I Played 10 Haunted PS1 Demos and Want To Tell You About Them
March 25th, the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2021 released. A follow-up to the widely loved 2020 demo disc, the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2021 features 25 demos from numerous faces in the indie horror developer community. I sat down and played through 10 of the new demos, and I want to tell you about them.
1. Ghastly Goodies by Cyreides
Out of all the demos I have played, Ghastly Goodies lives up to the PS1 premise the most. Feeling like a true lost PS1 title, you play as a child on Halloween; collecting candy. After some light exploration and candy collection, you’re suddenly being chased by a large, probably violent specter. As you quickly run to the nearest old spooky house, the light puzzling continues. You come across different ghouls in the house, and getting caught immediately dissipates any allusions that you’re playing a “kids game” with some seriously brutal game over screens. The cartoon-y visual style is very evocative of games like Croc and Gex; while the tank controls bring to mind something like the original Resident Evil.
2. Janitor Bleeds by Korpus
Janitor Bleeds starts on a ruined road, probably after some type of catastrophic, apocalypse-like event. You wander inside an old arcade, and after some searching, you come across a strange old arcade cabinet. After searching the arcade for enough coins and beginning to play at the cabinet, you realize that things happening in the game are starting to strangely manifest inside the arcade. Suddenly, the glitchy antagonist from the machine is outside the room you’re in. As you carefully move through the abandoned arcade while being hunted, it becomes clear that the arcade cabinets might be the only way out of your precarious situation.
3. Lorn’s Lure by Rubeki
After their previous release, Hatch, Rubeki has proven that they are the undisputed master of movement. Lorn’s Lure follows a robot that falls down a hole. After 253 years of thinkin’ on it, you control the robot as it searches for the sprite that it followed down a hole into its predicament. Evolving on the movement from Hatch, you’ll be running, jumping, balancing, and eventually using climbing axes to get around the frankly expansive world of Lorn’s Lure. The movement is king in this demo, with tight, exact controls and punishing platforming. You may die, a lot (I was at 39 restarts by the end of the demo) but the demo is forgiving with checkpoints, and with a push of the R key, you’ll reset to your previous checkpoint. Currently, an alpha demo, Lorn’s Lure can be wishlisted on Steam for the full release coming in 2022.
4. Mummy Sandbox by Z_Bill
Mummy Sandbox was at first, to me, off-putting. You begin by making a weird stretch of…intestines (?) breathe. After nailing the breathing bit, you gain an eye and then can begin the demo properly. I initially found the demo off-putting because after gaining your eye, you’re dropped into a sandbox in first person. Your character very slowly turns in a circle, with no input from the player. You have to navigate the sandbox while negotiating the slow, uncontrollable turning. That’s what I thought anyway. After clearing the first sandbox area I had to alt+tab out of the game to check my screenshots and realized that I had inadvertently locked the mouse in place, causing the slow turning. After correcting this, I realized that you have full control of your little intestine creature. I am sometimes not a bright man. In Mummy Sandbox you move around the world and exhume corpses in various sandboxes. Along the way, you’re given cryptic messages for what to do next. You can gather power-ups that allow you to dig faster, jump, and see the world around you better. All in all, a delightful and weird little demo that has me itching for more.
5. Pathogen X by Sodaraptor
I described Pathogen X to other Dread XP writers as, “good times RE4 mercenaries-like”, and that still fits. A fun, frantic, arcade-style 3rd person shooter; Pathogen X takes the score attack formula of the RE Mercenaries series and gives it a fun PS1 makeover. The controls are tight and responsive, the guns feel and sound good, and the enemies are just fun to blast. The demo is representative of an arcade mode, with the full-on story mode coming later. The demo is fairly short, and I ended up playing through it 2 more times. It’s just fun. If the arcade demo is anything to go off of, the full game is going to be bananas.
6. The Heilwald Loophole by Jan Malitschek
The Heilwald Loophole is an interesting beast. It was the first demo I played of the collection, and really helps set the tone for what’s to come. You start in a backroom, after falling through a hole. You make your way through storage rooms, inspecting the dank and dusty environs, before opening a door and being greeted by a doctor. From here, The Heilwald Loophole gets weird. You can handle the doctor a few ways: You can take him up on his offer for assistance, and follow him to his office. You can try to hide from him, or you can follow him part of the way and then hide from him. I would love to tell you about the interactions with the doctor but doing so would ruin one of the best scares I experienced in the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2021. Suffice to say you’ll be restarting a lot. I realized on my 7th or 8th run that the hole you fall from at the beginning is, in itself, a loophole. Not a loophole, but a hole that causes a time loop. This game will do your head in. Just play it. Try to find all the endings I’m sure I didn’t.
7. The Lunar Effect by Negative Entities
In the vein of Alone In The Dark or Clock Tower, The Lunar Effect is a slow, dread-inducing experience. You awaken in a room in an old house and begin exploring. As you solve puzzles and discover secrets, the house you’re in takes a sinister turn because something is probably definitely hunting you. After solving the first puzzle, a 30-minute timer starts at the top of the screen. That gives you thirty whole minutes to walk around the parts of the house available in the demo to get a bit of story and engage in some puzzles. There are no enemies, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. Something is happening in this house, and as you solve puzzles and read journal entries, a creeping dread starts to wash over you. There are sounds in other parts of the house. Suddenly, a bloodstain appears in the hall that wasn’t there before. From what I’ve seen so far, I’m very excited about the finished product just so I can get some answers.
8. The Salt Order by Khamelot
You did a bad. Oops. You’re brought before the high order of salt (that’s what I’ve decided to call them) and told that you’re being sent beneath the roots of a giant tree. Never fear though, they’re going to give you some ancient magic. This magic is a big ol’ vial of salt. As you move through the world, you can draw up to three shapes with the salt (or one really big shape). Monsters can’t cross the salt, so it’s good to leave a line behind you as you progress. With a click of the mouse, you can delete your last salt line to draw more. You’ll pass by some fantastically designed monsters standing statue-still. This is where you’ll need your salt. I drew a whole circle around the first monster I came across, which is not wise because apparently you’re not supposed to use all of your salt on one monster. I realized this as the next monster was chewing my face off.
9. tmOD by Tobias Mihura
A spooky homage to Gmod, tmOD drops you in a demake of Gmod and lets you run wild. Everyone who has played Gmod knows that it can be a little creepy. The empty spaces, the dead-eyed puppets you conjure. Sometimes you have to add wheels and rockets to something just to lighten the mood a bit. tmOD leans into this feeling of unreality by having things blink in and out of existence at the corner of your periphery, making you unsure if you’ve experienced a glitch…or something more. As you explore the first environment you’re dropped into you’ll notice things like NPCs being in places you didn’t spawn them, starting off into a black room. As you’re starting to get a feel for the world you’re in, the game switches it up and drops you in the next map, where things are getting more glitchy and stranger. I won’t ruin tmOD for you, but know that it is a frightening and amazingly well-made experience.
10. Toree 3D by SIACTRO
Toree 3D starts as a goofy little platformer. You jump from building to building, collecting stars and using jump pads and turbo pads to move faster. This goes on for the first couple of levels before you realize that the background of the levels, previously just not noticed because who watches the backgrounds in goofy little platformers, is starting to watch you. The giant stars that had previously glanced at you with smiles and benevolence take a dark turn. Their eyes and mouths begin to scramble, and a rough keening is heard throughout the level as the screen turns red. You have to move. You have to finish the level now. They’re coming.