to hire web programmers for months and months (I can only assume).

Luckily, the wait is over. On Tuesday I received the following e-mail:

A long time ago, on a landing page far, far away, you ignored everything your parents ever taught you and entered your email address into a form on the internet. While normally we would join your parents in frowning on this kind of behavior, this one time it seems to have worked out! You asked to be notified when — the new video game website from Vox Media — was live and well, friend … today’s that day.

So fire up your favorite web browser, be it desktop, tablet, or mobile-based, and load up:

-Team Polygon

I’ll need to spend some time getting to know Polygon to get a feel for the writers and the type of content they provide. I’ve looked it at a little and already noticed that while I love the layout, I think the 20-point scale for reviews is too specific. However, their review policy is very interested. The reviewer writes the review but doesn’t score it. He or she then sits down with senior editors to discuss what numeric score accurately reflects the review as it was written. It’s a new of way of giving a numeric score, and I like it!

Anyways, go check out Polygon! Also, don’t forget about Joystiq and of course Game Boyz, the site for which I review iOS titles (and once in a while PC titles).

Apple Maps causes set back for location-aware Monster Guru

On March 16, I funded a location-aware iOS game called Monster Guru by Gimo Games on Kickstarter. Players are tasked with collecting and battling monsters, but the geolocation feature adds an extra twist.

The core of the exploring is the 1:1 movement of player and in game character. The map will initially have a “fog of war” over it, and as you walk through it new areas will be uncovered. What we’ve done is put in a non-GPS mode where after uncovering an area you can go back to that area without physically walking there.  This makes the exploring still part of the moving around, but you’ll be able to play at home after having gone through different areas on the map.

Last updated: Wednesday Feb 15, 12:52am EST

This sounded pretty fun to me!

With iOS 6, Apple is no longer using Google Maps but are using their own Apple Maps. There are reports of the 3D views being wavy and weird, certain landmarks missing, certain non-existent landmarks present, incorrect addresses or directions, and a lack of public transit. I haven’t checked any of these myself because I’m holding off on upgrading, but honestly, my guess is that Apple Maps likely works fine for most people in the US (assuming you don’t take public transit).

I forgot about Monster Guru.

Because Monster Guru was based heavily on API calls to the Maps application, the change from Google Maps to Apple Maps has severely hindered Monster Guru’s development. For now, I’ll continue to eagerly wait for my chance to reward real life exploration with monster battling!

The full update from Gimo Games follows:


Update #13 · Oct. 17, 2012
Friends!Thank you for your patience and support over the past few months.  We’ve had some great progress along the way, but we have also had some setbacks.  People have come and gone in Gimo, gotten married, moved, found new jobs, and started school again.  The biggest setback however comes from the new maps in iOS 6.

Most complaints about the new maps have been from consumers, but I’ll add my complaint from the perspective of a developer.  Apple maps are broken.  Monster Guru pushes the maps on iOS to the limit.  We are using the maps, overlays, annotations, transparency, gesture recognition like tap, hold, swipe, pinch all within Cocos2D.  This was all working wonderfully on iOS 5.  Apple didn’t change the API on the maps, but they changed the way they work underneath.  This means we were able to build just fine on iOS 6, but when it actually ran it didn’t work at all.  When we first ran it all it showed on screen was a vibrant pink color.  Now we’ve rearranged some of the code and gotten it to actually display the map and function, but after scrolling or walking around for a few seconds it completely locks up.

We will fix it, but I don’t know how long it will take.  Best case scenario, Apple releases iOS 6.1 tomorrow and it fixes it and everyone is happy.  That probably isn’t going to happen though.  Worst case scenario, we have to rewrite the whole map system, and that is the largest portion of the game.  I’ve been digging through the maps trying to find out what systems aren’t working together nicely in iOS 6, but haven’t quite found it yet.  We may have to end up simplifying the map a little to reduce the number of parts interacting, but I won’t dumb down the game.  I feel like we can’t release a game that doesn’t work on the latest operating system, so we will fix it, and it will still be Monster Guru.

We will keep you posted along the way.  In a few days I’ll put up a gameplay video with the beginning of the game so you can see how the game is played exactly, and that should answer most of the questions asked before.  I wanted to get it out before, but this iOS 6 problem, compounded with work and school, have slowed down the progress.  Don’t worry about the game not coming out or being dumbed down though; I will get this out to you guys.  The core Gimo group will be here to finish the game no matter what.  This game is my baby, and I can’t wait to get it out to you guys.  Ask anything you want in the comments, or send us a message.  We’ll be as transparent with you as we can.


Pacman art

There was recently a survey asking customers to pick their favorite Pacman art style between four choices. You can find the survey, at least for now, here. Personally, I voted for the fourth one. I liked the vintage look!

Then I saw Select Button’s fantastic post in which forum members contributed their redesigns. I have a bunch of colored sharpies that I decided to put to good use, especially because I had a 6×6 canvas that I hadn’t used yet. Poor Pacman seems a bit upset at the fact that the monstrous ghost killed his wife.