For me, the best part of the horror experience is talking (or yelling) at the screen. I have a blast chiding characters for careless mistakes and getting on my soapbox to preach about how I would do things differently.
If you’re like me, then you will love how The Quarry expertly blurs the lines between audience and participant. It was developed by Supermassive Games and distributed by 2K Games. Supermassive Games is well known for their choose-your-own-adventure style games, including the critically acclaimed hit Until Dawn as well as their Dark Pictures Anthology. The studio brings us another horror survival game that challenges you to keep as many of its characters alive until the end.
The Quarry is both a nerve-racking horror movie you’ll want to watch through your fingers and an opportunity to see if your unsolicited advice on survival is actually worth a damn. The game gives several nods to the iconic 80’s horror films that came before it, and is a welcome addition to the teen horror genre. The setting is a picturesque homage to Friday the 13th, and with the deluxe edition you can even play up the 80’s vibe with rad outfits and an 80’s horror camera filter. The sharp and witty dialogue is laced with meta jokes reminiscent of Scream.
Our story begins with couple Laura (Siobhan Williams) and Max (Skyler Gisondo) heading to Hackett’s Quarry Summer Camp one night early. Along the way, something—or someone—runs them off the road. They are soon discovered by the Sheriff (Ted Raimi, Horror Icon™ ), who urges them to spend the rest of the night in a motel instead. The couple dismisses the “creep ass cop” and go to the camp anyway, only to be attacked by another unknown creature and disappear for the rest of the summer.
We then fast forward to the last day of camp for the rest of our counselors. Mr. Chris Hackett, played by Veteran Horror Actor™ David Arquette, is desperate to send them on their way as soon as possible. However, lovesick Jacob (Zach Tinker) hatches a plan to delay their departure in a misguided attempt to extend his summer fling with Emma (Halston Sage). He decides to make his lack of boundaries and limited grasp on consent everyone’s problem by tampering with the van, leaving them all stranded for at least one more night.
If there weren’t dangers lurking in the surrounding forest, another night together would also have been opportune for a few other budding romances. Abigail (Ariel Winter) and Nick (Evan Evagora) are finally ready to act upon their mutual crush, while Kaitlyn (Brenda Song) and Dylan (Miles Robbins) are both pining for the cool and level-headed Ryan (Justice Smith).
Mr. Hackett, a father of two, decides that the best course of action is to give the group of horny teenagers a lukewarm warning to stay indoors and leave them unsupervised. Shockingly, the group decides to celebrate the end of summer with a bonfire instead. This wouldn’t be great horror without plucky yet foolhardy protagonists making even more terrible decisions, and soon the group is forced to split up after a messy game of Truth or Dare.
Light spoilers ahead!
All of the counselors have depth and complexity which is rarely seen in teen horror. We spend more time with some counselors than others, but each feels integral to the story. The game is separated into ten chapters, with each chapter having the potential to be more chaotic and bloodier than the last. The horror intensifies at a fast clip after Nick and Abigail are attacked by a “bear” in the woods. From there, it’s up to the group to gather clues and evidence to learn more about the Hackett family’s connection to the creatures stalking them in the quarry.
The choices presented to the player give more insight into each character and shape who they become by the end of the night (if they make it that far). The game is great for players of all skill levels, or players who prefer a story-driven game. I played in both single-player and couch co-op modes, and they were equally engaging and suspenseful. The choices you make and the items you interact with determine how the story unfolds, and simple quick time events are scattered throughout the game. For couch co-op, I tried not to influence my partner’s choices, and I can only imagine the delightful chaos possible when you’re playing with a full party.
Despite ample warnings from the game’s tutorial videos, I was still surprised at how such seemingly minor choices changed the story’s direction in major ways. I was so disappointed in the ending of my first playthrough that I decided to replay the last chapter, only to discover that the choices I had made in Chapter 2 determined my ending. The ripple effect of choices heightens the game’s suspense because any choice you make may have an outcome you wouldn’t even anticipate. While this feature is incredibly stressful, it also increases the game’s replay value. The Quarry boasts over 180 unique endings, and each replay of the night’s terror will feel as fresh and frantic as the last.
I found the second act of the game to be somewhat thin. A few plotlines that felt necessary to the overall story are also left unexplored based on your path, giving me cutscenes and dialogue that didn’t apply to my playthrough. Since your choices and the clues you’ve collected determine the story, there are times when some conversations and cutscenes feel out of place. A couple of the subplots also felt forced and nonsensical, while the other more hopeful ones were outright abandoned. The budding queer romance between Dylan and Ryan was the biggest letdown. From what I can tell, there is no payoff or resolution to their storyline, so whatever chemistry and tension you chart out for them feels fruitless by the game’s conclusion.
The characters’ movements can sometimes feel clunky, and my game glitched several times. Sometimes the character I was playing would get stuck in corners or on stairs, and I got the infamous glitch on Laura’s hair. My Death Rewind option also wasn’t available even though I had been playing the deluxe edition. The latter issue pretty much torpedoed my chances of obtaining the coveted Rough Night trophy in my first playthrough (admittedly a high bar), which is only earned if all of your counselors live to fight another day.
Although I was peeved that I could not save everyone, the carnage was brutally fantastic. The monster transformation is an absurd, bloody mess that delighted me to no end. The kills are grisly and devastatingly detailed, which will definitely slake any gore fan’s bloodlust.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed The Quarry because it offers all the camp, gore, and fervent energy of an 80’s horror movie. It’s a fun, stylish, and bloody horror that seamlessly blends the best elements of the creature feature, ghost story, and slasher subgenres. The pretty wacky tale is played perfectly by its star-studded cast, and you’ll find yourself visiting Hackett’s Quarry repeatedly to determine how the counselors’ last night together unfolds.
Mixtape Massacre: Escape from Tall Oaks Review: Tabletop Board Game, But Make It Horror
If you love slashers, 1980s pop culture nostalgia, and board games, Mixtape Massacre (available here) is for you. The series began with a Kickstarter campaign that collected over $26,000 back in 2015 to fund the first board game. Five years later, after another successful campaign, Mixtape Massacre: Escape from Tall Oaks was confirmed. In the near future, as in sometime in early 2022, the latest installment of the game, the Director’s Cut, will be shipped out to Kickstarter supporters. We love to see successful indie efforts. This article will focus on Escape from Tall Oaks.
With a minimum estimated playtime of 45 minutes, the game isn’t too long, and it is pretty easy to pick up. The rules are straightforward enough, though the rulebook can be a bit intimidating at 13 large, information-packed pages. Essentially, you and one to five others play as teenagers trying to survive the onslaught of three killers. Each teenager has their own special ability, such as Derrick with his extra Defense point on every roll. You move across the board with two standard six-sided dice, but the outcomes of your turns are decided by three action dice. The goal, at first, is to collect Scene Markers/Rescue Tokens, which will allow you to try to complete Tasks once you have five of them. Watch out for attacks on your health and the level of the noise meter, though! When the noise meter is full, the active player must face off with the killer. If you are lucky enough to complete all your objectives, you have a chance of escaping. But only one teenager can get out of Tall Oaks. All, however, can die. It’s difficult to lay out all the aspects of the game in one paragraph, but that’s the gist of it. As with most board games, forgetting a rule here or there won’t destroy the experience.
The gameplay itself is smooth. It is particularly interesting that, for most of the game, everyone works together to keep the noise down, rescue survivors, and kill the slashers. But once the escape route appears . . . all that camaraderie is out the window. There’s also an option to get into “Scuffles” when two players land on the same space, though, which results in the losing player losing health and giving one Rescue Token to the winner. If you’re feeling nasty and competitive, this is a good way to burn some in-game bridges.
As expected in a game inspired by ‘80s slasher flicks, there are plenty of nods to the genre and its tropes. Each Killer Scenes, Dude card reveals the event that happens in your character’s location. They are usually either calls to attempt rescues or cards that immediately summon the killer. Some great rescue scenes include “Time to Chop the Salad!” featuring killer plants, “Put that Damn Thing Away!” with a Ouija Board, and “Why Are You Running towards the Woods?” which is pretty self-explanatory. One of my favorites is a reference to Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) on one card that shows a clawed hand reaching out of a bathtub.
The aesthetic of Mixtape Massacre: Escape from Tall Oaks is delightful. The backs of the various cards show relics from the ‘80s. There are VHS tapes with the bright green HORROR sticker on them, cassette tapes, and marble notebooks. The Final Scenes, Dude cards have a video rental sticker on them as well. Instead of “Be Kind and Rewind,” they read, “Rewind or Die!” The Scene Markers/Rescue Tokens are also great, with images of Rubik’s Cubes, red-and-blue 3D glasses, red plastic cups, and roller skates. Of course, there’s a splatter of blood across most items too.
There are currently two base games of Mixtape Massacre, and the boards can be combined to make a larger map. Additionally, there are four expansion packs, and, as stated in the first paragraph, the preorder for the Director’s Cut will be coming to Kickstarter supporters soon. There are enough twists to keep the replay factor high, and playing with different groups of people is always amusing. Horror junkies and scaredy cats alike can enjoy Mixtape Massacre. I thoroughly enjoy the game, and I’m looking forward to playing the expansions as they come. Have you played Mixtape Massacre or its sequel? Did you back the Director’s Cut? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.