Developer: Gamewax and Taito
Publisher: (US) GlobalVR; (Japan) Taito
Release: March 2011 for both Standard and Deluxe versions; Japan April 2011
Type: Light-gun shooter
Players: 1-2, simultaneous
Hardware: Taito Type X2
ARCADE EXCLUSIVE?: Yes
Rating: Yellow Label (Animated Violence)
From the GlobalVR website:
“Fear has gripped the city. Over 100 people have gone missing… presumed taken by a group of lunatic carnival characters. Two special agents follow leads to the entrance of a dilapidated amusement park. They now know what they must do… enter Frightfearland to find and free the captives… and close the gates forever!”
REVIEW: By Adam “Arcadehero” Pratt
Frightmareland is a fixed light-gun arcade shooter released in March 2011. It’s actually the sequel to Taito’s Panic Museum which was released to the US by Taito through ICE in 2009. In Japan the series is known as Haunted Museum. The story revolves around the disappearance of 100 people in a nameless city somewhere and you play one of two special agents who are investigating the mystery. There are 15 selectable levels, 12 mini-game missions, 6 bosses, multiple game endings, colorful graphics, and mounted guns that are exactly like the guns found in GlobalVR’s Aliens: Extermination.
The primary enemies the player will face throughout the game are killer clowns and in this regard the game has a CarnEvil feel to it, sans the gore and blood. They seem kind of like robotic monsters, with a few other strange creatures thrown into the mix. There are barrels, boxes and other objects to shoot which will reveal pick-ups which the player can shoot for points, ammo pick-ups and sometimes a hostage. Like in Panic Museum there is no reloading function although this added the ammo pic-ups. If you run out of ammo it just changes the gun from full auto fire to semi-auto, so it’s not a big deal if you run out of lead to shoot. How much ammo you have is listed right next to your target reticule. When a hostage is saved (they have to appear on the screen and run away without being killed) the game will show you the name of the person you saved and it will track that, which is interesting. Also a number of the situations you face involve rescuing a hostage from some tight spot, it’s not solely just saving someone that appears out of nowhere (although that happens on occasion too, and those usually end up getting shot thanks to your itchy trigger finger), such as they are stuck on a platform with ax-wielding clowns climbing ladders towards them and you have to pick them off before they reach the person. Enemies also like to throw copious amounts of dynamite at you, which was amusing. Enemies include clown spider heads, big-headed crazy bunnies and some variations on the regular clowns. There is a hit combo system in place to increase the players score for subsequent hits.
It’s kind of expected in these Japanese special agent shooting games when one side is a guy the other a girl, to have cheesy voice dialogue lathered on like it was a soap commercial. Frightfearland lives up to that and while its bad, it carries with it that kind of” Engrish” charm common in these games. As the voice acting is extensive, the story unfolds as you play. What I like about this game is that there are many levels to choose from, giving you reason to come back and explore in case you don’t sit through the game on the first time through. On top of that they included a number of mini-game sequences to break the monotony of on-rails shooting – target galleries or sniping sequences where you get a laser sight. Boss battles are fairly typical, where they will have a repeating pattern you learn and have to navigate to take them down. Overall it is a solid shooting game that thankfully is not all about zombies, filling the clown-shooting niche that has been lacking for a while. It also has a funny personality about it, with plenty of subtle humor spiced throughout the levels.
One thing that is noticeable off the bat is the game is very colorful. Perhaps it stands out more because some many games these days tend to intentionally use drab colors. Some ftextures also appear to use offset mapping (kind of an advanced bump mapping technique). There is no anti-aliasing used and jagged edges can stick out but the overall resolution looks like it could be 720p. The most notable part of the graphics has to be the low geometric detail which isn’t on par with modern games crank that up. There are a lot of objects that use low-poly models so that sticks out, making the game look older than it actually is. Otherwise the frame rate was solid and the character animation is also pretty good, from shoulder rolling or balloon flying clowns that flap in the wind and hostages that crab walk. Enemies explode into various pieces and there are plenty of “in-your-face” particle effects that go on, from power-ups and bonus items flying into the screen and of course axes and sticks of dynamite.
The soundtrack isn’t anything to rave about but most of the time you are either listening to gunfire or the characters saying things. Nothing that stands out here from a technological perspective.
This uses guns just like those in Aliens: Extermination but the extra buttons like the one used for the flame thrower and the grenades don’t do anything. Opinions vary on mounted gun games, I don’t mind them although I generally prefer free movement guns. One upside to the mounted guns though is that your arms won’t get tired playing through a long game and kids can’t throw them on the floor leading to technical problems.
There are a few different options available – standard 42″ version, a deluxe version which is more like a Golden Tee cabinet that can have a 46″ or 50″ screen mounted to it and a recently released kit version that has been designed to work with old JAMMA cabinets. The design is like one they re-did for Aliens: Extermination as well which is a solid design for LCD cabinets and quickly recognizable for GlobalVR games at this point. The artwork is bright and colorful but there aren’t any LED lighting effects or molded plastics that help it stand out otherwise.
I did not care for Panic Museum so I expected that from Frightfearland but it turned out to be more entertaining than the first. Mechanical clowns is a nice change of pace from zombies and it has them doing more than just lurching at you. I didn’t come across them doing anything laugh out loud funny (typical of clowns really) but on occasion something worth a small chuckle. The variations in the levels along with the mini-games gives it a good place in the current crop of shooters.
Midway’s CarnEvil showed that there is a good place for horror/clown shooters but at the end of the day there haven’t been many of those to come along. While Frightfearland isn’t pulling anything off in an innovative way, it is a good game to fill this niche of shooters which makes it worth spending some credits on.
Video by our premier site sponsor, BMI Gaming.com
Frightmareland as first seen at Amusement Expo 2011
ARCADE HEROES STORIES:
Impressions from Amusement Expo 2011 (March 2011)
Amusement Expo 2011 – Videos (March 2011)