Melissa Heyden's I'M GAME!

Melissa is the newest member of Richard J Schellbach's MonsterKid Central. She will be covering anything that has to do with video games.

But, unlike our Columnists, she's going to be handling Fantasy, Horror and Sci-fi based games and unlike our Critics, she's going to be commenting on the video game industry in general, from time to time. So she's our very first Critic/Columnist.

We'll be posting a new piece from Melissa, four times a year; January, April, July and October. We know you'll love her work as much as we do.

April 2024

Capturing Terror:

Unraveling the Haunting Mysteries of Fatal Frame:

Maiden of Black Water

Venturing into the realm of horror games often leads players on a rollercoaster of emotions, from fear to exhilaration. "Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water" offers an immersive experience that plunges players into a world teeming with supernatural entities, mystery, and dread. Developed by Koei Tecmo, this installment in the acclaimed Fatal Frame series is a chilling journey through eerie landscapes and haunted locales, punctuated by the unique gameplay mechanic of capturing ghosts through the lens of a camera. In this review, we'll explore the eerie depths of Maiden of Black Water and delve into its gameplay mechanics, narrative, atmosphere, and overall impact on the horror gaming genre.

At the heart of Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water lies its distinctive gameplay mechanic - the Camera Obscura. Players assume the roles of multiple protagonists, each equipped with this mystical camera capable of exorcising malevolent spirits. The Camera Obscura serves as both a weapon and a tool for uncovering secrets. By using the camera to photograph apparitions at the right moment, players can weaken and banish these spectral foes.

The game employs the Switch’s unique features, utilizing the GamePad as the Camera Obscura itself. This integration enhances immersion, as players physically move and aim the controller to capture ghostly entities. While the controls may take some time to master, they ultimately contribute to the game's tense atmosphere, making encounters with spirits feel all the more harrowing.

Maiden of Black Water features a blend of exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat, with a focus on atmosphere and tension. The haunting locales players traverse are laden with secrets and lore, encouraging thorough exploration. Puzzles are integrated seamlessly into the environment, often requiring players to uncover clues through keen observation and deduction. Combat encounters with ghosts are intense, requiring quick reflexes and precise timing to capture them effectively. The tension is palpable, especially during encounters with more formidable apparitions.

Set in the eerie locale of Mt. Hikami, a place shrouded in legend and tragedy, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water weaves a complex narrative of loss, guilt, and redemption. The game follows multiple protagonists, each drawn to the mountain by their own motivations, as they uncover the dark secrets hidden within its mist-shrouded forests and dilapidated structures.

The narrative unfolds through a series of interconnected chapters, with each character's story intertwining with the others'. As players progress, they unravel the mysteries of Mt. Hikami and confront its tortured spirits. The storytelling is atmospheric and immersive, with a sense of foreboding permeating every encounter. The game effectively builds tension through environmental storytelling, audio cues, and chilling visuals, keeping players on edge throughout their journey.

The character development is well-executed, with each protagonist grappling with their own demons while confronting the malevolent entities that haunt Mt. Hikami. Themes of grief, regret, and the supernatural intertwine, adding depth to the narrative and characters' motivations. While the plot may occasionally falter in pacing, the overall story remains engaging and compelling, driving players forward in their quest for answers.

Visually, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water excels in creating a hauntingly beautiful world fraught with peril. The environments are meticulously crafted, from the mist-laden forests to the decaying ruins of abandoned structures. Each locale is infused with a sense of history and tragedy, further immersing players in the game's eerie atmosphere.

The character models are well-designed, with intricate details that convey the protagonists' emotions and struggles. The ghostly apparitions, in particular, are rendered with chilling realism, their twisted forms and vacant stares instilling a sense of dread in players. The use of lighting and shadow adds to the game's ominous ambiance, heightening the tension during encounters with spectral foes.

Sound design plays a crucial role in enhancing the game's atmosphere, with an evocative soundtrack that shifts seamlessly between moments of quiet reflection and intense horror. Eerie ambient sounds, such as creaking floorboards and distant whispers, further contribute to the sense of unease, keeping players on edge throughout their journey.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water stands as a chilling addition to the acclaimed horror series, offering a compelling blend of atmospheric storytelling, innovative gameplay mechanics, and spine-tingling scares. With its immersive world, engaging narrative, and tense gameplay, the game is sure to delight fans of the horror genre and newcomers alike. Whether you're a seasoned ghost hunter or a brave soul looking to test your courage, prepare to embark on a harrowing journey into the heart of darkness with Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water.


This is the first time in my 30+ years of gaming that I have ever played a Final Fantasy game. I know, everyone, stop clutching your pearls! I just never saw the appeal, and I think it’s one of those situations where the more everyone gushed about it, the less I wanted to play it. However, with the remake of Final Fantasy VII, and the strong endorsement from friends I decided to give it a shot.

The initial impression was undeniably striking – the graphics, a hallmark of the series, were nothing short of breathtaking. Final Fantasy has always been synonymous with cutting-edge realism, and the characters, adorned with their beautiful anime hair, showcased the pinnacle of visual splendor. As a newcomer, though, I couldn't shake the feeling that the game's narrative was tailored for those already familiar with the original installment. The plot, revolving around a group of eco-terrorists battling a colossal corporation draining the Earth's lifeblood, initially appeared convoluted to me. Nevertheless, the game dropped subtle hints about deeper layers to the protagonist, Cloud, leaving me intrigued and eager for the story to unfold.

Speaking of Cloud, our stoic and reluctant hero, I couldn't help but notice his lack of a distinct personality. Despite his standoffish demeanor, other characters inexplicably gravitate towards him, expressing unwavering love and even romantic interest. Forming an emotional connection with Cloud proved challenging, especially when juxtaposed with the vibrant personalities of the supporting cast. Take Barret, for instance, a character with a Mr. T-like personality with an unwavering dedication to Mother Earth. His fervent rants about the planet bleeding resonated throughout the game, adding depth and dynamism to the overall narrative. Then there's Tifa, the beautiful childhood friend and love interest of Cloud, further enriching the tapestry of characters that surround our enigmatic protagonist.

In addition to boasting a vibrant ensemble of protagonists, Final Fantasy VII Remake introduces a compelling array of formidable villains, seamlessly blending the nostalgia of beloved foes from the original game with the thrill of encountering fresh adversaries. Among these captivating characters, Roche, a third-class soldier, stands out as a particularly enchanting presence, characterized by an infectious blend of flair and high energy. His dynamic persona injects a distinct vibrancy into the game, making him an unexpectedly cherished antagonist. The fervor with which Roche approaches every confrontation is nothing short of magnetic, leaving me with an earnest wish that he could be a playable character to further immerse myself in his unique style. Adding to his allure, Roche plays a pivotal role in one of my favorite fight sequences, notably featuring an exhilarating motorcycle battle. It's hard not to be enamored with the sheer spectacle of this encounter, underscoring the game's ability to seamlessly weave together compelling characters and thrilling gameplay moments. After all, who doesn’t love a motorcycle fight?

One of the standout features that immediately captured my attention was the game's incorporation of choices that directly influence the unfolding narrative. This added layer of complexity not only deepens the gaming experience but also enhances its replay value significantly. In an era where a full-priced game often covers only a fraction of the entire story, this branching narrative is a welcome addition, justifying the investment of both time and money. The gameplay itself is a delightful mix of fun and accessibility – not overly complicated yet engaging enough to keep players hooked. And let's not forget the undeniable cool factor of wielding a giant sword, which somehow manages to make every action that much more impressive.

Final Fantasy VII Remake not only captivates players with its compelling main storyline but also invites exploration and engagement through a myriad of side quests. These optional adventures contribute to the rich tapestry of the game world, offering players the opportunity to delve deeper into the lives of its inhabitants and uncover hidden treasures. From aiding distressed citizens to undertaking daring missions, the side quests in Final Fantasy VII Remake are diverse and unpredictable, ensuring that no two journeys through the game are identical. Beyond their rewards in terms of experience points and valuable items, these side quests add layers of complexity to the narrative, weaving smaller tales that resonate with the broader themes of the game. Whether it's assisting a struggling merchant, unraveling the mysteries of a forgotten locale, or confronting formidable monsters, the side quests enhance the overall gaming experience, encouraging players to immerse themselves fully in the expansive and intricately crafted world of Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Despite my initial hesitations and the daunting prospect of stepping into a beloved franchise with decades of history, my journey into Final Fantasy VII has been a surprisingly enjoyable experience. The captivating story, stunning graphics, and diverse cast of characters have managed to overcome my preconceived notions, and I find myself eagerly anticipating the unfolding of this epic adventure. As I navigate the intricate web of eco-terrorism, corporate greed, and the mysteries surrounding Cloud, I can't help but appreciate the allure that has captivated gamers for generations. Perhaps I was late to the party, but as they say, better late than never. The next chapter of this game releases February 29, 2024. Be there or be square!


January 2024


The Good, The Bad, And The Undead

Resident Evil 4 (RE4) is the latest remake in the Resident Evil (RE) series. The original RE4 launched in 2005 as a Gamecube exclusive. Unlike the other original RE games to receive remake-overs, the original RE4 still holds up pretty well. I was curious to see how Capcom planned on improving this game, especially since RE4 was one of the most successful games in the series. The game has definitely improved graphics and boss fights, but there were some aspects that could have been improved upon. So, let’s get into the good and the bad of this game.

The detail they can now create on the human face is amazing, but apparently that technology falls short when it comes to dogs. In the original game the dogs looked cartoonish but still identifiable as dogs. The new dogs, (or their proper names, Colmillos), look like static electricity furballs with teeth. If the intent was to make them appear more scary, I think they failed in that respect, but it did help ease the tension with a good laugh. Also, Carlos was a bit scarier looking than he was in the original. He looks more like a Latin Willem Dafoe. His character also seems a bit more clownish than in the original, whereas before, there was more of an air of mystery to him.

I understand that, historically, gaming has been a male-dominated industry, but the gamer ladies are showing up in record numbers. That being said, the ladies in this game are lacking depth. Our damsel in distress is Ashley. She’s the President’s daughter who was kidnapped by the infected and has zero sense of self-preservation. Once you rescue her you can direct her to take cover, but her idea of taking cover is moving two feet to the right to receive open fire on her face. They improve on her being dead weight to Leon by having her kidnapped every other chapter, but if you have to do that to make the game more enjoyable then why not have Leon save her at the very end? I just think that instead of hiding her in the shadows, the developers could have made her more of a badass who’s more into surviving instead of trying to charm her rescuer. I will say that I am happy to see that Ada Wong finally looks like she’s Asian, but again, she’s a femme fatale spy with a skin tight red dress. I know that’s always been Ada’s signature look, but can’t we aim for more suitable spy gear?

This game has a very detailed map which begs to be explored. It’s difficult to do sometimes as you are running for your life, but once the dust settles you can scour the lands for treasures. Then you can take those treasures to our old friend, the Merchant. He has returned with new merch and upgrades. He also has tasks for you to complete to earn spinels that you can trade for cool items to help you on your mission. Add to that, the Merchant now has a shooting gallery where you can earn tokens to trade in for more upgraded items. These little extras definitely help with the replay value of this game. I’m talking to all you completionists out there. You know who you are!

I have always been partial to the first three RE games in the series. They provided an element of suspense, lulling you into a false sense of security and then suddenly a zombie or a licker would spring on you! I was not a big fan of the original RE4 because it was the first RE game to veer from the classic formula and move towards more fast-paced combat; turning it into Resident Duty. I also dislike how RE4 is broken into chapters. It takes away from the immersion of the game and makes me think more of an arcade style game. RE4 is also where we move away from zombies and more towards the infected. I understand that zombies are slower, but the true horror of zombies are their numbers. To create a game where you have to be selective with your ammo usage, knowing that you truly cannot kill them all adds a creative element to your gameplay. Whereas in this game the infected are faster and wield weapons... so they’re not too different from regular humans. Although some do have demons that sprout forth from their skulls which does create a good fun party time.

Overall, this is a very fun and fast-paced game. It has a variety of different combat scenes and different forms of melee attacks that keep the game exciting. I did enjoy this remake immensely, and as a stand alone game it is fantastic. However, when a game is part of a series one must consider all the games that came before. In the series it breaks away from the classic horror and suspense of the other games and leans towards being more action heavy.

Definitely pick this one up for some spooky gameplay and rejoice for there is new DLC that just released September 21st.


October 2023