Release date: 2005
AKA: Demento (Japan)
One of my all-time favourite gaming memories is playing Haunting Ground with my mates at the flat in Baldock for 16 hours straight. It was me holding the controller for almost all of those 16 hours. It’s a bit obscure, so if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a survival horror game by Capcom, in which you play as a pretty little fragile girl called Fiona, who must escape from a huge labyrinthine castle. Oh, and you can’t fight. Your only option is to run away and hide from the nasty people that are out to get you. You do have a companion throughout though, the best dog in gaming, a white German Shepherd called Hewie. My friends know that I love dogs, and Robbie played a rather mean trick on me near the beginning… He said “press square, it lets you stroke the dog.” I stood beside Hewie, pressed square, and watched in horror as my Fiona kicked the dog. I didn’t listen to Robbie again for the rest of the game.
The aforementioned nasty people are few and far between in Haunting Ground, which is what makes it so unique. There’s only 5 enemies, I think, and you deal with them one at a time. After evading the deformed, simple-minded gardener who wants to either be your friend, eat you, or rape you (or possibly all 3), you then are stalked by a Terminator-style cyborg woman armed with a shard of mirror. All you can do is hide, which suits me, I’m quite good at hiding and running away from enemies in horror games. Each time you come face to face with one of the enemies, Fiona’s sanity decreases dramatically, and if you can’t find a suitable place to hide fast enough, she might panic and begin running around completely out of control. We nicknamed this ‘disco mode’ because the screen starts flashing, music plays and you have no choice but to hope she runs somewhere safe or that Hewie is close enough to find you and calm you down. It’s brilliant.
I reached this difficult bit which involved navigating a room with lava falling from the ceiling. After playing all night without sleeping, long after the sun had risen, it proved too difficult for my sleep-deprived brain so I handed the controller to Ben, who did it for me. It was the only bit of the game that I didn’t play. It must have been close to midday on the day after we started playing by this point, and I had to power through to reach the end. The finale involved fighting a final boss of some kind, which I barely remember, but in order to defeat him and get the ‘good’ ending, you had to have built up enough trust and friendship with Hewie throughout the game. Fortunately, that one accidental kick didn’t damage my bond with Hewie, and he ended up heroically leaping out from a tunnel to attack my pursuer, saving my life. I will never forget his bravery… 16 hours of hard work bonding with a digital dog, it paid off and I got the good ending. He really is the best dog in any game and has yet to be surpassed. Haunting Ground is a fantastic game…actually, it’s not, but I love it anyway.