The Freeware Works of Modus Interactive Games

Today, we’re looking at the freeware games of Modus Interactive, a developer whose outfit is mainly walk-around games defined by lo-fi aesthetics and horror. I originally wanted to only play SPIRIT by Modus Interactive, but it ended up being really short. So, I ended up looking at the rest of their freeware work. The developer has also made a larger, commercial game called Sanguine Sanctum, which I hope to check out at a later date.

SPIRIT–

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SPIRIT– sets you on a ghost hunt… well, I assume that’s what the creepily garbled text in the description says. This game actually offers a version that can be played in VR – however, I don’t own any fancy headsets, so my experiences are based on the non-VR version.

You start out in a lo-fi park, tree sprites and weird machinery surrounding you. You hear static and buzzing around you, from no discernible source. You step away from the noises and search for your trusty ghost-hunting tool, a sort of screen that lets you peer into an alternate world.

And then you see what the world really is. Through the window you see the sources of those awful noises are the ghosts, just watching you from the other world, mostly similar to your own but with corrupted, visceral textures.

You don’t actually hunt ghosts in this game, you just sorta watch them, which I feel would disappoint some people. I think it’s an interesting horror game, though. The concept of peering into a different realm on top of your own gives this sense of unease. Nothing jumps out at you or attacks you, but they’re all watching you. You’re always being watched, but you would never know unless you watch back.

Maybe there’s another realm to our own, where we’re being watched by our own ghosts. Silently. Constantly.

Empty House

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An empty house sits in an empty land. And that’s all there is to it.

Semi-realistic textures are distorted through filters, bizarre coloration making the mundane feel alien. Empty House follows a similar idea to SPIRIT in that looking through glass offers a different perspective of the world, the world from inside the house being distorted.

It’s much simpler than SPIRIT, though I really like the look to this game. It’s got this cursed found footage vibe that I really dig and something that I’d want more of in my life if I wasn’t so squeamish.

PC_001

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In PC_001, you play a game within a game where you’re trying to escape from the tower. And honestly, that’s all I’m going to really say about it, because the game’s main conceit is something that you’ll stumble into and talking about it will ruin it. While less atmospheric than the other games, PC_001 makes up for it with a neat premise.

Siren Head

Siren Head was made for The Haunted PS1 Jam, which is a good fit for Modus Interactive considering the rest of their work. It has a bit of a narrative, though it’s no less mysterious, especially when you come face to face with the eponymous creature. The creature is honestly pretty cool, being an extension of a mundane yet always jarring regular occurrence. It’s real short but it’s also the one that I want to see more of. The other games feel like they’re long enough to convey what they needed to convey, but I feel that there could be more to play around with in this game. I want to see more of this majestic monster.

Neko Yume

On the subject of haunted PS1 games, there was also a game jam that celebrated LSD: Dream Emulator’s anniversary, with Neko Yume being Modus Interactive’s contribution to it.

While there are a few horror elements, Neko Yume is generally just a surreal romp through dreamscapes of goofy cats. While textures act wonky, Neko Yume captures the feel of LSD: Dream Emulator’s areas, with worlds obscured by low draw distance and revisits having slight variations (be it different textures, NPC changes, etc). Like Siren Head, it’s something that I’d like to see more of.

Furthest Reach

Furthest Reach steps away from the soft lo-fi horror to go with some sci-fi with a twinge of horror. You travel in a small spaceship, scouting out planets in between periods of stasis.

After every FTL stop (assuming you put the right amount of time on your stasis), you’ll pull up alongside some planets. You then hop onto the ship’s cameras and fire some drones toward the planet to analyze them. Watching the drones just whiz by from the window and your monitors is a neat effect.

After that you… turn the FTL back on and go back to sleep. Well, you’re just out here doing science. not going on grand space adventures. It’s a really lonely journey, your only company the stars and a variety of electronic loops.

LUCAH: Born of a Dream

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Nightmares advance toward Lucah, abstract limbs prepared to strike. Lucah chants a mantra and takes a fighting stance more befitting of the situation. They break through a nightmare’s guard and their familiar companion shoots it apart as a finisher. The nightmares are gone.

The darkness creeps up behind Lucah, urging them forward. A corruption grows within them, but it’s still too early for them to worry.

They walk over to a statue depicting a divine mother and present her with her sword. The world shifts. The statue has become a Harbringer with the same energies as the nightmares, striking with scythe like swipes that mimic Lucah’s own. They brace themself to stand against the horror.

But Lucah is not strong enough. They were foolish to even try.

And so, you, as Lucah, are unceremoniously tossed to the side and you descend, further into a world of nightmares and despair.

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Lucah: Born of a Dream is a game made by melessthanthree, led by Colin Horgan. Lucah is the result of what happens when you plop a character action game into a survival horror setting, where your best tools against an unrelenting world is flashy combat.

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We Know the Devil

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I’ve had We Know the Devil sitting around in my Steam library since 2016, which I probably got from the Halloween sale that year. I kept putting off playing it since that’s what anyone with a large Steam library does, but I thought, “hey, I’m doing this Pride Month thing, I should finally get around to playing it.”

We Know the Devil takes place at a summer camp dedicated to fighting the devil. The story follows the antics of Jupiter, Neptune and Venus as they get to learn about each other and themselves in a nice coming-of-age story. That also happens to be a horror. This story is brought to us by Aevee Bee and Mia Schwartz, under Date Nighto (who was also behind Hustle Cat).

[As always, spoilered text is put through ROT13]

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Island of Terror

I’ve recently been thinking about playing shorter games for this site. The stuff that I’ve been planning to play on my backlog are kinda longish or have a bunch of replay value that it’ll take a lot of playing to form a solid opinion. And so, I decided to hit up itch.io’s randomizer and see where that’d take me.

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The randomizer took me to Island of Terror, by tripodattack. On the eponymous island, a experiment went horribly wrong and opened a portal unleashing monsters, which seems to be how these kinds of experiments go.

The game bills itself as a survival horror. Your standard environmental storytelling of computer logs speak of dread and keys hidden around the place and the game is presented through a cramped circle, representing the radius of your lantern while you explore a one-bit world. Your lantern is constantly dying, so you’ll have to pick up fuel while you’re poking around to avoid plunging into darkness and getting a game over. There is a lack of music outside of the title screen, with only footsteps and the roar of monsters as common sound effects. It’s a sort of minimalist way of presenting a survival horror, building atmosphere through presentation instead of giving hard scares.

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Which is good, because the monsters themselves are considerably less scary. For me, they look kinda cutesy, like a weird Kirby enemy. Love these guys. What is scary however is that these monsters are invincible. You can collect limited throwing daggers, but that only stuns these fellas so that you can run past them. The only way to beat them is by outrunning them, which doesn’t sound hard (especially since their AI isn’t exactly perfect), but in more closed off spaces they’re more of a nuisance.

The game is spent gathering keys to advance and picking up fuel. You also need to gather dynamite to blow open brick walls, which pretty much serves the same function as keys. I kinda wish that the game had a display showing you which keys you currently have on you, but then again, that’d might mess with the clean look of the game.

My issues in the game lie in the movement and enemy spawns. You do not have diagonal movement, so movement is not as fluid as it could be. Try to do that and you’re stuck moving in a cardinal direction, which can screw you up if you’re being chased. Another thing is that while the game does seem to base when an enemy spawns on proximity, it doesn’t seem to check if you’re too close. As a result, enemies sometimes spawned right on top of me, resulting in unavoidable damage/deaths. While enemies do seem to have set spawn points, it’d be troublesome for people coming into the game. And you know, that’s just lousy anyway.

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Island of Terror is a simple survival horror with a nice minimalist presentation, however, I feel that the issues above keep it from being as smooth of an experience as it could be. If those issues were fixed up though, it’d be a decent short time killer.

Yume Nikki – Dream Diary –

The long awaited day for Yume Nikki fans has finally come. After a decade of inactivity on the front of official works, an official reimagining of the cult classic dream exploration game was announced. It finally released Feb. 22 on Steam and as a fan of the game since middle school, I pretty much bought the game as soon as it was available.

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Yume Nikki – Dream Diary – is developed by the Kadokawa Corporation, which is largely known for developing the RPG Maker engines that helped birth the original Yume Nikki to begin with. The original developer, Kikiyama, reportedly gave input on the project. There’s conspiracy theories that Kadokawa just made the game on their own since Kikiyama is anonymous and chooses to stay that way, but that’s nonsense, considering the fact that Kikiyama’s own website updated with the new logo (it’s the first link under the first red text on the left). I don’t know, maybe next people will claim that the site was hacked on Kadokawa’s behalf.

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RPG Maker – The Unorthodox Horror Game Engine

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A player walks around a dimly lit room, ambient noises accompanying their footsteps as they check everything over. They find some absurd puzzle lying around, barring their way forward. As they mull over the solution, they hear something enter the room as the ambiance amps up into scare chords. A monster appears to harass the player, forcing them to run, as there’s no way to take the monster on.

This is a basic scenario for a horror game. You may picture some mainstream horror game like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. Point is, you’re probably thinking about some big 3D horror game with a decent budget. However, the kind of game that I’m thinking about isn’t made in a high-end engine by a formal game studio.

So, RPG Maker. RPG Maker is an accessible tool for complete rookies to make their own games, intended to be used for making  RPGs. However, some people decide to ignore the RPG aspect of the whole thing and make adventure or narrative games out of it, such as To the Moon.  There’s a certain genre, however, that’s popular in the RPG Maker engine, to the point that it overshadows the engine’s intended use in some communities: horror games.

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The Witch’s House

I’ve been writing this thing about horror games made in RPG Maker for my journalism class, and it’s been coming along pretty nicely. One of the things I’m doing for it is putting a list of recommendations for newcomers to play and I got a bunch of suggestions on what to put. A popular suggestion was The Witch’s House, which I have not played beforehand, so I decided to get on that and make a write-up while I was at it.

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The Witch’s House is a game made with RPG Maker VX by Fummy, translated by vgperson.  You are Viola, a girl who, according to the letter in her inventory, went to visit her friend. Alas, it appears that she got lost in a forest and a thick bush of roses is blocking her way out. With nowhere else to go, she’s forced to enter the eponymous house. Tailed by a friendly talking cat, Viola wanders around the haunted house filled with absurd traps, under the constant threat of the witch, Ellen.

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