Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: Enchanted in the Moonlight

Game Review: Enchanted in the Moonlight

Monsters are big business right now. I mean, they’ve always been the stars of horror, but recently audience sympathy has shifted in favor of what were, traditionally, the villains. Wanting a little monstrous romance is more common than it’s ever been (Academy Award Winner for Best Picture The Shape of Water, anyone?). So, in the world of games, romance and horror, there must be an intersection somewhere for those looking for a little action.

Look no more. Today, I will review Enchanted in the Moonlight, a dating simulator game for iPhone and Android where you become romantically involved with a monster.

Enchanted in the Moonlight draws inspiration from traditional Japanese mythology and includes ayakashi, creatures that are similar to monsters (and will be familiar to fans of anime). You, as the main character, have a special power that is coveted by the ayakashi. As a result, you have your pick of supernatural suitors. Choose a suitor, then sit back and enjoy the story.

Game Play

Dating sims have been huge in Japan for a while, so otakus are probably already familiar with the concept. Only in recent years have they made their way into the mainstream minds of Western consumers.

If you haven’t encountered the concept, dating sims work like an electronic Choose Your Own Adventure, plus romance. You play the sim on your phone by downloading the app. The game follows a story and gives you, as the main character, choices throughout that effect what happens next.

Most games are free, but you must purchase stories in the app to play through more than the first chapter. Once you choose which character to pursue, you can then follow the story, choosing what you do and say along the way and hopefully bring about a happy ending.

Enchanted in the Moonlight offers six possible love interests: a kitsune (fox), tengu (black bird), werewolf, oni (demon), yukibito (snow spirit), and house spirit.

Game Experience

I’m not going to lie, I’m a sucker for storytelling games. And the stories included here were addicting. The supernatural premise adds an element of drama that I really enjoyed. I’ve bought all the different character arcs at this point, none of which are repetitive in the slightest.

That said, your choices as a character don’t really hold that much weight. There are really only a handful of endings waiting for you, so you won’t do much more than deviate the events in a minor way. I found myself sometimes wishing that I could respond in ways that weren’t offered, maybe smacking a little sense into characters that tended toward the misogynistic. If you’re looking for something complex, there are better dating sim options. However, if you’re looking for some mindless fun and romance, this is for you.

The showcase of the games is the art. There are lovely anime-style images used throughout, with special pictures for important parts of the story. Most games let you save these in a special gallery to admire later.

Bottom line: the premise is a little contrived, the prologue is rushed, the main character is kind of a pushover, and the writing isn’t the greatest. BUT, it’s fun. It’s silly and ridiculous and romantic.

Final Thoughts

Dating sims aren’t for everyone, but they can be a fun escape. If you’re looking for a story game you can play in your downtime, this is a great option. If you want something mindless to enjoy, I recommend it wholeheartedly. I mean, I always wanted to date a werewolf.

Advertisements

Music Review: The Blessing Way

The Blessing Way – From Empty Plates We Dine

This week on HorrorAddicts.net we’re taking a look at the latest release from the gothic metal band The Blessing Way. The Blessing Way released their full-length “From Empty Plates We Dine” on Mourning Light Records on the 21st of June, 2018, telling a chilling story of decay and the macabre, laced with the esoteric of gothic Victorian New Orleans. Haunting pianos and arpeggiated guitars sailing over driving drums and tortured vocals carry this panoramic release to the underworldly depths of despair painted by the band’s composer Ollie Gill.

Every song on the album is a unique story of death and decay, bringing listeners on a continued sonic journey through the catacombs of the mind of the diseased. Each composition features stellar orchestral songwriting reminiscent of the baroque era, harpsichords and pianos dancing over the relentless metal aspect of the music. The only element of the music compromised to influence and direct comparison with other bands is the vocals, reminiscent of 90s true Norwegian black metal such as Darkthrone and Emperor.

I would highly recommend this album to anybody who enjoys any form of gothic metal, black metal, and symphonic metal, or anybody who is interested in a horror story in musical form.

This release is available worldwide now through Mourning Light Records. You can order your copy at MourningLightRecords.StoreEnvy.com. You can also hear more of The Blessing Way on all major music streaming platforms.

Purchase “From Empty Plates We Dine” here!

 

MUSIC REVIEW: A Place Both Wonderful and Strange

A Place Both Wonderful and Strange

Coverups EP

Review by Jeffrey Kohld Kelly

A Place Both Wonderful and Strange, a self-described Occult Dance Music band based in Brooklyn released their most recent EP ‘Coverups’ in February of 2018 on the heels of their 2017 release ‘What I Speak I Create’. This EP features two covers, one of Nine Inch Nails’ siren song of dismay “Hurt”, and the other Donna Lewis’ ILU AF. This band has a fairly iconic song format stylized by pulsating basses and decimated and bit-crushed percussive soundscapes reminiscent of SØLVE or Δaimon. But more than that, they draw influences of trance-gated leads and soaring female vocals juxtaposed by their male vocalist’s vaguely atonal groaning.

After hearing countless covers of Hurt across various genres I found myself genuinely curious to see how such a dark band would approach an already dark song. From Johnny Cash’s haunting and melancholic cover to Verona’s dreamy panoramic interpretation and countless other interpretations between, the band was obviously hard-pressed to make this their own without stepping on anyone’s artistic toes.

To be quite honest, I can’t help but be disappointed by this cover that A Place Both Wonderful and Strange produced. While still marked by these iconic basslines and disturbed mechanical poundings, the instrumental drags, becoming more of a mind-melded drone that exceeds patience rather than expectations. The vocal performance is the song’s weakest link, being both unconvincing and uninspired. I find myself wondering if the singer was trying too hard to sound disturbed or “creepy” that he lost sight of the ultimate goal; the vocals are pitchy and scattered but in a way best described as amateur rather than tortured as the original encapsulates. Furthermore, while the original song is a colossal build from beginning to end, rising and swooping with emotional charge that tells a complete story, this cover is devoid of dynamic expression or change. It starts at Point A and ends at still at Point A, never quite giving us that much-needed progression to tell the story they need to tell.

The second track, ILU AF picks up some of the slack left by the former cover, immediately marked by stronger vocal performance and more esoteric influence. Nearly reminiscent of Dead Can Dance, the synthesizers capture what much darkwave music can only hope to achieve. While some rhythmic and dynamic issues become apparent during the chorus, this song as a whole is significantly stronger, being both more cohesive and more expressive than the cover of Hurt. Yet, brushing against the coattails of their previous album ‘What I Speak I Create” I can’t help but feel that this EP doesn’t feature musicality indicative of A Place Both Wonderful and Strange.

If you’re interested in hearing more by A Place Both Wonderful and Strange you can purchase and stream their music at aplaceboth.bandcamp.com.

For HorrorAddicts.net, this is Jeffrey Kohld Kelly.

 

Book Review: Gypsy Blood by Jeff Gunhus

Gypsy Blood by Jeff Gunhus

Reviewed by Stephanie Ellis

4 out of 5 stars

Corbin Stewart is a writer, traumatized after the death of his young daughter, the subsequent breakup of his marriage and battling depression. A move to Paris to work on his second novel has proved a failure as he remains in the grip of writer’s block and a battle with the booze. Into his life comes Margot, his publisher’s agent, and, as it turns out, the granddaughter of Gregor, the leader of a powerful and ancient gypsy clan. When Corbin comes to Gregor’s aid during an apparently fatal attack, he absorbs part of Gregor’s soul. From that point on, his life is turned upside down when he becomes caught up in a deadly feud between the gypsies and a secretive group, Les Fantômes de Nuit.

Gypsy Blood calls itself a horror novel but reads like a thriller, pulling you in and not letting up until the final page. The pages take you running across the Parisian skyline against the backdrop of Notre Dame and then sends you down into the depths of the catacombs where bones do more than rattle. A fast-paced and action-packed read, I feel as if it’s horror’s answer to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and could easily be transferred to screen.

A great book to lose yourself in.


Stephanie Ellis can be found at https://stephellis.weebly.com and on twitter @el_Stevie.

When Stephanie is not writing reviews, she is co-editor at The Infernal Clock (http://infernalclock.blogspot.co.uk/) a fledgling publishing venture and is also co-editor at The Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear online magazine (https://horrortree.com/category/trembling-with-fear/) where they’re always open for flash submissions. She has also had short stories and a novella published in a variety of horror anthologies and magazines.

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Game Review: One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Introduction

Someone in the village is a werewolf and the townspeople are determined to find out who. Players all have roles and special abilities that will help them determine who is guilty. But, not everyone is going to tell you the truth. Who’s mistaken, who’s lying, and who is the werewolf?

Welcome to One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

Game Play

The concept for One Night Ultimate Werewolf  is simple. There are two teams: the werewolves and the villagers. The villagers win if they kill at least one werewolf. The werewolves win if they all survive.

It is when we reach beyond that that everything gets more complicated.

Every player draws a character from the deck. One Night Ultimate Werewolf has a lot of possible characters. Some are werewolves, some are villagers, and some have special abilities (looking at cards, trading cards, mimicking the powers of others, etc.). After characters are drawn, everyone closes their eyes players take turns performing their action. Beware, some of these actions might change your character card, so you may not end the game as the same person you started as. When player actions are done, the real fun starts. Everyone opens their eyes and players argue over what happened. Ultimately, each player must decide who they want to “kill” in the round.

In the end, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is all about lying. Players want to keep what they know secret until the information will most benefit them. No one can be trusted, and in some cases, you may not even know that you are a werewolf until all cards are flipped at the end.

Game Experience

The best part of One Night Ultimate Werewolf is how fast gameplay is. Each round is played separately. Even if a player is killed, they still participate in the next round. Characters are re-dealt and the game starts fresh. This means that the game can end whenever you want it to.

The game setup is very simple, with a set of plainly illustrated cards and tokens. The art is charming, with a dark comic style that suits the game theme. All cards and pieces are sturdy and can stand up to some wear, which is good for a fast game where players constantly move pieces.

For a game that is—at its heart—extremely simple, learning to play One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a challenge. If you can find a veteran player, do it. They’ll let you know what information you need to know up front and what you can find out as you go along. Otherwise, you’ll spend an hour at the beginning trying to figure out detailed rules that aren’t important.

Luckily, the creators of the game have made a free app to guide players through the game. I highly recommend downloading the app. It has an easy to use interface and a narrator who leads you through the round. The narrator has a wonderful, soothing voice that I could listen to for hours. It’s an enjoyable experience from start to finish and the app reduces the complexity of the game tremendously.

Final Thoughts

I had this game for a long time before I could convince anyone to play with me. Since the game is similar in concept to the Mafia card game, the friends of mine who were inclined toward more complicated games thought it would be boring. And casual family gamers were intimidated by the number of different rules and worried it would be too complicated. In reality, the game was suited to both groups.

It takes a few rounds to fall into the rhythm of the game. This was the largest obstacle I faced in getting new players to join me. They would play one round and, having not gotten the hang of revealing and concealing information, give the game up for being boring and almost impossible.

However, it is very worth playing. It’s perfect for people who like to run their mouths. I recommend it as an excellent party game.

Book Review: Mountain of the Dead by Jeremy Bates

Mountain of the Dead by Jeremy Bates

Reviewed by Stephanie Ellis

5 stars

In 1959, a party of ten set out on a trek through the Northern Ural Mountains. After one withdrew due to illness, the other nine continued on in order to gain their Category III hiking certificate. Their route took them to Kholat Syakhl, the Mountain of the Dead. None of them returned. Files relating to the incident remained classified for years and even now not everything has been released to the public. The state also subsequently restricted access to the Dyatlov Pass area for three years after the incident.

This tale, based on true events, weaves a narrative between the recreation of events at that time and the story of a writer following in their footsteps to discover the truth behind the tragedy. As the story inevitably propels the members of the party to their end, told in the form of a countdown, you are invited to share the dreams and hopes of some of the group, ideas of a future and love and family. Together with the inclusion of expedition photos showing young faces full of laughter and promise, the story is brought to life and the poignancy of what is to come heightened.

In addition, the writer chasing their ghosts has his own demons to confront and this trip is his attempt at closure over a personal loss. That he insists on seeing the trek through to the bitter end, despite appalling conditions, has catastrophic consequences.

Here communism, the gulags, the folk belief of the Mansi tribesmen who live in that area and supernatural elements combine to give real authority to a powerful story

Full of horrifying suspense and well-researched, the author guides the reader to a shockingly believable conclusion. A page-turner in the true sense of the word and a thoroughly entertaining read. I will definitely be looking out for other books by this author.


Stephanie Ellis can be found at https://stephellis.weebly.com and on twitter @el_Stevie.

When Stephanie is not writing reviews, she is co-editor at The Infernal Clock (http://infernalclock.blogspot.co.uk/) a fledgling publishing venture and is also co-editor at The Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear online magazine (https://horrortree.com/category/trembling-with-fear/) where they’re always open for flash submissions. She has also had short stories and a novella published in a variety of horror anthologies and magazines.

Book Review: Fatal Fetish edited by Toneye Eyenot

Fatal Fetish edited by Toneye Eyenot

Review by Voodoo Lynn

Fatal Fetish is an interesting amalgamation of stories. You get everything from encounters in space to serial killers and sexual cannibalism to clowns, mechanical Jekyll and Hyde’s, yeti, goblins, djinn, redheads, and A.I. I learned new terms like ‘sissygasm’. The stories were engaging on various levels; obviously, some more than others.  Let me also add that there are stories here that you will want to have ready access to a computer because the jargon utilized was such that I was completely unprepared for it and would’ve been lost had I not have been able to look the words up. It did make for a more culturally diverse read, I will admit.

There are plenty of stories here that make the ones you don’t care for, well worth the read. In fact, you may end up losing time over the ones you like, as I did. Let it be noted, that the ones I liked or were most disturbed by, had me re-reading them a second time, with the more lurid passages having me pass over those words again and again—solely for comprehensive purposes, of course.

So please, allow me to escort you into the world that is Fatal Fetish

“Biscuits and Gravy, Those Wicked Little Things” by Essel Pratt

This is the first story in the anthology. Perhaps, I have a weak spot for science fiction, thanks to my father and my early exposure to Star Trek. Perhaps, it appeals to my deep fascination with space and all its dark mysteries and frontiers.  Perhaps, it just appeals to my deep seated fascination and ultimate dream of, not only traveling in space but, to also engage in naughty activities while in said vicinity of it. Yes, that is an active interest of mine. This story however, gives me a very grim and real look into the dangers of space. (Thanks a lot E. Pratt, as if Mary Roach didn’t do enough of that!)

I don’t say this lightly. I have thought about all the possible consequences about having such relations in space however, this story doesn’t necessarily focus on that for me—though that is definitely something you can’t miss. What it does highlight for me is how distracted we humans can become if we are otherwise engaged in other immersive activities. What this author has done is manage to engage you in what seems like an everyday, happy go lucky story of two extraordinary people who have feelings for one another, who finally engage in said feelings and pay a most terrible price for it.

Oh, did I mention that this story takes place all within five pages? The author deftly pulls you in (even though you know you’re gonna read something horrific shortly) and then, hangs you out to dry, shall we say?

If you are a fan of “Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk, you are way ahead of the game here. If you are unfamiliar with this, don’t look it up if you wanna be surprised by this story! It’s urban legend meets science fiction.

In the end, this was my favorite story. It was shorter than I liked, but it sucked me in with its straight forward and descriptive, albeit disturbing detail.

“Life-Like” by Brian Glossup

This is my next favorite story and it also happens to be one of the longest in the anthology. It is so worth reading, especially if you like to be left questioning things. At first you think of it as a story about a lonely, older man in middle management and his needs, who decides to buy a sex-bot.  You will find yourself questioning not only what is moral, and what should be expected when we purchase something, but where our rights end and where someone else’s begins. Or, do they even begin? Is there even a ‘someone ’?

Although, the lead character gives us hints that he may not be want we think.  In the story we follow Malcolm as he goes to the company headquarters and places an order for his sex-bot. We know it’s a machine but, as he starts picking out her personality and, I’ll just call them her ‘parts’, things start getting really creepy.

The president of the bot company makes it a point to inform Malcolm that she is capable of learning and feeling, due to her electronic brain and that it’s best to keep her happy for “maximum satisfaction”. As he’s chooses her personality, the president inputs “SLAVE-MAID-COOK-SLUT”.  Yup, I don’t like this guy anymore but, it’s just a machine, right? Property he’s paying for. When we decide to buy a new computer, we decide what programs we want installed, right?

I find it interesting when reading about how the sex-bot, ANNA, views her new master, she makes an immediate judgement call that I wonder how she is capable of making in the first place. (I mean, she didn’t go to Robot University. GO ANDRIODS!) When we get a general description of him, we’re told that

“His best shirt was stained and his good pants were ripped. He was overweight, overpaid and unattractive. The typical American.”

Damn. Where did that come from? Aside from the fact I find that a little insulting to a whole group of people, my question is, how did she come to this conclusion, fresh out of the box let’s say?

Poor ANNA. What comes next in her short life thus far is hours of brutalization. Her skin is so life like, that she is left with bruises all over her body. As the author tells us,

“Every inflicted pain was felt and processed through her electronic nervous system…teaching her positronic brain of his civilized barbarism.”

We see a new level of sentience beginning to form. She watches TV and learns about the ‘horrors of humanity’ until she discovers a channel where a woman is speaking about women’s rights and power. She has now reached a level of consciousness that makes her realize the true horror of her existence as a sex-bot.  It’s here that she begins to plan a way to forever escape this situation. The climax of the story takes place next and, it is electrical. And violent. And disturbing. And unlike anything I’ve read before.

It is at this point find myself starting to think about what criteria we utilize to say with certainty, that something is alive? Had Malcolm treated ANNA better, more like a sentient being shall we say, would she have really been happy in her new existence? She seems to have free will and is capable of making decisions, even if it’s via execution of various computer programs.  She’s intelligent and self –aware, don’t those things constitute a living being?  It reminds me of Star Trek TNG’s episode “Measure of a Man.” In it, Commander Data (an android) is being forced into a dangerous procedure to study his positronic brain and to hopefully, create a whole new generation of androids like him. He tries to refuse, and Star Fleet orders him to do it anyway. He resigns, and is then told he can’t because he is Star Fleet ‘property’. He then has a hearing to determine his status with Star Fleet, to determine whether he is a sentient being and has rights, or not and just property. There’s this fantastic dialogue between Captain Picard and Guinan and she mentions that there has always been disposable creatures—beings whose welfare and needs wouldn’t have to be bothered with—a whole generation of disposable people.

Isn’t that what we are dealing with this story? Is ANNA property, or is she a sentient being with a conscience? Did that company create a whole generation of slaves?  I think I can sum up the horrifying end of this story by utilizing a quote from Captain Picard with regards to whole generations of disposable people and the term ‘slave’.

“I don’t think that’s a little harsh, I think it’s the truth. But that’s a truth we have obscured behind a comfortable, easy euphemism. ‘Property’. But that’s not the issue at all, is it?”

If only Malcolm had heeded the warning he was given…

“An Excerpt of Yeti, Yearning” by Essel Pratt

I just wanted to give this one a mention because I find the idea of thinking like a sexually aroused Yeti interesting. This unusual story piqued my interest and I wish that they included a little more in the excerpt.

“Send in the Clowns” by Naomi Matthews

This one is a good one about psychopaths. In this case, a female with an obsession with sex and clowns. This is something I enjoy seeing—a strong, female, character being the antagonist. It’s interesting to read about how she slowly indoctrinates her boyfriend into becoming her sex-slave. Her reason for choosing him was pretty simple—he, and her last ex, both had a history of being jerks to women and not treating them well. Understandable yes, but that gives her no right to do what she does. The lengths she goes to, to get her boyfriend to be her permanent clown boy-toy is truly frightening and well worth reading about. I also want to mention that this is the story where I learned the new word ‘sissygasm’. A word that I never wanted to learn and now will never be able to forget.

If you are someone into reading about fetishes and horror, Fatal Fetish is for you.