Format: PS2/PC/XBox (tested)
Genre: Survival Horror
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 2004 (UK)
Welcome to the game that influenced my nightmares as a teenager but despite waking up almost nightly drenched in sweat over grotesque mutants from my dreams, I couldn't put down this underdog of a game. Its a combination of Silent hill and the The Faculty (a Robert Rodriguez film), where five stereotypical teenagers are forced to survive the horrors that stalk the school grounds.
Setting the introduction: the school bells rings amongst a background of chattering, whilst the screen remains black then Sum 41's "Still Waiting" starts and we are introduced to the dark decorum of Leafmore high school and its rather stereotypical characters. You have Kenny (the Jock), Stan (the stoner), Josh (the nerd), Shannon (the goodie-girl) and Ashley (the, snotty cheerleader). Is it me or does Stan resemble Josh Hartnett? Yes, the voice acting is cringy- like nails to a chalk board or cutlery to a plate, so be prepared to suck in your cheeks and savour some of the most cheesiest lines delivered! (Make that a cheek-tingling vintage cheddar by today's standards).
Each of these characters are playable and come with their own special skills, which will (or will not) assist you in the game, depending on the player themselves.
Kenny: has the ability to sprint in short bursts, Josh: can tell if anything is left in the area that you're currently in, Stan: will pick locks quicker, Shannon: provides clues on what to do next and Ashley: deals more damage with most of the weapons. Personally, although its an added bonus that they all hone a special skill- I don't think that they further help with completing the game.
The controls run smoothly and is ideal for the later parts of the game where you have to guide yourself through cluttered areas and tight spots. Characters move with ease using the left analog stick, whilst you can scroll through your inventory and combine weapons to certain items during gameplay without having to pause and do it all on a menu screen.
One of the games' best features is that it doesn't restrict you to play just the one character, one stage at a time. Throughout the game, it gives you the option to switch between protagonists with the added bonus of selecting another character, which is inhabited by the computer, to follow you around. This is handy, as at times there will be certain situations and puzzles that require more than the one individual. Having this option, also utilises the multi-player mode. So, if you have a friend over, load up a port and play together. The multi-player doesn't fall completely on its face, (depending on who you play with) but the downside is the camera as it only follows player 1 and god forbid if they separate, player 2 can be easily killed off. So its best to have a good communicator aside you.
The game deals in a lot of free roaming exploration and jump scares, although at times, its lacking. It feels like you can be running aimlessly around with a few mutants popping out now and again, who are non-threatening and easily avoidable. Don't get me wrong, they are gruesome and terrifying in appearance, matching their gut-wrenching snarls however seemed to be clustered in together for a few exciting bursts here and there, letting the exploration side of things be drawn out.
Surroundings are stylistically sinister, with only the stagnation of the numerous classrooms that you explore heavily. Once, you progress, things take a more organic underlying for the worse, where several areas have become rusted and downtrodden beneath ageing and the obscure. (Ha, you see what I did there!?)
Verdict:- Overall it is a good game and can be completed in a matter of hours, depending on your experience of survival horrors.
It's not a blatant rip-off of games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill but has seemingly taken the elements of what made those games successful and created this little treasure. So, if you are new to survival horrors or just can't hack RE, then I suggest this game. The puzzles aren't too difficult, the controls are simplistic and easy to adjust to and the musical score blends well with the very eery atmosphere.
By today's standards some may think its lacking, in comparison to some of the more polished and well- structured games out on the market, however, it's still a game that can very much hold it's own against new releases- making Obscure, a gem for the consoles.
Second Opinion:- Transbot has much love for this game as although it was a game competing in a market of Silent Hill's and Resident Evil's this brought a few cool things to the table.
The Two player feature although a bit iffy is a stroke of genius and shows Fable 2 how it should be done but it's the differences in characters and the amazing opening sequence of gameplay with a fantastic moment of real shock that will let you know you are in for a real treat.
It may not be the best looking or longest game of it's type however it does have a superbly compelling story, fans of Buffy or Supernatural TV Shows etc will love this for sure.
This is one robot who loves this unique and pardon the pun Obscure video game, grab this NOW!
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10