Episode 128 – Two Swallows

swallows.jpg It’s a bit longer than some of our recent shows, but Jack, Kelly and Mike make sure it’s well worth it!

This Week in Gaming


WTF Japan

The horror genre has it’s share of great games and terrible games. Though recently there has been a wave of great horror games that put the suspense back in the genre, there are others that fail to grasp the basic concept of horror. Today’s example is a game that tries so hard to be taken seriously, that it ends up having the reverse effect in being absolutely hilarious and shocking for the wrong reasons. That game is Michigan: Report From Hell.

Michigan: Report From Hell was a 2004 PlayStation 2 title developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, of Suda 51 fame. It was published by Spike within Japan, and by 505 Game Street outside of Japan. The game does not take place in the state of Michigan, but rather in the city of Chicago by Lake Michigan. You play the role as the recently hired cameraman of ZaKa TV, the most popular television station within Chicago. ZaKa TV charges you, your soundman Brisco, and a variety of reporters (all of them female) that you meet to cover the story of a strange fog that has recently been covering the city. Things take a turn for the worse when the first reporter that you work with, Pamela, gets devoured by a vagina monster (the game has plenty of vagina dentada references). Following this, you have to work with the other reporters (if you wish) in order to find out the secrets of the fog, and what is happening to the city.

Being a cameraman, you are not the stereotypical action hero that you would see in Resident Evil. Instead, you’re job is to capture images and footage that fall into three catergories, and filming the most in one of the catergories affect the ending of the game. Suspense footage is directly tied to the storyline of the game, and gathering it is essential to finding out the cause of the fog and the monsters. Immoral footage is caused by doing actions that lead to the harm of Brisco and the other reporters, a good deal of them involving the reporters being killed. Finally, Erotic footage is caused by filming provocative materials such as porn mags, or by filming the reporters in a unprofessional manner, so to speak. There are a variety of reporters that you will work with throughout the game, and if they die, another reporter fills that place an a level is skipped, resulting in finding out the true story being lost. Footage is captured by hovering over points of interest, then pressing a button to zoom in, allowing you to gain knowledge of what is going on. It acts less like a horror filled Pokemon Snap and more of a first person point and click adventure.

Despite the neat concept of being a weaponless witness to the horror rather than killing monsters, the game has extremely severe flaws. The voice acting for the game kills any suspense the game has, with lines sounding underacted, overacted, or just plain up poorly acted in general. It has to be heared to be believed. The gameplay itself is buddy, as you have to get your mark over a exact spot in order to film/examine an object. Those who wish to get the maximum points possible in one of the three categories have to have played the game numerous times to try to find all of the film points, and new players who stray too far from the reporter in an attempt to find objects risk putting the reporter in danger, where her death ends the level prematurely. Finally, it’s quite hard to get attached to the cameraman filming, as his only options in the game are to do his job, act like a asshole, or act like a perverted asshole. Not a person who you would trust to film a wedding or a birthday party.

The game was a commercial failure in Japan, selling only 31,000 copies at the end of December in 2004. Due to its poor sales, Grashopper Manufacture tried to acquire more sales of the game by shipping it overseas to Europe in 2005, without Suda 51’s knowledge or permission. Michigan: Report From Hell is now known as a hilarious piece of failed horror gaming, subject to bashings and riffs for it’s horrible voice acting and it’s failed attempts to keep the game seriously (as serious as a game featuring vagina monsters can allow). It should be noted though for it’s attempt to return horror at it’s roots, for attempting to put the player in a defenseless position in which the hero only has a camera and wits to help himself and the team survive the night.

About MikeH

Gamer/Podcaster/Blogger - Mike, who is also known as Fimlys in the WoW community, is the Author of Asleep at the WoW Blog ( http://aatwow.fimlys.com ) and Co-Host on the Twisted Nether Blogcast (http://www.twistednether.net ) and HotsCast a Podcast about Heroes of the Storm. He also produces Polygamerous and does the web maintenance. An avid gamer, he's played since his parents first bought him an Atari 2600.. Back in the stone-age...