Tag Archives: The Monastery

REVIEW: Avatar Fear

You have to admire persistence. Rendercode Games has been on a mission to create a Slender-like worth playing for more than a year now. First there was the dreadful The Monastery, followed up by a an FPS / Collection hybrid that just didn’t work, Hellhounds. Whether this game is the product of that constant iteration, listening to criticism and adapting, or something else entirely, that dogged persistence to Slender-ize has now paid off. Somewhat. Avatar Fear ($1.00) is still just plain boring as a solo act, but in teaming up with four friends (or randoms, even) online, it’s a bit of alright.

Avatar Fear - Screen

Switching the traditional perspective to a third-person view, Avatar Fear drops you on a large map containing a number of Mayan temples and buildings, some you can enter, some not. You’re asked to collect a certain amount of coins— ranging from 10 to 24 depending on the difficulty chosen— with the knowledge that an ancient monster (er… a giant lizard with wings and tiny human skulls for a belt) will be stalking you and / or your crew the entire time. Bet you regret that decision to visit ancient ruins1 now, don’t you?

Conveniently, your avatar walks very slowly (to dial up that tension, natch), but you do have a limited ability to run, essential in escaping the monster. In multiplayer, your endurance is wisely tied to that of your teammates. If you don’t stick close to the group, you won’t be able to run as far when the creature picks up your scent. This also means you shouldn’t cast too wide a net in your search, as lone-wolfing it is a surefire way to get yourself killed off early.

There’s no real way of dealing with the lizard when it appears, or defending yourself if you’re caught out. You simply have to run, hopefully finding a corner or building to duck into, breaking the line of sight. Even then, you’ll have to mumble a prayer and hope it gets bored with the chase. You can also, in effect, throw your partners under the bus and walk away, leaving them to ditch the monster or suffer a cruel fate. Upon death, you turn into a ‘ghost’ camera of sorts, and can watch the survivors search for the remaining cash.

Avatar Fear - Screen2

Similar to White Noise Online, playing what should be a scary game with others doesn’t dilute the fear as much as it makes things more fun and genuine. Having others conduct their own search while you do yours cuts out a lot of slow busywork, and it’s certainly a little unnerving to look up and see the distant glow of your friends’ torches, and realize you wandered a bit too far. Then the music starts, and its too late. The reverse is also true, as being the last alive means your name is next on the list.

Still, was I able to find the final two coins, play the hero, and bring down the lizard king’s evil grip on… fictional ancient currency? You bet I was. Shame the global leaderboard only tallies scores made during the duller solo runs, but I digress. It still pales next to the likes of White Noise Online and, you know, the actual Slender, but Avatar Fear is quick entertainment for a group of people that aren’t afraid of the dark. Or giant, stalking lizards with skull belts2.

 


  1. Partially-related (as least the part about Mayan ruins), The Ruins is an under-appreciated horror flick. Killer weeds, man. 
  2. Seriously, how did it get the belt? Its fingers are way too long to be of any help with precision work. Not to mention cleaning the skulls and putting the belt on. Something don’t add up. 
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REVIEW: Hellhounds

Hellhounds ($1.00) is less Rendercode Games’ second attempt at a Slender-like (see The Monastery for that) and more their first outing attempting to pair Slender’s slow-moving scares with your average first-person shooter. The resulting birth is about what you’d think it’d be, a mashed-together schizophrenia that puts it foot in the door of both genres, but is unsure which room it ultimately wants to reside in.

Hellhounds - Screen

Returning is the same idea of collecting a set number of objects, though the tension of being ‘chased’ and unarmed while doing so is no longer a factor, replaced with some disturbing-looking hellhounds and a sampling of your typical FPS guns (handgun, automatics, shotgun). Your exact loadout changes at the start of each new stage (total of 10), as does the amount of skulls you need to acquire before that level ends.

Darkness naturally plays a big role in setting up the mood (you’re lugging around that flashlight for a reason, you know), but don’t expect much variety in your scampering, as the same few room layouts are reused throughout. Visually, large parts of the game seem to be re-purposed from The Monastery, and there’s even a statue of that game’s villain on display if you look carefully enough.

All of this doesn’t necessarily equate to scary. Even with those horror staples in full effect, you can see the enemy dogs coming. They typically hide around corners or come at you straight on in narrow hallways, which turns the game into a predictable shooting gallery once you‘ve ‘baited’ them into attacking. So long as you keep your preferred weapon (the handgun works consistently on its own) fully loaded, you won’t need to switch up your tactics at all.

Hellhounds - Screen2

To dilute the fun further, you walk incredibly slow, to the point that backtracking (rooms and hallways containing skulls often branch off of the main path) is made all the more painful when you’re missing one lousy collectible. If you do happen to be caught off guard by a pack of enemies and die late in the round, the molasses-like drudgery to get back to that point can be incredibly frustrating.

Outside of a global leaderboard and your own persistence, though, there’s no reason to bother with it. You have to appreciate developers trying to continually evolve an existing idea or concept, but Hellhounds takes far too many steps backwards to consider it anything other than a mash-up that just doesn’t work.

REVIEW: The Monastery

Slender really opened the floodgates for imitators with its release; it was a brilliant scare that capitalized on the one thing that most of us cannot bear in any quantity— fear, and helplessness in the face of that fear (more or less the opposite of the recent Resident Evil and Dead Space games… zing!). Looking to carve out its piece of the horror pie (if such things can be manifested and baked), Rendercode GamesThe Monastery (80 MSP) tries its hand at the formula.

The Monastery - Screen

First there were missing pages, then tape recorders. The Monastery has bibles for you to locate (10 on Easy, 15 on Normal, 20 on Hard). Music is sufficiently unsettling, and the flashlight does a good job at illuminating just enough to make the darkness feel like a physical element working against you. Finding each book is slightly more challenging here, without any audio or visual clues. Landmarks you can use for navigation are largely absent from the game, too, as one rust-flavored wall or stone column blends into the next, most of the architecture repeated. You will walk around in some circles, no doubt, though it’s not that issue that ultimately breaks the game.

While both Slender and White Noise end when the monster finds you, The Monastery’s creatures do not immediately spell out finality. That fact alone effectively eliminates all sense of danger and / or scares the game may have provided. After being spotted (this can potentially happen fifteen seconds into a game, before you’ve even collected anything), you simply need to avoid them. Worse still, they’re incredibly easy to lose, dropping your scent once you’ve turned corners or run on ahead (and there’s no stamina penalty for prolonged running). So long as you are quite literally walking away, and you don’t get hung up on a doorway or wall, the creatures cannot catch up to and / or kill you.

The Monastery - Screen2

This idea is utterly ridiculous for a horror game, especially one that’s supposedly mimicking the ‘stalking presence’ these games are known for and billed as. It renders the whole thing pointless, a collection minigame about wandering, with only the illusion of antagonism. I gathered the fifteen bibles in the Normal setting on my third playthrough, without breaking a sweat or making a peep. There’s global leaderboards to track your times on each difficulty, though with the game’s concept broken as it is, there’s no satisfaction in posting a good run.

If you absolutely need Slender scares in your life and don‘t mind washing your shorts, play Slender. If you can’t play Slender, play White Noise Online. And if you can’t play White Noise Online, definitely do not play The Monastery. Read a book or go outside.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick