Scream or Snooze: Dream of the Blood Moon
I'm a glutton for interactive horror. From the original Diablo to the landmark Amnesia: The Dark Descent, some of my favorite games of all time have been those that have well and truly terrified me. Not just cheap jump scares, either—I'm talking about the games that made me want to hide in a corner and refuse to progress any further. Thus do I often find myself trolling the shadowed depths of the Internet in search of unsettling gaming experiences. Recently, I came across Dream of the Blood Moon, an Unreal-based indie horror quickie made by one guy, inspired by the likes of Slender (currently the king of my "Snooze" list.)
The premise of Blood Moon is superficially very similar to Slender: you wander around a spooky forest, with no map or compass, collecting items while being stalked by a supernatural being. Said items are tears in Blood Moon, representing the regrets of the game's wronged, female spectral antagonist. The forest is actually part of a dreamscape, and trades Slender's oppressive darkness for a misty, twilit gloom that reminded me of Tale of Tales' The Path (which is a very creepy, if not horrifying, game in its own right).
The tears aren't just lying around, either. All but one of them will require you to solve some kind of puzzle to acquire. Every time you fail a puzzle, or are caught by the roaming spirit, you awaken briefly, and the dream grows darker and more frightening when you shut your eyes again. Fail three times and... well, I won't spoil it.
Is it actually scary? Unfortunately, no. I gave it the full, deserved treatment: dark apartment, alone, at night, no lights, surround sound headphones—the same set-up I use for all horror games. It was certainly eerie, but the sound design wasn't quite on par with Slender, and the overall more forgiving lighting and pace contributed to a less malign atmosphere (even after your second failure, when things get pretty dark).
That being said, I found it more enjoyable as a game than Slender. The added puzzle solving pleasingly breaks up the wandering around aimlessly and running-like-a-startled-marmot-from-a-killer-ghost-girl mechanics, and the subtle, underlying story is fairly interesting to discover. The fact that the antagonist is somewhat sympathetic, while softening her fright potential compared to the unknowable Slenderman or Amnesia's unrepentantly evil Alexander, adds an extra dimension to the narrative.
Dream of the Blood Moon joins its primary inspiration on the Snooze side of the Scream or Snooze divide. But it's a free, fun, and interesting experience nonetheless.