nosebound.jpg[by Agustin Cordes]

Greetings, my creepy cravers of all things horror! Do you feel overly happy? Are you able to sleep at night? You still think there's hope left on this forsaken chunk of rock? Then allow me to remedy that and fill your life with dread and despair. I have hand-picked for you seven horrific titles that were either recently released or are lurking in the horizon, albeit sharing a particular trait: these are all games produced in Argentina. How crazy is that? We seem to have an industry down here! That's right, the indie scene is bursting with renewed activity in our country, and I'm going to give you a quick heads-up on the scariest offerings this side of the pond.

While we're still taking baby steps, we've been around for quite some time with notable titles released in the mid-90's and one legendary Argentinian game (Truco) produced in as early as 1982. The situation with the indies is rather interesting, though, because until fairly recently the gaming industry in the country was, for the most part, specialized on outsourcing and providing professional services. A number of factors, perhaps among them an uncertain economy, have turned the tables, and we're now seeing a stronger focus on making our own products rather than exporting work, which may have fueled the indie scene. Whatever the reason, the volume of games made in Argentina with compelling features and mass appeal is now higher than ever.

Truco

Argentina's videogame industry in 1982

As much as I tried, I wasn't able to unearth horror titles from other Latin American countries. Strange considering we have so many, and other industries in the region are just as healthy (if not more so). It should be noted that every single title mentioned here is the first work of a new studio, and most of them are still early concepts. In other words, fresh meat.

I will briefly add that I'm developing Asylum along with a few other nutty people here in Argentina, but since the game has been prominently covered in many sites, I decided not to include it in the article. And now... rubs bloody hands with glee... Let's proceed with the horror, shall we?

The Hum

The newest entry on this list happens to be The Hum, which was barely announced last month. The project touts itself as a "survival sandbox" in a sense that it's a true open world where you must sneak your way through ruined landscapes and use darkness as your ally while hunting for food and shelter. At the same time the game is solidly rooted in the survival horror genre, albeit with an atypical enemy...

The studio  Thotwise  is hesitant to reveal much of the story: it all seems to involve an alien invasion where the whole planet has been seized, and you are dwelling in its aftermath, escaping a horrible fate if you're ever caught. Your task is to search for other refugees that survived in this ravaged world, hoping to organize a resistance against the clearly superior invaders. Judging by the early gameplay video, the mood is very claustrophobic and industrial, as you explore a rundown building with menacing ships hovering outside and strange blue creatures guarding every exit. Much like every game featured on the article the gameplay feels quite cerebral, for instance, finding ways to distract the aliens instead of attacking them.

The Hum has still a long ways to completion, but the early footage promises some very well developed and interactive environments with great attention to detail, I sincerely can't wait to see more.

Doorways

The first thing that may immediately come to mind when you see Doorways is Amnesia, and indeed, Saibot Studios are quick to admit the influence: brooding pace as you find your way through twisted halls of medieval architecture, a darkness so deep that it feels like a thick black fog with nightmarish creatures relentlessly chasing you. Heck, they even hired Sam A. Mowry to do voice acting, who also appears in Amnesia. But the similarities end with the presentation  the execution itself is quite different, as Doorways focuses more on the puzzles. The story also takes a decidedly different route. In fact, this is a game that could likely appeal to fans of the adventure genre who may have dismissed the more intense and punishing gameplay of Amnesia.

Another thing that sets Doorways apart is its episodic nature: the game is divided into four chapters, two of them readily available. The story involves special agent Thomas Foster who is chasing four psychopaths, although he doesn't seem to know much about them. In fact, he has no idea where he is and how he got there, with only a faint recollection of his vague mission. In any case, the whole place doesn't feel very inviting (this may have to do with those impaled bodies and distant screams of terror). It's hard to determine what's going on at first, so you focus on making progress from location to location, each gradually becoming more surreal: a winding forest of sharp wooden spikes, a solitary house on the verge of collapsing, sinister torture chambers... While the first chapter is somewhat uneven, the second one is strongly improved in most regards, especially when it comes to the increasingly complex story.

Doorways was successfully Greenlit last August and the first set of chapters can be purchased on Steam, notably supporting all major operative systems, Big Picture and Oculus Rift. With promises of a truly fearful conclusion and mind-bending puzzles, you may want to go across this doorway.

Perturbia

Things are fuzzier with Perturbia which is in earlier stages of production, but still promises strong doses of disturbing horror. Citing influences such as The 7th. Guest, Fatal Frame, Silent Hill and Scratches (I'm not sure I recall that one), the game offers a grim and oppressive look with a particularly interesting setup: you're in a building where each apartment is a puzzle that must be solved, solution that will grant access to higher floors. The twist is that the puzzles you solve are related to past traumas in your life and it's how you reach every solution what will determine the outcome of the game. There are no enemies to hamper your progress, just story-oriented puzzles and plenty of psychological horror. Sounds delightful!

Perturbia is again presented in the first person view but it focuses even more on the puzzling side than Doorways, as can be seen in the short demo available on the developer's website, Imaginary Game Studio. Particularly controversial could be the inclusion of the occasional Quick Timed Event sequence, but at least on the demo offered by the studio this is used sparingly and to a dramatic effect. On the other hand, puzzles seem to rely on logic although it remains to be seen how they will relate to the past of the protagonist. In any case, Perturbia seems to be on the right track and, if all of the pieces fall in place, it could offer a truly frightful experience.

Hidden

Hidden has been around for quite some time with its humble beginnings as an episodic Flash game in 2007 and now a more ambitious, full-blown title that should be completed soon. Produced by Lost Spell, this atmospheric point-and-click adventure game is set in Patagonia during the 30's and promises plenty of mysteries as you take the role of an anthropologist from the University of Buenos Aires, who is hired to take part in an expedition that uncovers arcane and potentially deadly (of course) secrets involving a seemingly forgotten underground city. The really interesting thing here is Patagonia, a region in the southern end of Argentina with a varied and rich geography consisting mostly of intimidating mountain chains and vast plains, but most importantly an intriguing folklore. I think it's a perfect location for an adventure game and Hidden is set to make the most out of it.

The game is presented in the first person view and appears to be classic in execution: you must turn immersive locations upside down with research and keen observation, study books and records, and solve story-oriented puzzles. I don't know about you but my mouth is already watering with anticipation. It should be noted that this project is being produced by two folks and could use some love on Steam Greenlight.

NoseBound

Speaking of classic, it couldn't get any more classical than NoseBound, another point-and-click adventure that also seems to be set in the late 30's but this time in lovely noir-like style. The developers  Quarantine Studios  are citing influences such as Raymond Chandler, H. P. Lovecraft and even Grim Fandango in the development of this game that should be released in early 2014. While its horrific angle may not be apparent at first, the twisty and bizarre story apparently will delve into the obscure and occult while maintaining a black (or perhaps noire) sense of humor. NoseBound was devised as an episodic game but, contrary to similar offerings, each episode will be a self-contained case. While the series may involve a larger story arc, apparently all the episodes could be enjoyed as standalone plots, thus removing a big concern about episodic titles.

Quarantine Studio declare themselves strong fans of the adventure genre (and therefore really cool people in my book) promising an adult storyline that will demand your sharp sleuthing skills as you probe locations, interrogate weird characters, and solve realistic and intuitive puzzles. They make strong emphasis on the mature content of the series that, while not overly violent, will be addressing thorny subject matters. If you like the sound of all that as much as I do, then you could also drop them a much needed vote on Steam Greenlight.

The Narrow Path

The only title featured without any adventure elements is The Narrow Path, which is described as a roguelike/RTS with a motorhome, a mutant dog and an army of reanimated monsters. It certainly brings to mind The Organ Trail with a bigger focus on combat, although the understated style of gray shades aims for a wholly different look. Announced little over a mere week ago, The Narrow Path is far from being another forgettable entry in the ongoing zombie craze because of a curious twist: you are forced to fight both zombies AND humans! Yes, you're so sick of this never-ending war between the dead and the living undead... no, wait... the not-dead and unliving... no... well, zombies and humans that you want to erase both quarrelling sides from the face of the Earth and start all over again. The premise is quirky, to say the least.

To achieve the aforementioned and totally realistic goal, you must build your own army of reanimated freaks and the developer promises tons of units and enemies, procedurally generated maps, many side quests, items, and abilities, and a bucketload of post-apocalyptic mayhem. It's worth noting that The Narrow Path was one of the winners in The Walking Dead "All Out War" Game Jam that was sponsored by Robert Kirkman himself. It's safe to say the project has started off on the right severed foot, and while there's still much polish and additional content to be done, the other side of The Narrow Path looks very bright. As is usual these days, you can drop by (limb by limb) on Steam Greenlight to support.

The Recovery

And we finally return to realtime 3D to discuss The Recovery, by far the most experimental game in the list offering some novel ideas about a theme that I feel hasn't been still properly exploited in games: the nature of dreams. The story revolves around German scientist Jhon Wannet during an unspecified world war (is this the past? the future?) who successfully develops a device that allows a person to literally enter people's dreams and retrieve information. During one of his incursions, though, a mechanical malfunction leaves him stranded inside a dream and he soon comes to the realization that escaping may be impossible. So Jhon becomes an echo of the man he used to be, a fading memory haunting people's dreams and extending like a plague from dreamer to dreamer. Soon thousands of persons descend into paranoia, seemingly unable to sleep as this strange presence dwells in their unconsciousness. You are one of those persons who becomes aware of Jhon and must bring him back to the real world.

Surreal and defying conventions, The Recovery may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it's a fascinating title and a clear example of the original works that may come from the indie community. Try as I might, I can't describe the gameplay which is intentionally surreal and abstract to give players the impression that they are inside a dream. Currently this is hit and miss as some passages feel cheesy and pretentious while others manage to effectively evoke the hazy fabric of unreality. It's a very personal work that dares to break rules without commercial ties, although it's currently walking the thin line between meaningless dribble and masterpiece. So kudos to Warkanlock Studios, essentially the work of a 17-year-old student, for creating something that feels decidedly different  with an ironed out design and more coherent vision, The Recovery has the potential to deliver a deeply unsettling experience.



And I think this is enough horror for today. Personally I can never have enough death, gloom, weirdness, depravity, carnage, hecatomb, and disgustipation, but normal human beings may not be able to handle such an intense supply of ghastliness. Until next time dear friends, and may your nightmares take you to debarred extremes of atrocity and dread.

[Agustin Cordes wrote this using sister site Gamasutra's free blogs]