What’s My Focus Now? 10/24 – 10/30

October is definitely my favorite month of the year.  The summer heat is cooling off, the leaves are changing colors, and Halloween is everywhere you look.  For someone who loves the horror genre like me, it’s the perfect time to explore what’s out there.  Cheesy movies on TV, latest installments of horror franchises in the theaters, the newest survival horror game, there’s always something going on.  I’ve been trying to take it all in this month, and here’s your chance to see what’s my focus now.

1.  Higurashi (When They Cry) manga v.1

As a huge fan of the When They Cry anime, it was a given I would eventually be reading the manga adaptation.  Having finally done so, I’m ready to obsess over it, too.  With some manga adaptations, the story or characters can be drastically different, but that’s not the case here.  To me, the manga serves as a companion piece to the anime, filling in some blank spaces, providing a few extra details.  It’s exactly what you would want for a series centered around such an intriguing mystery.

Higurashi (When They Cry) is the story of Hinamizawa, a small town with a dark secret.  For Keiichi Maebara, life seems perfect, until the yearly festival sets him down a dark path.  Horror and thriller fans will love this series, especially if they’ve got a soft spot for cute girls.  The story, by original story supervisor Ryukishi 07, is full of scenes to warm your heart, with plenty of moments to chill you to your bones.  Artist Karin Suzuragi is a perfect match for this, deftly depicting characters as cute, sexy, or terrifying while keeping true to the original designs.  The English release, put out by Yen Press, seems spot on, with a few color pages sprinkled in as an added bonus.  One double page spread in particular really stands out, full of vibrant colors and rage.  This series is required reading for fans of the anime, and is strongly suggested for anyone looking for a chill.

Score: 5 out of 5

2.  Costume Quest (PSN/XBL)

Tim Schafer always knows what I want to play.  Psychonauts and Brutal Legend are both unique games, definitely not the kind to appeal to everyone, but they’re just right for me.  The same is true for Costume Quest, a downloadable game on PSN and XBL.  Essentially it’s a short action RPG, around 5-8 hours, but it’s so full of charm that you feel completely satisfied at the end.

You play through the game as one of two twins, tracking down your kidnapped sibling, and managing to save Halloween along the way.  In true RPG fashion, you level up, gain new party members, and perform quests for the random people you encounter.  The battle system itself is simple, each side taking turns to attack, with a few random button presses to boost your attack and defense.  The real fun comes from the costumes you can wear.  Starting out, you have a clunky little robot costume, complete with roller skates.  Entering battle transforms you into a giant mech, complete with rocket punch and missiles.  Multiple costumes to collect provide different abilities and strategies in battle, as well as exploration abilities.  Add in battle stamps that boost stats or provide special attacks, and you’ve got something to fit almost every battle style.

I absolutely adored this game.  The story, the battles, the art style…it’s just so cute and fun.  After watching so many dark horror movies recently, it was a perfect way to lift my mood while staying with the spirit of the holiday.  There are a couple of potential negatives, though.  There are a few quest types that are repeated throughout the game.  It’s something that stood out to me, and I could see it getting annoying for some gamers.  The other negative is the $15 price tag.  For many, this is a high price for a downloadable game lasting under 10 hours.  Think of it this way, though.  How long was the last movie you saw in theaters?  How much did you pay for that trip?  This game is a much better deal, and much more enjoyable than most movies out there.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

3.  Paranormal Activity 2

Horror movies and I have a special relationship.  As a child, I couldn’t handle them, ran screaming from the room on more than one occasion.  Over the years I’ve forced myself to watch them, raising my tolerance level so I can try and make it through almost any movie.  That’s not to say I don’t get scared during the movie, or freak myself out for hours afterward, I just deal with it.  Paranormal Activity was a movie that kept me up for hours the night I saw it, so I knew I had to go see the sequel.

Paranormal Activity 2 centers around a family, complete with newborn baby, who begin to experience strange things happening in their home.  After what appears to be a home invasion, they install security cameras throughout the house, which provide our glimpses into their lives for most of the movie.  If you’ve seen the first movie, you have an idea of how this all plays out.  The intensity and tension build day by day, some believe, some don’t believe, crazy things happen, and then the movie ends.

That leads to the real issue of Paranormal Activity 2.  If you enjoyed the first movie, you’ll enjoy this one.  If you didn’t, you won’t.  It’s the same type of story, told in the same way, and if it didn’t appeal to you the first time, nothing that has changed will drag you in.  But for those like me, who discussed the movie for ages after, there’s plenty to love:  some great scares, a few interesting twists, and plenty of questions left open for debate.  It’s not for everyone, but ends up being a solid movie for its target audience.

Score: 4 out of 5

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