Oh video games, how often the most promising starts betray the audience. Whether it be an epic new style of gaming or a platformer that seems made by rote no matter how many new features are added, the story tends to fall straight into the mundane. Some genres almost invariably fall on their faces, like fighting games, when developers' emphasis shifts to writing. Midnight Rec: Illbleed For those that recognize the title, it can't be a surprise that I would recommend a game on the biggest failed system launch of recent memory: the Sega Dreamcast. It also shouldn't be a surprise that I'd also consider it my personal favorite video game console of all time. The Dreamcast saw the release of many experimental game titles, such as Samba de Amigo and Typing of the Dead, that managed to outlive the console that never produced enough units to meet demand and, unfortunately, did not grasp the novelty raves of the Nintendo Wii to last that long. But this isn't about the Dreamcast. This is about one of the most bizarre, engaging survival horror games ever released, a little known gem that revolutionized the mechanics of many that followed: Illbleed. Illbleed was about horror films. Or at least a celebration of horror films on the surface. Players controlled first one, then up to five high school students attempting to survive the intense scares and threats of the world's preeminent horror theme park. Based on the best of the best B-Movies (featuring homicidal maniacs and deranged freaks, naturally), players had to uncover the mystery behind each horror film to defeat the enemy and move onto the next attraction of the extreme haunted house. Sounds pretty average for survival horror, right? And the content itself was old for horror films. All part of the grander illusion masterfully woven into the metagame of Illbleed. You see, Illbleed did have a damage meter. You actually lost a lot of blood and, unsurprisingly, refilled the health meter with medical supplies, blood transfusions included. And there were weapons picked up throughout the environment. Illbleed also had five other meters that made the gameplay, even at its most frustrating, absolutely compelling. Sight, hearing, scent, sixth sense, and horror. The first four would ping off automatically when the character approached a potential shock, allowing the player to avoid or defuse the trick with the fifth sense - horror. The horror meter relied on the character's adrenaline level, causing damage that could only truly be healed by medical supplies. The horror meter had to be used to defuse specific traps that would otherwise scare the character to death, but the use of the horror meter could lead to death at the hands of the park. The skillful balance between these five senses was the biggest strength of Illbleed, and why the series' demise was such a tragedy. Shortly after the release of the game, the CEO of the company Crazy Games died. He was the biggest champion of the series and his enthusiasm allowed for early development of a sequel for the Xbox. Unfortunately, without his support in a merger, most of the developers working on the project left, the budget was slashed, and Illbleed 2 fell to the wayside. Big if's: if you have a working Dreamcast, if you find this game, if you like survival horror, if you like challenging games, give this one a try. I'm linking, rather than embedding, a video of gameplay from the first stage: Homerun of Death. 1) it's pretty disturbing; 2) I'm not pleased with the quality; and 3) it doesn't make much sense out of the context of the story. It does show off how the mechanics worked and the style of scares the game used. So here's the video.
Labels: Midnight Rec