Devolped by Groove Games
Published by Brainbox Games
Road to Fiddler’s Green has always been a bit of a strange title. Coming seemingly out of nowhere a couple of months ago, we were promised a budget FPS title in the spirit of George A. Romero’s latest film, the brilliant Land of the Dead.
Given the very short notice, and the budget price point, my expectations were a little tempered, but ultimately the game’s biggest failings are in it’s somewhat mysterious origins.
To cut a long story short, Fiddler’s Green began as a different zombie title, one that Universal liked enough to license Land of the Dead to Brainbox and Groove Games. At best, the end result feels like something from Romero’s work. At worse feels like a stitched together Frankenstein’s monster of a game.
Its biggest failing though, is how it treats its zombies.
Romero’s movies are not open to interpretation when it comes to the mechanics of their monsters. Even though how and why the dead are coming back to life is debated, there’s no debating how you go about making them permanently dead: You destroy the brain. It’s the only way. No questions, no exceptions.
Selling a videogame on this license, and stumbling at the very first zombie encounter is something the game never recovers from, because you see, here zombies can take numerous shots to the head before they die. Here zombies can seemingly bleed to death after having their legs shot off.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with such things in essence, it’s just a complete mishandling of the source material that shows a lack of confidence in the rules of the universe it’s supposed to be based on.
Personally, I wasn’t expecting this game to be the best game I’d ever play, but I was hoping it would remind me of the film.
I was expecting the graphics to look a little dated, which they do, mostly in the geometry of the environments your exploring. The zombies look nice, and animate, or if you like re-animate, well. Strange crawling zombies are the sort of liberty with the source material I appreciate. Heck, I don’t even greatly mind that you can survive zombie bites and no one else can, or the toxic vomit spewing ghouls.
The level design varies from mundane to inspired, sadly generally staying nearer the mundane end, but there is some imagination here. The cornfields of the early levels are very atmospheric and unfortunately really the highpoint, though the last couple of levels do nicely evoke some of the locations from its big screen cousin, sadly they come too late to offer much reconciliation.
So what the game basically offers is a dated, arcade oriented experience. You’ll occasionally be sent key hunting, or tasked with escorting another survivor you run into, but generally it’s just walking onwards through a trickle flow of the undead.
There just doesn’t seem to be enough zombies. Perhaps it’s the CGI movies you regularly see while playing the game that often show greater numbers, perhaps it’s the cinematic reference piece, or perhaps it’s that footage of Dead Rising that keeps looking better and better. Regardless, you never really feel overwhelmed, and it’s a feeling that a game like this needs.
It’s not that you’re over armed. The first few guns you run into are actually disturbingly useless. The melee weapons are nice, but basically once you find an axe, you’ll never trade it for anything else, which is a shame too, as it robs the game of a potential strategic element. You’ll switch from guns to melee to conserve or restock on ammo quite regularly, but it makes you all too aware of the twitchy hit detection.
Like games from yesteryears, you can’t shoot over a zombies shoulder as the bullet with hit the zombie in front. When a more threatening zombie is behind a less threatening one this gets to be rather annoying.
Also, there’s little indication as to how strong any given zombie is, or how many shots to the head it will take. A helmeted zombie could take half the number of head shots that the unarmed zombie stood next to it takes. Zombies carrying weapons are magically stronger for no given reason.
At least the zombies act like zombies. They can be amusingly stupid at times too, not to the detriment of the game. They’ll break down open doors for example. For the most part they just amble towards you moaning, but they’ll occasionally make a sudden lunge towards you, which might seem unzombielike but is in keeping with what you see zombies doing in the movies.
There is a story of sorts, which is one of the things I most enjoyed about the game mainly because it’s so understated. You’re just an every-man caught in the middle of a zombie holocaust trying to find a safe place to stay, and some other survivors to join up with. The journey takes him through back streets, sewers, hospitals and police stations; all those kind of urban environments you see in zombie movies, but they just ring kind of hollow. You can turn on radios for updates which are definitely effective, and a lot of the items in the world are searchable, but it does mean you’ll spend a rather long time opening cupboards and filing cabinets.
The voice acting of your main character is good, but there’s basically only him and his friend Otis that you’ll hear talking. You’ll talk to other people, but you won’t hear them. Your character will narrate the gist of the conversation instead and it’s rather annoying.
Guns don’t have quite enough punch, and the music gets pretty repetitive, but the star of the sound effects is without a doubt the noises the melee weapons make, which sound just like I’d expect them to; loud, painful and disturbing. A great job done there.
The single player game isn’t all that long, which is fair enough for a budget game, so it’s worth mentioning the multiplayer, which offers a few deathmatch and capture the flag maps, spiced up by the facts there are also zombies roaming the levels as well as other humans. The mode with the most maps is “Invasion”, which sees humans fighting waves of computer controlled zombies.
This was probably the most fun I had with the game… again it’s not particularly deep, but it is more fun to fight zombies with a friend than by yourself.
What is disappointing is that none of these levels have been based on locations from the films, another real missed opportunity.
The PC version offers more players than the XBox version, and from what I’ve heard that isn’t the only place the XBox version loses out. For the extra $10 the XBox version costs you get a game that’s much buggier and often crashes, problems I never once experienced with the PC version.
While intrigued PC owners may look at the $20 price tag and consider taking the game for a spin, especially those with older PCs that can’t run new games like F.E.A.R., XBox owners should definitely steer clear. You can definitely take off a mug of blood for the XBox version, but the PC version deserves it’s rather mediocre score.
The biggest problem is what it could have been with a few little tweaks. A fun arcadey game with the Romero universe rules… Instead we get a mediocre zombie shooter trying to pretend it’s something it isn’t.
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
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