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GamelogoBy Australian Ninja

Remnants & Relics. Buttonhole *Special* Feature

Welcome dear reader to Remnants & Relics, the first in an ongoing series of features looking back at various aspects of yesterday's video games. This series is one that I'd hoped to kick off many months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do it justice, until now. So consider this your opportunity to put on your best pair or rose-tinted glasses, open up a luke-warm can of clichés and prepare to hop aboard the way-back-machine.... It came from beyond two dimensions! -A Look Back at Isometric Gaming-

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

ACMI Day Tripper

Welcome Buttonhole readers to another feature that is so choc-full of goodness that I've divided it into several sections. The top half is about the Indy video games showcased at ACMI. The bottom half is about the Pixar exhibit. It's ridiculously long and all terribly interesting to read, so you may as well read it in two halves, or just the parts that interest you. After reading about the ACMI exhibits on their website and getting more than a little excited, I decided to make the perilous trek to inner Melbourne. With time on my side and money stuffed in my pocket I ventured forth to the train station. Once on board I passed the time by staring out the window, reading a volume of Dark Horse's Concrete and snacking on tasty fruit. Arriving at Flinders St, I wandered around until inevitably finding my way out of the rat-maze like station.

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Classic Comic-book Review. Kraven's Last Hunt

"Here lies Spider-Man - Slain by the Hunter" So reads the grave of one of histories greatest superheros. "But he's not dead, is he? What happened to everyone's favourite web-slinger? Spidey seems to be alive and well now, what with his three movie deal and a string of monthly Marvel comic-book titles to his name, so why was he buried six feet under? The year is 1987. The company is Marvel. The character is Sergei Kravinov also known as 'Kraven the Hunter.' Back in the 60's Stan and Steve (Lee and Ditko, respectively) churned out a heap of cool villains for the title "Amazing Spider-Man." Doctor Octopus, The Cham

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Haunting Ground PS2 box Haunting Ground. PlayStation 2 Review

Now we can all run away like little girls

Publisher: Capcom/THQ

Mon, 4 July 2005

Sammy by: Hillelman

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Running away and hiding; sometimes that really is the most sensible option. When you are a sexy, young, blonde chick and a bunch of insane freaks are intent on doing you grievous (life ending) bodily harm, I’d say that’s a good reason to make a bolt for it.

It seems Capcom believes the same thing, because in Haunting Ground you do play as a sexy (though very pale, but she’s British so that isn’t her fault), young, blonde chick, by the name of Fiona Belli. You do have a bunch of insane freaks hoping to bring about your demise. And you do run away and hide. Constantly!

Fiona also gets more and more scared, depending on the level of danger she is in. When she gets really freaked out, you have trouble controlling which direction she moves in and the graphics (or her vision, if you will) become increasingly distorted, until you can get her to safer ground (such as underneath a couch, or inside a wardrobe) and wait for her to calm down.

Haunting Ground PS2 screen 1
Cue the Benny Hill chase music

This is a rather more realistic approach than the much more common way lead characters in videogames behave. Usually they are stoic and heroic types, who seem barely even fazed by the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. Unfortunately it is a little overdone and after a while it started to piss me off. You’re just trying to get on with the game, but your progress is regularly hampered by these non-stop hide and seek antics. Besides, I can be a chickenshit in the real world, in my videogames I would usually prefer to kick some arse.

So, Haunting Ground is a 'survival horror' game, in a truer sense than most. Capcom are hardly strangers to this genre, in fact you could say that it belongs to them, at least in terms of sales figures. Though Konami would still have to get some recognition and, indeed, Haunting Ground is much more similar to Konami’s Silent Hill games than Capcom’s own Resident Evil. It is subtly creepy, atmospherically eerie and the odd story sucks you right in. Even though, from the start right up until the end, you have no freaking clue what any of it means (well, I didn’t anyway).

Aside from all the running and hiding, the other most novel aspect of the game is the inclusion of a German Shepard sidekick called Hewie. Using the right analogue stick, you can issue various commands to the dog. He can attack and slow down the enemies who are chasing you, crawl or jump to places Fiona can’t reach and more. The AI for Hewie is a bit unreliable though; he can get stuck, or take too long to find you and other little problems, so that gets rather frustrating. But essentially, having him in the game does work in its favour and helps make it all feel that touch more original.

Haunting Ground is very stylish and generally well presented. Occasionally the game can look overly blurry and washed out. At other times it looks quite impressive, particularly during the cut-scenes. The graphics have a pretty familiar feel to them for anyone who has played any other titles of this ilk. Of course, after Resident Evil 4 this game looks almost old-fashioned, but by any other standards it is a fine looking effort. The designs of all the characters and environments have obviously been given plenty of work and they all fit together very suitably to enhance the mood of the game. The music is equally suitable, changing tempo to match the situation, and the voice acting is mostly above average.

The control scheme is all fairly straightforward; it is basically the same as the usual deal for these types of games. At times however, they are a touch unresponsive and not just when Fiona is having one of her 'freak out sessions' where the poor control is an intentional effect. It isn’t an overwhelming problem though, simply a minor annoyance. Survival Horror games aren’t exactly known for their super smooth controls, let’s face it.

The game progression requires solving the usual kinds of puzzles; shoot the monkey in his arse with a blow dart and he drops his banana, a passing peacock slips on it and the force of its landing causes a key to fall from a nearby tree, which you can then use to open a door. Okay, I totally fabricated that particular example, but that’s kind of how things work in these games! I especially liked the 'boss fights' where the game gets a bit more action heavy for a change and you have to use some quite creative means to dispose of Fiona’s rivals.

Haunting Ground PS2 screen 2
I will go for the one on the left and you can have a crack at the one on the right.
The game isn’t particularly long; at least it didn’t seem to be. But that might have been because I got totally engrossed and played it pretty well straight through over a couple of days. But, hey, that’s got to mean that it had something going for it! And there were some decent challenges in that time. Some sections which required me to attempt them over and over until I was able to get past.

If you are keen enough, you can stretch the lifespan out too, thanks to things like alternate endings and bonus costumes to unlock for Fiona. I was quite taken with the dominatrix one...settle down Sammy, she’s just a game character dude. Sorry about that. Anyway, these little bonus goodies, while hardly earth shattering, are always a welcome touch in my book.

I really wanted to find out what happened next. The plot was pretty cool and reminded me of various horror movies; The Ring and The Shining being just a couple of examples. I didn’t really understand it all too well mind you, but that just seemed to add to the atmosphere rather than detract. After all you (as Fiona) are in a strange place, where all kinds of bizarre and disturbing events are unfolding and, if you think about it, that kind of thing really should be confusing!

Well, there we have it. Haunting Ground is a good one for the horror fans and those who love either Silent Hill or Resident Evil. Not a perfect game by any means, but it has enough going for it for me to give it a very solid recommendation to those who enjoy the genre.

by: Hillelman

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More articles by Hillelman

It isn't the best game of its kind, but Haunting Ground has some nice little twists to the formula and provides an all together engaging experience.

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ToonlogoBy Borgieman

Manifest '07 Report

Ninja's note: Once again, it's time for another Buttonhole report on the Melbourne Anime Festival, otherwise known as Manifest 2007. If you missed Ichibod's feature on a previous Manifest, check it out here. This Manifest coverage comes to you courtesy of forum regular and newest Buttonhole contributor Borgieman, a cool guy who knows his Anime and has been known to play a video game or two. So read on true believers! A Day at Manifest 2007

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Only Yesterday. Anime Review

The problem with having favourite films is that every time I watch another Studio Ghibli film it becomes my new favourite. It kind of renders the word 'favourite' meaningless when every Studio Ghibli film takes my breath away. Still, I can't complain about being thoroughly entertained by this whimsical and insightful film, "Only Yesterday". This gem was directed by Isao Takahata, well known for his anime film Grave of the Fireflies. Although Only Yesterday is a light hearted film that ambles along at a leisurely pace, it still manages to explore themes such as love, work, family relationship struggles, following your dreams and country versus city living. In the film, the main character Taeko decides to take a working vacation in the country, getting away from her office bound job and unexpectedly starts t

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ToonlogoBy Jason

Speed Grapher V1. Anime Review

Well, "I don't like it" was my initial feeling when viewing this Anime for the first time. Subsequent viewings haven't changed my views a great deal. Nothing really stands out as being absolute shit but it seems that this series tries too hard. It's almost like they were more interested in creating something 'edgy' and confronting but sadly forgot to include an even remotely palatable story. The hero of this particular piece is a bloke called Tatsumi Saiga. Tatsumi is a photographer and a veteran war journalist for whom taking photos has become somewhat of a fetish. Although he seems to have become jaded - nothing is worth wasting his film on - that is, at least until he stumbles across an exclusive club for the mega rich

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