“Bloodborne” is a Dark Souls game for the masses. It’s a fast-moving nightmare that spends as much time challenging you as it does creeping you out. Where developer From Software’s Souls games plod along by design, “Bloodborne” punishes inaction. More importantly, the PlayStation 4 exclusive nails a perfect balance between claw-your-eyes-out difficulty and rewarding power trips. It’s never easy, but it’s also not hard enough to leave you feeling hopeless. Most of the time. See, this is a game you have to actually play. If you try to mindlessly tank your way through, you will not make it far. But as others have said it is tough but fair. There are no cheap deaths. When you die, you will know why, and hopefully learn from your mistakes. This is Lovecraft by way of old-school Cronenbergian body horror, a place that will consistently, effectively distress and disturb with just as equal measure as it will consistently and effectively kill you. The term “survival horror” will never be more accurate for another game than it is for “Bloodborne”.
“Until Dawn” is an interactive, story based horror adventure game. The narrative is well written and is inspired by the 80’s and 90’s “slasher” horror films (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Saw) as well as supernatural horror. From the beginning, the characters and the setting are intentionally stereotypical: A group of upper/middle class teenagers in an isolated region of the country side. Even the character archetypes are all reminiscent of the typical horror flicks that are released around October: The jock, the clown, the arrogant cheerleader, the attractive ‘nerdy’ girl, the token minority, etc.. The setting for the story is designed in such a way to induce a constant feeling of isolation in the player. Add to this the excellent ambient sound quality plus the top-notch graphics, and you have for yourself one atmospheric and engaging adventure game. It simply much more than “just another interactive movie.” This is because the optional element of exploration not only fleshes out the details of the main story, but can potentially change its course with regards to death/survival of each character. Another aspect of the game is the knowledge that even the smallest decisions can have drastic consequences. I will not go into too much detail regarding this “Butterfly Effect” for the sake of keeping this as spoiler-free as possible. Suffice to say, it is intended to make the player ponder his/her every move and adds replayability to the game.
Tales From The Borderlands
Telltale’s episodic point-and-click adventure game “Tales from the Borderlands” is arguably the studio’s best effort since the first season of “The Walking Dead” (And well, “The Wolf Among Us”). The game features a fun story, which revolves around acquiring Vault Keys and opening new Vaults, a great set of characters and voice actors, tough story choices to make, and arguably the funniest writing in games this year. With twists, turns, lots of laughs and a couple of moments that may make you stand mouth agape, “Tales of the Borderlands” is one of 2015’s nicest surprises and one of the year’s best.
Honorable Mentions: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Batman: Arkham Knight & Life Is Strange.
Slade House by David Mitchell
While 2004’s “Cloud Atlas” consists of 528 pages and last year’s “The Bone Clocks” comes in at just under 610 pages, “Slade House” is a mere 256 pages long. This relatively short book provides a perfect introduction for readers who wish to acclimate themselves to Mitchell’s work but may not have the time or desire to delve into one of his tomes. The interlocking narrative and supernatural themes are sure to whet the appetite of any reader looking to delve into their next, lengthier fantasy novel.
A Darker Shade Of Magic By Victoria Schwab
About “A Darker Shade Of Magic”…one of the last of the Travelers who can move between universes, Kell jumps from world to world—Grey London to Red London to White London, smuggling messages and sometimes people to go from world to world. When he runs into Delilah Bard, she saves him and sets him off on a new adventure. So many elements of the story are reminiscent of your favorite myths- a coat of infinite colors, doors between worlds, a talisman that seeps power from those who hold it- but it’s still entirely refreshing and unique. Fantasy at its finest.
An Ember In the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Set in a world resembling ancient Rome, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy novel of love and revenge. When a young soldier groomed to take over the oppressive, military government decides to turn his back on the regime, he collides with a young scholar determined to save her brother. He’s a soldier, she’s a slave, and together they prepare to discover their freedom. It’s a hefty book, but you’ll devour this electrifying tome in no time. The story continues in “A Torch Against the Night”, the sequel due out next August.
Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Jump into the enthralling world of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy once more with a her new “Six of Crows” series. The novel takes you back to Bardugo’s fantasy realm, featuring a ragtag crew of outcasts who must pull off a major heist. The result is a fast-paced story that will keep you turning the (beautifully designed) pages for hours. “Six of Crows” is an elaborate masterpiece from beginning to end, and the final cliffhanger will leave you wishing for the sequel (“Crooked Kingdom” drops in 2016).
Kanye West- Reanimator by Joshua Chaplinsky & H.P Lovecraft
A controversial choice for certain but this sureshot Is equal parts humor and genius as it is graphic homage to H.P. Lovecraft. “Kanye West-Reanimator” is the debut novella by Joshua Chaplinksy who is known as the managing editor of Litreactor.com – The story is told by a Lovecraftian narrator who poses as West’s friend throughout the book and co-conspirator in West’s efforts to re-animate the dead. Lines like ‘I am Godzilla of these favelas, new God Flow’ had me laughing HARD. This is a gem of a book, grab a copy on Amazon stat.
The Private Eye
Brian Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s “The Private Eye” is the most entertaining neo-noir story you’re likely to read (yeah, I said it). It follows the conventions of the classic sleuth story – the jaded investigator, the femme fatale, the underdog against the powerful, a mystery that leads to a greater mystery, even the sassy accomplice – but does so with a freshness and lightness that’s enormously invigorating. It also helps that this is an incredibly gorgeous comic thanks to Martin’s stunning art and Muntsa Vicente’s bright and beautiful colours. First class storytelling, writing and art.
Between the covers, Lemire and Nguyen manage to create a world that is nuanced – for the reader as well as the characters living through the pages. Watching this space opera unfold is quite an experience. After nine planets in the Galactic Council are attacked by moon-sized robots, the Harvesters, chaos and tragedy mark the lives in a time far from ours. With fear creeping into everyone’s hearts, and space pirates on the prowl, a very strong repulsion to robots of any sort is but obvious. Artificial Intelligence is criminalized without a question. And at the heart of this dystopian world is Tim 21 and his robot dog Bandit. A duo so well-conceived that even the most heartless manage to fall in love with him in a very, very short span of time. This is storytelling at its best – a read that does not allow the reader to even dare to imagine the world otherwise.
Fight Club 2
“Fight Club 2” is a comic that could have gone horribly wrong. A twisty novel turned into a critically-adored film, the original “Fight Club” stood well on its own and was something writer Chuck Palahniuk could have easily never returned to. “Fight Club 2” miniseries with artist Cameron Stewart, this creation proves itself a worthy sequel as well as a dangerous little puzzle box and impressive creation in its own right. While there’s a lot of care and thought put into this comic, Palahniuk and Stewart don’t lose sight of making it fun and exciting too. This isn’t just a cerebral exploration; it’s an action/adventure story with great art.
Honorable Mentions: The Fade Out (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser), The Wicked + the Devine (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, et al.), Paper Girls (Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang).