Andrew Ryan Animations

On receiving a letter from ex-colleague, Joey Drew, you head to the old animation workshop to find out what’s new. That’s all you need to get started, you play game now.

You, as Henry, arrive at the animation studio to find it seemingly deserted. The whole building is a sepia tone cartoon from the earliest days of animation. Outlines and minimal shading in black. A few off-yellow lights serve to draw attention here and there. Holes in walls are boarded up, doors too.

Standees of the studio mascot, Bendy the devil, are everywhere. Sometimes even peering out from around corners, before disappearing. Strange black pipes run through most rooms, occasionally dripping ink on the floor. The walls are plastered with artist notes near their drawing boards. Posters show some of the studio’s titles, introducing Bendy, Boris the wolf, and later, Alice Angel (of course, of course you make classic style cartoons about demons, angels and wolves. Of course it’s about going to hell in a handbasket, putting out the hell fires, and darling devils. That seems like jolly good, wholesome entertainment).

The game’s art style works really well. Bendy is about, and in, a classic cartoon. The only problem with making the whole world two colours is that it can be a bit difficult to navigate. As things move on, you will start to see a few areas over again, and this definitely helps you learn the layout, but for someone like me, who struggles with orientation in games, it’s very difficult to navigate some parts. Additionally, you can miss key items because you didn’t directly move your crosshair over them, to make them light up (I’m looking at you axe that I missed for 5 minutes in that boss area. Well, I’m clearly not, because I didn’t spot the damn thing for far too long, but you get the point).

You’ll start out by trying to get through doors, gather items to activate the titular ink machine, and solve basic puzzles to unlock the next area. All this under the watchful eyes of Bendy cutouts, Bendy plushes, Bendy character sheets on drawing boards, Bendy posters, Bendy Statues. Bendy is everywhere, always watching you. Their fixed grin more menacing than jolly or friendly.

Once the machine is active, the dripping ink becomes more prevalent and more… lively. Black creatures born of the ink rise up and swing for you. Their oily bodies somehow fitting with the rest of the art style, but their rendering making them look more realistic than Bendy’s more illustrated style.

Getting deeper into the game, you’ll start to encounter, what I refer to as, the “real” Bendy and Alice. These are inky horrors, parodies of their cartoon forms. These twisted, monstrous beings are of the ink itself, more like the oily ink monsters than their artist’s original designs.

At first the story is only fed to you through Bioshock-esque audio diaries. The various employees tell of their grievances, the story slowly being teased out. Here I will mention a problem. These audio recordings are equalized to sound like they’re being played from fairly poor quality tape recordings. This means that it can be difficult to make out what their saying. They are accompanied by transcriptions on one side of the screen, but the text is so small you’ll need to be super close to read it. On a smaller screen, it would be impossible.

As you move on you will meet Atlus Alice Angel. Should you agree to their requests, you’ll end up on a series of (maybe one too many) fetch quests around the building as they explain some of their woes. This does a lot to flesh out Alice’s story and give some hints about the nature of the ink itself, but larger mysteries remain.

Should you die at any point, you’ll find yourself in a weird swirling tunnel which reminds me of Silent Hill 4’s bathroom hole. Once you’ve crawled out of it, you’ll respawn at the nearest Bendy statue, which is very reminiscent of Bioshock (I know, everything’s been done before. I’m not criticising that, the game’s brought all these things together in its own way very nicely *pats game on head*).

Overall, the mood is really creepy, the world is interesting and keeps you wanting to know what’s happening and where it will lead, the sound design is very good and atmospheric (though sometimes you can hear radios through walls, like you’re right next to them), and the character designs are great. I’d say it’s definitely time and money well spent, if survival horror a la 1920’s animation is your thing.

Pros:

  • Good art style
  • Wonderfully creepy
  • Great character design

Cons:

  • Transcripts of audio logs are hard to read on smaller screens (especially in handheld)
  • Combat can be frustrating with certain weapons
  • Loading times are a little long

Overall Score: 7/10

Bendy and the Ink Machine is out now on Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC

Do You Want Anything From The Shop?

I went on a bit of a Kickstarter spree in the nine months from September last year. I backed a bunch of boardgames. So far, they’ve all come through and been pretty darn good. Last week I got the latest one delivered. The small but mighty, Tiny Epic Zombies.

The game comes in a box not much bigger than the average novel, but contains a huge amount of stuff. Firstly, there’s the nine mall cards. The eight stores are laid out at random around a central courtyard. Once the board is laid out, you can move on to picking the three objectives for the game from the 9 each available for co-operative or competitive modes. Between the randomised nature of the stores and the variety of objectives, there’s a lot of replayablity with this game.


Each of the objectives will include their own setup instructions with extra tokens being placed out, or markers placed on the objectives themselves, to monitor progress. Objectives could be anything from tracking down the true source of the zombie outbreak to building a weapon and ammo cache by scavenging the mall stores.

There’s options to play cooperatively with 1-4 players against an AI zombie force, or else 2-4 players can go up against a human controlled enemy.

Each player is dealt 3 characters and picks one to represent them in the world. Different characters having their own unique skills which offer an advantage against the horde.

A zombie is selected or chooses who they’ll play as. These zombies can be found on the back of the character cards and are the decomposing versions of those heroes. For the AI versions, only the passive skills are used. However, for a human controlled horde, there are a range of increasingly powerful skills available.


Gameplay consists of players moving three spaces through the mall and carrying out any number of actions as they do so. This could involve performing melee attacks on zombies in the same room, ranged attacks on zombies in adjacent rooms, collecting items from stores – once they’ve been cleared out, etc.

At the end of each turn, players perform a search by turning over their scavenge card. If the icon on the card matches the store, this will give the zombies an advantage. Once revealed, these scavenged items can be collected by the next player to visit the store, after it’s clear.

For the zombie player, they’re trying to attack the central court of the mall, break down the barricades and kill any survivors they find there. They can also kill the player characters, which will deplete the survivor count from the central courtyard.

The health and ammo mechanic in this game is unlike anything I’ve encountered before. Basically you start in good health and with 9 bullets for your ranged weapon. Ranged attacks (and some of the player character abilities) will deplete ammo. Zombie player abilities and poor melee attacks by the players can cause them to receive wounds. However, the health and ammo meter are on the same track. Should the two meet, or overtake each other, that player is dead. Either due to their wounds or because they were too badly equipped to survive. If there are survivors left in the courtyard, that player can take another player card and start again. Their old character dropping all their weapons and items in the store they’re standing for anyone else to collect.

One of the first things that really drew me to the game on Kickstarter was the ITEMeeple. These are fairly standard shaped meeple – maybe a little larger than average – but with little holes at their hands. One of the unique things about this game is that the weapons you scavenge around the mall can be equipped to your meeple. Adorable knives, swords, Uzis, mp5s, etc can be attached to your avatar as you wander around the mall. There’s also the vehicles that can be used. Either a motorcycle or a police car. You really haven’t lived until you’re riding a cute little motorcycle through a mall while brandishing a dinky chainsaw and rocket launcher.

Pros:

  • Lots of replayablity
  • Great artwork
  • Adorable game pieces

Cons:

  • Can be a lot to take in the first time
  • Good chance you may lose a zombie or two due to size
  • If you’ve got the Deluxe Edition, you may have to deal with the dog dying.

Overall: 8/10

Alone In The Dark & Slightly Poorer

Three and a half years ago, I chucked $5 at an interesting little project on Indiegogo. It was an augmented reality game for mobile called Night Terrors and claimed to be “an ultra immersive gaming experience that transforms your environment into a terrifying hellscape”. Fucking. Sold.

There were updates as the campaign went on, but it came to an end, having made only about ¾ of it’s target. A a couple more email updates came thereafter, but then things really slowed down. I heard rumours that the game had come out, in some manner for iOS, but the promised Android version was still nowhere to be seen. Backers were told to wait, and as soon as the Android version happened, we’d get our copies. However, on Monday night I got an email telling me that Night Terrors: Bloody Mary was being released (woo?). This was followed a day later by a request for information. Telling me that if I still had that email address, I should should them a message and get a code for NT:BM. This I duly did and tonight my code arrived.

The first thing that struck me was that the game’s icon is a default Unity icon with the text “BMH-test”. I was now preparing to be more disappointed that if the game hadn’t even shown up, if they’d just taken the money and run. It wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve crowd funded and lost out on.

I remained unsurprised as the usual array of checkboxes for permissions that games are want to have, popped up on screen, before the game presented me with instructions to turn off my lights – check, put in my earbuds – check, and click to sign a long ass waiver to say that the dev isn’t responsible if I fall over my headphone lead while wandering around my house in the dark – check, I guess.

The camera light flicked on and the screen showed my living room with some video flicker effects over the top and a timer in one corner. Oh the horror. Be still my racing heart. As I wandered around, the light periodically flickered off, odd noises came out of the speaker, and occasionally, the screen would just go black and some video would play. The first sighting was someone cutting up a body on a table and eating bits of it. I wouldn’t call this AR though, despite the fact that angling my phone around could show it mostly hanging in one area. The room wasn’t showing as a background, just this cheesy video.

Once that faded I wandered to the hall and lost light again, lots of weird sound and then a phone ringing sound and a screen showing an incoming call. Pushing answer on screen did nothing, as far as I could tell so the whole point of putting this on a phone and in my hand felt pointless and gimmicky.

The whole dreary experience took about 15 minutes, and by the end I was just walking up and down the hall waiting for whatever happened next. At one point I was told to look on the floor for something, which wasn’t there, but did eventually show up. At which point it just followed me around the house, until that scene had played out.

I wouldn’t call this augmented reality. Just a badly implemented gimmick. Considering that the project I helped crowdfund had promised environment mapping, meaning that the scares would be appearing in your play area. Ghostly figures appearing in doorways, etc. All in the hopes of creating a “breathtakingly scary experience”. Sadly, that’s not what I got when I walked into my bathroom, the light went out and I watched a video of a person in period costume and a mask sitting in a puddle (of blood?) on the floor, while someone else scurried past in a totally black space. At least in Pokémon Go makes Pikachu stand on my couch sometimes.

The acting is cheesy, the graphics are ok at best, the sound design is fair. Nothing about this game should make you want to spend just under £3 for this on Google Play

Pros:

  • Short
  • Over Quickly
  • Good costumes

Cons:

  • Not worth the money
  • Cheesy acting
  • Not nearly as AR as it claims to be.

Overall: 2/10

Night Terrors: Bloody Mary is out now on Android & iOS.

E3 2018 Hype Train

Choo choo. All aboard the hype train.

It’s nearly time for E3. So let’s have a look at all the awesome things that we can get overly excited about, and start getting our pre-orders in for this stuff.

Ringo Starr [narrating]: “Oh no, there’s been a terrible accident. The hype train’s derailed and smashed into the Sodor nuclear power plant.”

Janeiac: That doesn’t seem good Ringo. Should we call someone?

RS: It’s too late Janey. Look there.

Kevan Brighting [narrating]: Ringo was right. As Janeiac looked, she saw Sir Topam Hatt’s face start to blister and melt off as he screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed. And then his eyes melted too.

KB: It was absolutely horrific. Probably most horrifying thing she’d ever seen, and she’d once walked in on her mother having sex with a hairy pot dealer when she was 12. Sometimes she still had a memory of that monumentally hairy set of bouncing buttocks. It was not a visual memory, but was still scarred into her mind.

KB: Janeiac wondered if this was perhaps more tasteless advertising from the people that brought you the dismembered corpse that came with Dead Island. She felt deep in the very core of her being that somehow, all of this must have something to do with the E3 article that she’d planned to write.

Richard Ridings [narrating]: It is pay day!

J: What are you doing here?

RR: There are unspeakable horrors unfurling. It seemed appropriate. Also, I had to get out of that dungeon, the yoghurt was starting to go off and it smelled worse than a bile demon’s foreskin after a week of humping a handful of its own faeces.

RS: I think we’re losing track of this whole E3 thing.

Morgan Freeman [narrating]: They were, in fact, losing track of the whole E3 thing. People were supposed to be getting excited about the latest electrical wizardry, but sadly, everyone was too distracted by the fact that, Thomas was on fire, nuclear waste was turning biological matter to cancerous soup, and Richard Ridings had forced me to think about a bile demon’s foreskin.

RS: At that moment, Spencer pulled up and expressed his disappointment in the assembled narrators.

RR: A tory has entered your dungeon!

Spencer: I’m very disappointed in all of you assembled narrators.

J: Oh, do fornicate off, you David Cameron looking twunt.

RS: Spencer had to admit that he did rather look like David Cameron. Right up until the meteor fell from the sky and turned him into sheet metal.

All: [4.27 minutes of riotous laughing]

MF: Such laughter in the face of a world falling to pieces was a much needed tonic. Everything had gotten rather dark of late in the world and laughter was really all anyone had left in the face of utter unpleasantness.

Edward Norton [narrating]: I never felt so alive as when the earth began to spew boiling lava that pushed up the train tracks, causing Gordon and Percy to go flying at high speed into the air. The whole world was tearing itself apart and I couldn’t help but notice Reggie Fils-Aimé, sitting on his horde of ill-gotten Amiibo and wrapping gaffer tape around his head like a discount balaclava, while laugh-crying and bleeding from a small graze on his knee, which he got while running too fast with an untied shoe lace.

J: Wait a minute!

RS: Said Janeiac.

J: Shush you.

KB: Ringo had been suitably chastised by Jane…

J: and you

RR: [laughs evilly]

J: [glares at the assembled narrators]

Narrators: [uncomfortable silence and awkward shuffling]

Does anyone have any information about E3?

Andrea Libman [Pinkie Pie voice]: I don’t!

J: Oh, hey Pinkie.

AL: Actually, I’m Andrea Libman.

J: Sorry, it was because you did the voice.

AL: I suppose that’s fair. I do do other voices though, you know.

J: I did know that. You’re a very talented voice actor.

AL: Thanks.

KB: Somewhere in the distance, Annie and Clarabel exploded into a billion splinters, which flew through the air and fell around the duck pond like a rain of needles.

J: So, let’s get this straight. None of us have any information about E3, or any idea about what’s coming.

[silence… apart from the sound of all the fires and screaming and exploding and general awfulness]

J: Right, well, thank you everyone. This has been fascinating but I’m heading home.

AL: Wait, I have a thing!

J: You do?

AL: Pretty sure we’re going to see more of that Yoshi game from Nintendo.

J: That’s a fair guess.

RB: Jane felt an amazing sense of relief at hearing at least one thought on what might be appearing at E3. This was because she kind of liked the idea of writing about games but didn’t really have time to do proper research. Or rather she did, but she seemed to prefer oddly written improvisational pieces to actual journalism.

J: Hey, I’m not against journalism. I just prefer to get hands on before I write about games and stuff.

[distorted voice of Jigsaw]: Hello narrators. I want to play a game.

J: Not right now Jigsaw.

[Billy the puppet dejectedly rides his tricycle away, a single tear running down his cheek]

[Fade to black.]

[closing title card, overlaid with some visual scratches and picture jumping, to imply old timey black and white film]: fine

[Fade out]

[Fade in]

[Title card is on fire]: …this is fine.

So there you have it folks, all the good good E3 news you could want ahead of next week’s big event.

SMR Now On iTunes

*shudder* Ok, I’m not a fan of Apple, or anything they do. However, their devices are errrrvrwrrr. I’ve had a ton of comments asking if PolyArmoury could be on other platforms than Soundcloud and YouTube, so here we are: a many headed beast that enjoys the taste of your soul. jk. It’s a link to our iTunes page.

Yep, there you go the beast has eaten my morals. Enjoy.

The Program – Audio File #8

This is the eighth guided experience of The Program. I had the added bonus of my boyfriend being here as a test audience for this episode. I do enjoy seeing someone shiver when they hear the sound of an Unlit Guardian.

This week includes another glimpse outside the main thrust of the experience itself, and into the wider world of The Program. What is it? Why are people doing this? Are the recent spate of accidents at the facility actually accidents at all?

After this, there’s only two more episodes, so hopefully, there will be more answers to these questions and others.

Get With The Program

Over the last few months I’ve been making a horror themed hypnosis/ASMR style… thing on SoundCloud and YouTube.

The basic premise is that you have found a series of “guided experiences” designed to prepare you for something called The Program. It’s been an interesting project as I’ve made creepy media in the past, but nothing so specifically horror themed.

Sadly, it’s been a bit much for a lot of people and few have managed to listen to more than an episode or two as it seems to just really bother them. Especially those with good visual imagination. I myself have aphantasia so I have no idea what it’s like in that regard. I just keep writing things I think people find horrific – within my own personal limits – and hope for the best. I’m planning on leaving it at ten episodes. It’s currently on episode seven so there’s still time to get listening before it’s all over.

If you’re into creepy horror that may see you drowned in sewage or dismembered by commuters, grab your ear screw, neck your concurrance medication, and head to SoundCloud or YouTube.