The Dread Game of the Year List 2019 – Special Awards
Best New Horror Game – Song of Horror
Song of Horror is a game that came out of absolutely nowhere. I had never heard of it. No one I knew had ever heard of it. It just showed up in my inbox one day from a PR company I rarely work with. I installed it mostly out of a desire to procrastinate on more pressing projects. Song of Horror proceeded to blow my fucking mind. An old-school horror game in the vein of Alone in the Dark, Song of Horror is a modern testament to the power of classic design. An overwhelming dread permeates the levels, as a malevolent entity known only as “The Presence” stalks you at every corner. It doesn’t hunt you in the traditional sense, instead triggering at semi-random intervals and requiring you to successfully complete a minigame to stave it off. As a result, you’re never sure if that thumping sound or sudden visibility of your breath is a prelude to an attack from The Presence or just the game fucking with you. It’s a fantastically tense game that never sacrifices scares for playability or vice versa.
Best Expansion That Is Basically Its Own Game – Monster Hunter World: Iceborne
Monster Hunter: World was a massive, wonderful game. The only downside was knowing it would probably be a few years before we got another one. Capcom looked at us, saw our frowns, and said, “Oh, you want another one? Well, if you insist!” And bam, we got Iceborne. If Iceborne were the product of a lesser franchise, it would be its own game. It adds a massive new zone, with enough content to double your already 100+ hour playtime. The new monsters are both challenging and unique, with even returning models getting a whole new slew of powers. Iceborne is exactly what fans wanted, and is a testament to how not all massive companies are deaf to the cries of their audience. Bravo Capcom, now give me more outfits for my Palico.
Making The Most Of A Dead Franchise – Blair Witch
Calling Blair Witch a franchise is the byproduct of only the most wishful of corporate thinking. There have only been three Blair Witch films in its 20-year run, with three loosely related games that no one remembers. Young people couldn’t give less of a shit about The Blair Witch Project, a sentiment proven by the catastrophic flop of the 2016 Blair Witch film. With nowhere to go and a rapidly decaying IP on their hands, Lionsgate threw a Hail Mary to a European studio known for making at least two good spooky games. Bloober Team announced Blair Witch in June and released it in August. It’s a move more commonly associated with surprise new content for mobile/live service games. And yet, somehow, Bloober still made a great game out of the whole mess. Say what you will about the stupid secret ending conditions (which I did in my review), I’ll remember Bullet’s silly dog face far longer than I remember… actually I can’t even remember any of the characters from the film.
The “Actually People Can Hear Me Scream Just Fine” Award For Best Space Horror – Observation
Observation is a game that could have also won the “Best New Horror Game” award. You play as the AI (SAM) for a ship that has recently suffered an unknown catastrophe. All of the crew are gone, save for the medical officer Emma. Emma is just as confused as to how things got all fucked up, and the two of you begin working together to figure out just what happened. It’s a perfect depiction of space horror, where claustrophobic pods serve as your only refuge from a vast and deadly cosmos. The sense of isolation and impending dread is bleak, and only elevated when you realize that your meager space station has somehow been transported all the way to Saturn. From there, cosmic horror mixes with modern tech to create a truly unique and terrifying experience. Developer No Code is a rising star, and we will watch its career with great interest.