Tag Archives: review

S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 4 – Battle for Continuity

At Omnicron – the protagonist will have to transfer into a new body, in order to survive the descend into the abyss. You have to find a power suit, a new cortex chip, structure gel and a battery pack.

This is a dramatic moment – since the transfer into the new robot is only about you getting copied and the old Simon will continue live. Being two versions of the same person into one place gets to Simon – who will have to decide whether he will or not drain the batteries of his former self.

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At Omicron you will also encounter a manifestation of the WAU – who will help you get to the next checkpoint. His reasons for this are unknown for the moment – but you can always think about the fact that he wants to infest the ARK, making his survival a sure thing.

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When you descend into the abyss – he will say that he will make preparations for your arrival. The bottom of the ocean is a harsh environment and monster lurk above you – but finally, with perseverance you will get to site Tau. Following a set of blue lights is the key to finding the right path.

For a full written walkthrough, you can access these links if you have problems in finishing any of the game’s levels.

Getting Into Omicron

Omicron Fatalities

The Dark Descent

Journey Into Darkness

[next article – S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 5 – Lesson Unlearned] 

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S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 3 – Theta’s Death Corner

This is a cliche used in many horror games, but abandoned facilities offer a multitude of creepiness levels. Imagine being stranded on the bottom of the ocean, nobody being alive except some digital scan of former living people, mutant creatures that would chase and kill you once they hear you approaching.

As you continue with the game, you will need to get your hands on a submarine, a DUNBAT model – which could take you into the abyss where the ARK is situated. But things aren’t that easy.

The submarine is quarantined. You need a cipher to unlock it, and you cannot use the computers until you reset the routers. Here is where you encounter the Proxy monster. Genuinely creepy and scary. It is blind, it is fast and it is deadly. You have to move quietly near him or you will encounter your doom.

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Proxies are employees who have become mutated by Structure Gel. This mutation results in their upper bodies being bloated, with varicose veins standing out; this bloating has encased the creature’s arms, possibly trapping them. Their bodies are also covered in pustules and tubing. The Proxy’s head is permanently bent slightly backwards by the mutation; it lacks eyes and its facial expression is frozen in a perpetual scream. In contrast to its bulky upper body, the Proxy’s lower body is atrophied; its legs are thin, and it lacks proper feet.

Due to lacking eyes, the Proxy is blind. However, it possesses an acute sense of hearing. It doesn’t react to Simon’s flashlight, but can hear the sound it makes when being turned on and off.

When idle, the Proxy shambles around slowly and aimlessly, but if provoked, it will break into an extremely fast sprint. It is also capable of operating automatic doors.

Due to the areas the Proxies are encountered in being very confining and their fast running speed, it is extremely difficult to outrun an alerted Proxy. The best strategy is to simply crouch and move silently. Additionally, it is possible to take advantage of the Proxy’s keen hearing by throwing props around to lure them to a specific area.

In this level, you see yourself in the mirror for the first time, you discover the living quarters of Catherine and her scanning laboratory, you find out details about the other crew members and you discover that you were a legacy scan of Dr. Munshi who was stored and attached to a body in order to be started in the future. Your body belongs to Catherine’s girlfriend,  which she almost says it, but stops and rephrases the sentence.

To obtain the cipher you have to manipulate one of the ARK scans, making him feel comfortable enough to tell you the desired information. After you’ve done that is time to try to access the submarine. And again things get complicated when this machine starts speaking blaming Catherine for the disaster and it launches itself into further depths.

Continuing your journey within Pathos-II, you end up in a laboratory where you find more information about the ARK, a prototype and you can find out how to get on the ARK by running a simulation. A few interesting puzzles can be solved here.

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Another interesting part that has a taste of the abandoned flooded spaces from Penumbra is the Theta Maintenance section. You climb ladders, you explore almost unreachable points only to find out that a Proxy was all the way after you. So you cannot travel to the ARK from this point until you’ve reached site Omicron and use an elevator to get further down.

For a full written walkthrough, you can access these links if you have problems in finishing any of the game’s levels.

Theta Entrance

Theta Laboratories

Theta Maintenance Halls

[next article – S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 4 –  Battle for Continuity]

S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 2 – Lambda Atrocities

The continuation of the first part of the S.O.M.A. series of articles takes us further into the unknown parts of Pathos-II facility. Reaching site Lambda is a crucial point of the story in S.O.M.A.

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After finding out that Catherine is also a robot – she will offer to help you and she will give you a cortex chip in order to clarify what is going on. You learn about project ARK – in which digital copies of various people are prepared for being launched in space – in case of a catastrophic scenario.

You discover that the ARK is still somewhere within Pathos-II and you decide to help launching it, offering yourself to get Catherine to the ARK and copy yourselves unto it.

Your next destination is a sunken ship where the Flesher dwells.

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The Flesher appears as a completely naked humanoid, with a mass of round glowing growths in place of a head, similar to those seen growing on the walls early in the game. The glow from its head can make it easier to spot in dark rooms, and it can easily be distinguished from other atmospheric noises by its raspy inhuman moaning, as well as the sharp banging sound produced by its teleporting.

Here you will have to take a vessel for reaching point Delta. The Flesher will chase you and a very disturbing atmosphere will be presented.

At Site Delta you encounter a delusional robot, which you will have to kill to get a chip for the zeppelin. Simon will start thinking about whether robots deserve such a fate. They don’t even know what diabolical plan their destiny reserved for them, they seem innocent and real, an essence of a good existence – which was not supposed to be altered.

A journey above the abyss of the ocean takes you to the exterior of site Theta. Here you will discover more elements of the story, including a series of suicides. People started to lose their minds after being scanned for The ARK Project. And now you find a friend of Catherine’s which believes she is on the ARK. But the sad truth is something else. She is kept alive by the A.I. unit that grew up all over the Pathos-II facility. She still thinks she is human, so – unfortunately I ended her misery and shut her down.

For a full written walkthrough, you can access these links if you have problems in finishing any of the game’s levels.

Site Lambda

Sunken Ship Curie

Site Delta

Reaching Theta

[next article – S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 3 – Theta’s Death Corner]

S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 1 – Upsilon Confusion

[spoilers ahead]

So.. I decided to play S.O.M.A. again. A taste of survival horror, elements of cyberpunk, a game filled with puzzles, interesting dialogues and a profound exploration of the human and non-human intellect.

After a car crash – Simon Jarrett  – deals with brain damage, his brain starts bleeding now and then. Seems that various treatments do not work for his condition so he decides to seek further available options for prolonging his life. His condition could be fatal if a cure is not found. So – he gets in contact with a facility that could scan his brain in order to develop a more suitable treatment. Unfortunately this treatment has no efficiency and as later told in the game, Simon finds out he died almost 100 years ago and that he is able once again to function because the brain scan he did was used as a template for an A.I. model – him waking up on Pathos-II facility.

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PATHOS-II is an underwater research facility located in the Atlantic Ocean during the 2100s. It is the primary setting of both SOMA and the live-action prequel mini-series and film Transmission and Depth.

It was initially built to conduct thermal mining during the 2060s and, later, developed the Omega Space Gun. It has a diverse staff of scientists and engineers involved in multiple research projects such as marine sciences, hydroculture, and deep sea construction. An artificial intelligence known as the WAU was used to oversee primary operations of the facility.

When a comet impact in January 2103 rendered the surface of the Earth barren and killed all surface life, the staff of PATHOS-II became the last living humans on the planet. Knowing they would not be able to survive indefinitely, they began searching for alternative ways to extend their lives and ultimately, save what remains of the human race – the ARK program being among them. Not much is known about the events that followed, but eventually machines previously operated remotely by humans began to become self-aware and started to exhibit human traits. The facility eventually descended into the nightmarish state seen during the events of the game.

Opening your eyes, waking up alone, trapped in darkness. That is how the horrifying story of SOMA really starts. You wake up in the Upsilon site – which  contains the facility’s primary power generation plant. Geothermal boreholes are used to generate electricity. Upsilon also contains extensive facilities used to service and maintain PATHOS-II’s collection of robots and Universal Helpers.

Soma 2016-08-13 15-12-55-14You start exploring these dark rooms, hearing distant weird noises and seeing shadows that disappear an re-appear. You find how to work with the Omnitool.

The Omnitool is a small handheld computer, originally used by PATHOS-II’s staff to open doors and access areas requiring maintenance. It has two chip slots: one for a Tool Chip, which grants additional functions and security clearances, and one for a Cortex Chip, which is used to download an A.I. into the Omnitool. If no Cortex Chip is inserted, the Omnitool has a pre-loaded AI (“Helper Jane”).

The cortex chip can also contain a brain scan, granting it the personality and memories of the person scanned. The Omnitool lacks the necessary computational resources to run brain scan simulations on its own, and must be docked to a terminal in order to do so. Catherine Chun describes this experience as a continuous, but disjointed consciousness with no perception or awareness of the time that passes in between simulations.

The Omnitool cannot be used to override security protocols that it lacks the clearance to access. In these cases, a new Tool Chip must be inserted to update the Omnitool’s security clearances.

The Omnitool can be operated either by swiping it in front of a sensor or by directly docking it to a computer terminal. The latter option allows the brain scan on the device’s Cortex Chip, if present, to directly interface with the PATHOS-II mainframe.

Soma 2016-08-13 15-46-43-12Moving further in the game you make contact with several robots who don’t even realize they are robots. At first, even Simon sees himself as being human, being normal. But slowly things start to change perspectives. He first makes contact with Catherine Chun who will direct him from site Upsilon to site Lambda, in order to discover further truths about this research facility. You are being attacked by a Construct.

This creature appears to be a horrific jumbled mess of a UH3 Universal Helper maintenance unit and WAU techno-organic growth. Structure Gel mutations have given the Helper a much bulkier build, with a bigger backside and more reinforced structure, as well as added functionality, allowing the Helper to make use of a pair of legs to navigate. Along with the small lights emitting from the numerous bulbous growths on its body, the Helper casts a bright beam from the front of its face, acting as a spotlight to assist with navigation through dark areas.

Soma 2016-08-13 16-05-27-65You get to explore the bottom of the ocean – wondering how are you going to find the right way to the next checkpoint. You rescue a little Universal Helper which will show his gratitude by offering you access to a block door in order to continue. You discover that the machines are taking control over the humans lost in this abandoned place and they will not let them die. It is a sign that the A.I. in this place, the master brain of the disaster wants everything to be fully functional, no matter what.

Finally you get to site Lambda only to discover that Catherine is also a brain scan trapped into a computer. But will all that, she will be the protagonist’s companion and will offer useful tips and information.

For a full written walkthrough, you can access these links if you have problems in finishing any of the game’s levels.

Simon Jarrett’s Apartment

Subway Cinematic

Dr. Munshi’s Laboratory

Pathos-II Awakening

Upsilon Puzzles

Bottom Of The Ocean

Upsilon Shuttle Station

[next article – S.O.M.A. Guide – Part 2 – Lambda Atrocities]

Horror Ascend: Yami Shibai

The following article contains many spoilers. Do not read if you plan to watch the show.

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A series of short animations with a duration of 4 minutes and a half can really spook you out?

That depends on what they are showing to you, and what atmosphere each episode can create. And definitely this anime can leave you without words. A collection of short japanese tales, each one more weird and upsetting than the previous one. I was just browsing my completed anime list on My Anime List and I searched for some horror shows and this one caught my eyes.3e70c2d2055555744f644a98720d263098146d99_hq

First of all, because of the strange anime effects and artwork and secondly because of the stories told.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Episode 1 – If you move into a new house and right across the street, a strange woman stares at you, day and night, you have to quickly realize something is very wrong. But what if she comes into your house and that is the start of an undefiled end for you?

Episode 2 – Zanbai can be translated as offering disaster to a certain person. It is a curse, it is a ritual of death, and the hero in this episode cannot escape his fate.

Episode 3 – We all love the fresh air of countryside in the morning. But what if, in this wonderland there is a demon that must be kept out through a strange ritual of laughing…? A happy face always hides a deeper truth of darkness.

Episode 4 – I work at a print shop, and once I saw an old person climbing down the stairs towards me – and then – it just vanished. I do not know what it was. I am sure I saw someone coming down and yet there was nobody there afterwards. Episode 4 tells the story of an entity similar to Yurei that lives inside a copy machine. So strange, so beautiful.

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Episode 5 – A family man decides that buying a present for his son along with his wife is not what he planned for the day. So he decides to skip this part only to find himself in a realm of nightmare. He wanted to be alone.. now he finds himself in a strange place.. as he desired..alone…

Episode 6 – Only work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy. Japanese people are known to be hard-working. But when you only work and work and work – fatigue comes along. And hallucinations happen. Is that pounding meat creature real???

Episode 7 – Visiting deserted places at night might be a very dumb idea. Especially when you enter a locked door and you find yourself looking like a smiling corpse.

Episode 8 – Do not look into the eyes of the Umbrella Goddess.. stay out of sight.. keep the door closed…

Episode 9 – A young girl is affected by a grudge held against her ancestors. And when this becomes visual on her skin, only inside a holy temple a cure can be found. Or at least purification can be tried.

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Episode 10 – As a child I heard stories about ghosts and demons hiding into toilets and grabbing you and eating you.. but this episode makes all this concept incredibly weird.

Episode 11 – Cursed videotape. A cliche into the Japanese horror productions. A videotape of a ghost who moves and if you rewind the tape isn’t there anymore. Don’t look back…

Episode 12 – A shadow in the pavement wants to play with you. If you promise to play with it.. for the sake of your good health.. keep that promise.

Episode 13 – All tales of madness must present the cries of cicadas in the evening. This last episode had something of a Higurashi no naku koro ni ambience included.

I really enjoyed this show because of the painted-style of the animation. Dark tones, disturbing voice effects and a creepy soundtrack helped grow the stories. I am looking forward to the second and the third season of the anime.

And remember… when the door opens up by itself… run!

Manga Madness: Higurashi no naku koro ni – Onikakushi-hen – Chapter 1

Manga Madness will be a series of articles in which I will be reviewing the manga I read. I am not really into reading manga – I prefer watching the anime – but there are a few stories that I really enjoyed and I want to get more into these stories.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

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Higurashi no naku koro ni began as a murder mystery themed visual novel. Manga adaptations came after, and then it was serialized as an anime show. Other products, games and collectibles were released through the years having the same concept.

I watched the first two seasons and some of the specials released, listened to the soundtracks hundreds of times – and I began to believe Higurashi (the whole idea and products that came afterwards) were really meant for me. My girlfriend says I’m crazy.. am I? 😀

So.. currently I am re-watching the second season – Higurashi no naku koro ni kai – and I began reading the manga as well. The first Volume – first chapter is a question arc.

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– released in Japanese on 22 December 2002

– released in English on 18 November 2008

– drawings by Karin Suzuragi

As an introductory chapter of the series – we are welcomed to Hinamizawa – apparently a place untouched by the monstrous reality of life – a quiet, natural and undisturbed place.

We meet the characters Maebara Keiichi, Ryuguu Rena, Sonozaki Mion, Furude Rika, Houjo Satoko and the other characters that are helping in the completion of the story.

Little by little Keichii discovers that this place isn’t as peaceful as it seems. He asks questions about the history of the village and he intercepts, at first,  minor changes in the answers he gets. Because a good way to find out something is by seeking answers yourself, he comes across some old newspapers and printed articles where he discovers the horrifying truth that went on in Hinamizawa. There was a series of murders and unexplained disappearances which everyone tries to hide from him. Reasons? Little by little he finds himself doubting everything and everyone.

A good start for a mystery manga. It slowly develops a tense atmosphere. Drawings are good and because I already know the story I say it is impressive.

 

Gaming 101: SOMA

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I can proudly say that I played and finished (multiple times) each game from Frictional Games. That means Penumbra: Overture, Penumbra: Black Plague, Penumbra: Requiem, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs and SOMA.

It is not the first time I write about these game. In articles like PenumbraShadows, Screams and Infernal Fears: The Penumbra CatalogueGaming 101: Penumbra OvertureSymphonious ConvectorsA Letter For RedGaming 101: Amnesia The Dark Descent I expressed my joy of playing these games, immersing into worlds of doubt, fear and sadness. All these games are great. Are exceptional. Are well written and have a unique style of story-telling.

[Spoiler Alert]

SOMA, the latest game from Frictional Games is a First Person Survival Horror Science Fiction Puzzle-Solving game. Set into a world where humankind is no longer an existing entity, after a comet destroyed almost the entire planet, SOMA takes you into the abyss of the North Atlantic Ocean where you wake up in a research facility called Pathos-II. Excerpt from SOMA Wiki says:

It was initially built to conduct thermal mining during the 2060s and, later, developed the Omega Space Gun. It has a diverse staff of scientists and engineers involved in multiple research projects such as marine sciences, hydro-culture, and deep sea construction. An artificial intelligence known as the WAU was used to oversee primary operations of the facility.

When a Comet impact in January 2103 rendered the surface of the Earth barren and killed all surface life, the staff of PATHOS-II became the last living humans on the planet. Knowing they would not be able to survive indefinitely, they began searching for alternative ways to extend their lives and ultimately, save what remains of the human race – the ARK program being among them. Not much is known about the events that followed, but eventually machines previously operated remotely by humans began to become self-aware and started to exhibit human traits. The facility eventually descended into the nightmarish state seen during the events of the game.

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The main character, Simon Jarrett experienced a trauma to the head after being involved a car accident. He decides to take some brain scans and medical treatment for eventually getting better, but the treatment and the solutions for his condition are nowhere to be found.

He wakes up after almost 100 years from the moment he first gets scanned, in a chamber on Pathos-II, having no idea what is going on and that he will undertake the mission of saving humanity, digitalized as scans on a virtual world called the Ark.

He travels from site to site, from one laboratory to another just to discover the horrifying truth that went on this facility. At certain points the story gets really dramatic, you have dialogues with deeper meanings, you have to take the lives of certain robots who don’t even realize that are not human anymore, you kill the last human that was alive at that time.

SOMA maintains the well-known atmosphere from all the Frictional games, an eerie, creepy, dark and sad atmosphere. But apart from the rest of the games, SOMA deals with more surreal elements, metal being mingled with organic material and having the ability to grow and infest beings and objects.

The soundtrack was composed by Mikko Tarmia and it is very beautiful. From dark themes to very pleasant ones they help developing SOMA’s story. He also did the soundtrack for the Penumbra Trilogy and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

The puzzles are very easy to solve. I only got blocked once at some laboratory where you start an Ark simulation and I wasn’t paying enough attention when loading the Dummy, but eventually I got it. I really try not to use walk-throughs when playing games. Last time I went into one was when I was blocked in Metro 2033 and I really hated after seeing how simple it was to move on with the game. Also I needed a walk-through back when I played Syberia. And that’s it with the walk-throughs :)))

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The game uses a lot of dark tones and some bright lights and colors to define your direction or interaction points. You can listen to various radio transmissions or recordings, you can read journals, e-mails and notes from the staff of Pathos-II that really help making the story incredible. The voice acting is well-done, especially at moments when Simon gets really frustrated or annoyed by what is happening.

All-in-all SOMA is a very good, dramatic, bone-chilling experience. I played it twice, once because I was just mesmerized by it being released and the second time to save screenshots and carefully listen to all the story, for details, since I am into knowing all about the games I play.

I highly recommend it.