Back in the original PlayStation’s era, nothing was more full of promise than a good old fashion demo disc. In the days before downloading demos became more commonplace (then went back out of fashion), getting the opportunity to try out a handful of games was always a treat.
The new Haunted PS1 Demo Disc captures that same feeling, giving you a large sample of demos to try out, all wrapped in a thematic package. Upon launching the game, you find yourself walking around a museum filled with doors to rooms where you access each of the demos. The rooms even go as far as to recreate a small part of the game in the museum’s wonderfully blocky and low res style, and there’s a great little manual that comes with the download to give you a quick overview of what to expect from each demo.
Here are a few highlights from my time with the latest Haunted PS1 Demo Disc.
AGONY OF A DYING MMO
I’ve already played and enjoyed another short horror game set in an MMO (No Players Online), and it’s definitely a premise that can be easily mined for horror. Rather than making it about a literal supernatural haunting, Agony instead focuses on the wide variety of communities that pop up around MMOs. There’s not much going on gameplay-wise aside from some simple first-person navigation, but the well-written dialogue gives you everything from graphic depictions of sexual awakenings to truly disturbing talks of shooting up schools. It’s very clear that this game is influenced by the developer’s real-life experiences playing games in the genre, and that authenticity creates something that’s truly chilling.
THE LUNAR EFFECT
I adore horror games that utilize fixed camera angles, and The Lunar Effect is another game to add to the list of ones that do it well. Harkening back to the days of the original Alone in the Dark, players wake up in an old house where something evil is clearly afoot. While the game doesn’t feature any combat, there’s a slow creeping sense of dread that permeates the house. Most of the gameplay revolves around collecting items and solving puzzles to slowly unlock rooms throughout the house in an attempt to escape the night alive. If developer Negative Entities is able to keep up the clever variety of puzzles while telling a haunting little mystery, this game will end up being something really memorable.
To me, Peeb Adventures is the one that most fits the “haunted” description. The game presents itself as a pretty standard mascot platformer, but slowly starts ‘glitching’ to add more and more surreal elements to unnerve the player. The tone of it reminds me a bit of the YouTube series Petscop, making you feel like the game is breaking down around you in sinister ways. The wildest part of the demo is that in addition to making a pretty neat horror game, the platforming portion is also extremely polished and unique, with an interesting grappling hook mechanic that could be a ton of fun on its own.
While this was a bit shorter than I wanted, Chasing Static felt like one of the most polished experiences in this collection. The dialog was natural and well-delivered, the game always let me know where I should be going, and the lo-fi aesthetic looked perfect. The setting of a small diner on a long stretch of highway in rural Wales is the ideal mix of mundane and eerie, making for an excellent sample of a game I can’t wait to play. Watching the trailer for the full game has me excited for the possibilities of further exploring this world and unlocking its mysteries.
Stealth and horror are two genres that can provide a large amount of tension, so I’m always excited to see them melded together in a game. In the Chameleon, you’re trying to escape from a research facility that’s swarming with guards ready to kill you on sight. While you may look like a mundane human, you have the power to briefly take the form of a guard, adding a smart wrinkle to the stealth. It’s not as versatile as Agent 47’s disguises in the Hitman series, but a well-timed transformation can be the difference between life and death. There would have to be some more wrinkles thrown in to make it last for a full game, but the brief bit I played worked great.
ARD: ANOMALOUS RESEARCH DEPARTMENT [HIDDEN GAME]
When I found the computer in the museum that was asking for a password, I became obsessed with finding how to crack into the machine. If you look around the museum for a bit it’s not too hard to unlock this hidden game, and I’m glad I did because it was one of my favorites. For part of the game, you’re exploring emails, pictures, and videos via an old-school computer interface. These emails and pictures give you brief, spooky tidbits that feel in line with SCP-style stories. Once you open the video file, you take control of it from a first-person, as you relive an incident in a hotel room where you’re menaced by a sinister visitor. The whole experience is very surreal and takes under ten minutes to complete, but really managed to stick with me long after playing.