It’s Alive!

Dark Mark Writing is born!

Happy Halloween and Welcome to my new website!

The old website was getting a bit dated and felt a bit untidy, so I thought it was time to refresh and renew and what better time of the year to do that than Halloween?

So here it is, Dark Mark Writing, a page dedicated to my writing and thoughts focussing on my love of the horror genre and all things spooky!

Please have a look around and enjoy! Feel free to subscribe to the page for updates and to get in touch if there is anything you want to talk about!

But, more importantly you ask, who won the giveaway?

Well, Monkey rather reluctantly gave up his bounty to Philip F. Webb who was picked at random from all the likes and shares last week and a parcel is in the post to Philip. You can check out his page and work HERE and do take a look at his latest book, Lily of Atlantis, a collection of stories and spells which can be picked up from Amazon for the ridiculously good value of just £4.99!

Thanks to everyone who took part and shared news of the new website, sorry you couldn’t all win, but keep an eye out as I am sure I will do some more giveaways in the future!

So enjoy the site, feel free to look around and, most importantly…

Resident Evil 4 – VR – Oculus Quest 2

This time, you ARE Leon

For over 20 years, the Resident Evil franchise has been turning out survival horror games that fans have lapped up. I am not a hardcore fan of the series who has played all the game, multiple times, but I do have fond memories of Resident Evil 4 back when I played it for the first time on the Gamecube.

Actually, I haven’t played it since, either, I just remember enjoying it!So I was intrigued when I heard it was coming to the Oculus Quest 2, a console I have only just recently acquired, but instantly knew I would have to bless with the RE4 port.

The Oculus is still fairly new to me and I have been “dabbling” with various games and software to explore what VR has to offer. The quality of these and the immersiveness of the experience has varied, but I also haven’t really explored some of the more Triple A titles that the set has to offer; largely because, shortly after buying it, I got wind of the RE4 port and knew I would have to buy that. I was excited as a nearly 50 year old gamer is allowed to get (very excited inside, but outside continuing to carry that cool, intelligent demeanour that everyone knows me for!)

So, after having to wait a month, the title was finally released on 21st October and I spent most of the day refreshing the Oculus store waiting for it to drop and download.

Now, I haven’t finished the game, so this is kind of a first impressions review, but I thought it would be sensible to write something for Halloween and that might encourage anyone who is tempted to take the plunge and get the game.

I think you are going to like it.

So, first off, it is not 100% VR. RE4 jumps back and forth from the main action to 2D cut scenes to advance the story. This can be a little jarring when you first start playing and it can take you out of the game just as you are getting into the whole VR experience. However, it doesn’t take long to get used to them and pretty soon it becomes a minor irritation at worst.

The first thing that I really noticed was the motion sickness. If you suffer with motion sickness you will need to spend some time playing with the settings to find the best aet-up for you. I do get it quite bad, but have eventually found a selection of settings that, the last time I played, allowed me to go for over an hour before I had to switch off. And that was because the battery was dying! So, don’t panic, there are plenty of settings to help you out, whether walking through the game as if really there, or using teleport controls and adjusting the rotation from smooth to snap turns of varying degrees. You can turn of head wobble and use blinkers. It took some time to find the right comfort settings but, when I did, the game ws even more playable than before.

You can also choose whether to use a weapon select ring, controlled by the left hand controller, or to use the fully immersive experience – which, to my mind, is a whole lot more fun. The fully immersive weapon system sees your pistol on your right hip, ammo on the left, a knife strapped to the left chest and grenades on the right. Reach up over your right shoulder and you can whip out your two handed weapon like the shotgun or SMG. Reloading is also done manually so that, for instance, to relaod your pistol, you grab a magazine from the pouch on your left hip and slip it up into the pistol, or grab shotgun shells and slide them into the chamber. You may feel a bit daft the first few times you do it but, once it becomes second-nature, it is just a hell of a lot of fun and helps makes the immersion all the more “realistic”. I did find the loading of the shotgun and rifle a little tricky at first (especially when under pressure) but, once you are used to it, it all works fine.

I don’t know about anyone else, but inventory management in RE has always been a satisfying (if sometimes frustrating) experience and the VR version is even better. Everything can be done using the hand controllers, whether moving items around to make more space, combining herbs, or changing equipped weapons and it all quickly becomes second nature. Healing Leon is just a case of grabbing a herb, first aid spray, an egg or a dead fish and dropping it on the image of yourself on screen. Everything else, maps, treasures, documents and key items and be accessed from this menu and it just works effortlessly.

But how does it play?

Like a dream. Well, a very bad dream where everyone and everything is trying to kill you.

The immersion works really well and you will find yourself jumping from time to time and getting spooked as you hear sounds behind you or from things you can’t quite see. I don’t remember RE4 as being the most scary of the RE games but, a few hours in, I have jumped a few times and things can get quite stressful when surounded by zombies. The first instance of a zombie reaching out and grabbing me had ducking and crying out enough to make me miss the real-time event that cropped up and which could have saved my life. Lesson learned!

(Oh and I know they are technically not Zombies but, hey…?)

Quick time events, like the cut scenes, play out in 2D and will also take you out of the action a little, but they are all fairly easy to manage and you will soon get used to them as well.

I have started to find that the VR version controls better than the old Gamecube version I remember in some places. I have memories of fighting the Del Lago on the lake as a tedious chore of trial and error on the Gamecube but, in VR it was much easier to control and surpisingly devoid of motion sickness when I played it.

The graphics are some of the best I have seen on the Oculus and, while that is a fairly limited sample at the moment, I have had no complaints with the visuals in RE4 and very few glitches – the worst being when I screwed up the boundary settings in the Oculus itself so it looked like I was playing as a 2ft tall child – but that has nothing to do with the game!

Soundwise, it is as good as it can be through the in-built speakers but, again, the sound is very immersive and, if you are playing in a quiet environment, it is very atmospheric. It can sometimes not be clear where a grumble or sound is coming from locstion-wise but, in many respects, this just adds to the stress and terror as you fight to survive.

As I said at the start, I am part-way through, so can only comment on how I have found things so far, but there is nothing I have come across to date that would suggest this wasn’t £30 well-spent and I am going to enjoy working my way through the rest of the game. I rarely replay games as I just don’t have the time, but for RE4VR I might make an exception.

I have seen a few low and even 1-star reviews for RE4 but, on further examination, many of these seem to be from people who are upset that there are some parts of the game that have been updated for “modern audiences.” In RE4’s case, this means that they have removed some sexist language and the player doesn’t get a reaction from trying to look up Ashleigh’s skirt in this updated version. It has been so long since I played, I can’t remember what sexist language was in the original version of the game and I certainly didn realise you could even try to look up Ashleigh’s skirt!.

This doesn’t feel like a hill worth dying on to me and, for the majority, I suspect it won’t spoil their enjoyment of the game at all. If the game is spoiled for you because you miss sexist language or looking up women’s skirts then just move on and feel free to keep your opinions to yourself.

To each their own.

From my perspective, RE4VR is an incredible port of an old favourite that absolutely has a new lease of life in VR. It is immersive, intuitive, replayable and definitely worth your money in the Oculus store!

GNoH Review: The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction (2021)

The first ever Year’s Best African speculative fiction anthology with works from some of the most exciting voices, new and old, published in the 2020 year.

YBASF is an eclectic mix of stories from a group of talented and varied writers that will transport you to a world at once familiar but, at the same time, wonderful and new. With so many tales there are going to be some that won’t land for you, but that is to be expected. The YBASF will intrigue and delight any lover of short fiction and I would recommend it.

Available to buy on Amazon

Read the full review on Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE

GNoH Review: Band Candy (2021)

On Halloween night in New Salem, Radio DJs Chilly Billy (Corey Taylor) and Paul (Zach Galligan) tell a twisted anthology of terrifying local myths that lead to a grim end for small-town residents (IMDB)

Weeeeelll, it’s okay. While it is fun in places and suitably anthologyist (yes, I have just made up a word) it didn’t really bring anything new to the game. It has a nice set up and framing device in Paul and Chilly Billy, but I don’t think it capitalised on them as much as it could/should have done.

See the full review at Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE

Quick Reviews: My Heart is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones (2021)

Jade Daniels is an outcast – half-Indian, with an abusive father, and absent mother – in Proofrock, a town that wants nothing to do with her. Now, one class away from dropping out of school, she is pouring her life and soul into her last assignment – a personal history of horror films.

Jade Daniels loves a slasher and she loves to talk about them.

It is just a shame no one wants to listen. If they did, then they might understand the signs that Jade is seeing, share her fear of the horrors that are mounting and realise that their little town is in big danger.

Stephen Graham Jones loves a slasher and he loves to write about them.

It would be a shame if you don’t read this book.

My Heart is a Chainsaw is a glorious loveletter to the slasher film and Jones’s love of the genre burns on every page. It is also a cleverly plotted mystery that should keep you guessin until the very end. Who is the mysterious slasher terrorising the town? Will the Final Girl be able to stop them?

Jones has written an amazing book and I can’t recommend it enough. You think you know what it is when you look at the cover and at the blurb on the back, but he takes you on a guided tour of slashers and of Proofrock while fooling you at every corner until he drags you kicking and screaming to one of the best endings I have read in a long time.

GNoH Review: Brand New Dark, Beau Johnson (2021)

Bishop Rider Lives! And for a dead man, he’s been busy. His story and the parts of it yet to be told being what populates Brand New Dark. Unseen moments pulled from between the pages of A Better Kind of Hate, The Big Machine Eats, and All of Them to Burn. Twenty-five new tales that bridge what came before and expand upon what can only come after.

The retribution is brutal and your imagination will play games with you as you read, but he doesn’t linger or revel in the violence and it never feels gratuitous. That said, it is still unpleasant, so do proceed with caution if you are easily triggered by these subjects.

Available to buy on Amazon

Read the Full Review on Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE

GNoH Review: The Cove (2021)

In the near future, a pandemic has ravaged the earth. Fear, greed, and destruction have made way for such terrors as famine, pirates, and zombies. CAIRO YAZID’s, only chance for survival is to join forces with a curmudgeon, SOLOMON, also still untouched by the fatal virus, as he is the only one who knows the secret location of the safe place known simply as THE COVE.

This is a low-budget film and it wears its origins on its sleeves. However, I think it has wrung every dollar out of that budget and it is a good-looking, well-shot indie.

Read the full review on Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE

GNoH Review: GAIA (2021)

An injured forest ranger on a routine mission is saved by two off-the-grid survivalists. What is initially a welcome rescue grows more suspicious as the son and his renegade father reveal a cultish devotion to the forest. When their cabin is attacked by a strange being it’s clear there is a far greater threat in this unrelenting wilderness.

“If you are looking for blod and guts, you have come to the wrong place. GAIA is not for everyone but, if you enjoy slow buring, ecological horror, the I woudl recommend a viewing.”


See the full review at Ginger Nuts of Horror HERE

GNoH REVIEW: Upmorchard, R. Ostermeier (2021)

Strictly limited to one hundred copies, and never to be reprinted as a standalone volume, Upmorchard revisits the peninsula’s past for the tale of Watts Barlik – Barley – who is drawn to an abandoned fishing hamlet and the stone artefact housed there.

Buy from Broodcomb press HERE

“You belong to me until morning.”
​Brooding, mysterious words, most apt for a brooding and mysterious tale set in the remote corners of the South West Peninsula.

Read the full review at Ginger Nuts of Horror.