Archive for April, 2010

Haunting Ground review

Let me start off by saying that Haunting Ground is proof that the failed formula application in Clock Tower 3 can actually be molded to fit into a fun game.

Haunting Ground (for PS2) was made by Capcom after CT3 was already on the market. As you may have guessed, there are a few Resident Evil-esque elements that make an appearance in the game (absurd puzzles, sound effects, etc.), but not an overwhelming amount.

You play as Fiona, a young blonde who stumbles, screams, and faints quite a bit, but honestly not too much that it’s to the point of being annoying. She can defend herself to an extent through kicking or pushing, and when at full stamina, this girl can RUN.

One of the biggest problems with CT3 was that enemies chased after you much too often, leaving barely any time for exploration or the completing of tasks. HG nicely fixes this problem, however only with half of the enemies, not all of them. There are five main enemies that come after you, and two of them seem to chase after you the right amount, two of them much too commonly, and the last enemy is not around for very long at all to factor into this equation.

This game is quite a bit scarier than CT3. The enemies are very well done, especially the second crazy antagonist, a robotic woman named Daniella, who was created imperfectly and is jealous of Fiona for being flesh and blood. She runs around laughing maniacally, and, quite frankly, her laugh is enough to make anyone’s hair stand on end. The story also adds to the fear factor well.

The voice acting, for once, is very well done! I was really impressed with ALL of the actors. This fact alone makes me want to boost my rating of the game. You just don’t see this kind of voice talent in the survival horror industry. Good job, Capcom!

Another great thing about HG is the addition of a partner for the protagonist, a dog named Hewie. Fiona befriends Hewie while stumbling through the creepy castle, and over time she is able to train him to attack enemies and help her solve puzzles. This makes the game more fun, and more worthy of its longer play time.

I would recommend this game to anyone who’s not easily freaked out, and doesn’t mind some frustration while having to stray from their quest from time to time to evade enemies. If you’re into the style of evading rather than fighting with weapons, HG is the title that does it best.

Check out Chris’s review of this game here.


Fatal Frame review

Keeping with the survival horror game review theme, I decided to play and review Fatal Frame for PS2 this weekend.

This game turned out to be a pleasant surprise. After becoming completely skeptical of game recommendations from Silent Hill fans (see: Clock Tower 3 review), I honestly was not expecting a lot from this one. I was glad to be proven wrong.

Fatal Frame took me about 4 and a half hours to complete. The story was interesting enough to keep me hooked. The protagonist, Miku, goes off to a mansion to search for her older brother, who recently disappeared during a trip there. Miku very quickly discovers that the mansion is haunted, and she has to help the trapped souls be set free.  This is where the combat comes in.

The combat system is what sets Fatal Frame apart from all other horror titles. Miku’s weapon is not a gun or a blunt object, but an antique camera. Careful timing of a photograph through a charged camera lens damages a ghost, and enough of these photographs defeats the ghost. Some ghosts are weaker and you battle them only once, while others are stronger and make multiple appearances, and therefore you battle them a few times. The ammo in the game is various types of film, some of which are more powerful than others. This system is unique and refreshing and provides quite enjoyable boss battles, however sometimes battle becomes tedious when there are too many fights in a row.

The Japanese atmosphere is also really enjoyable. I enjoyed the various cultural symbols, such as the Japanese instruments, dolls, etc.

The graphics in the game are impressive when it comes to scenery, but fall very short when it comes to character models. The people and ghosts are not at all realistic looking, which is somewhat disappointing.

The music and sound effects in the game are mostly well done, but the voice acting is (yet again) terrible. Miku, her brother, and the ghosts speak just about as agonizingly slowly as they walk, and the script lacks inflection, to the point of causing me to roll my eyes and groan while I waited for a character to finish a simple sentence.

The controls are workable, but there are a few flaws. While walking, Miku moves painfully slowly. The “run” mode is more of a slow jog. Also, there is a strange tendency for Miku to get briefly stuck on her surroundings as she moves past something, which is weird and frustrating. Whenever the camera angle changes, so does the direction that one needs to press the control stick to move forward. This can be extremely frustrating when coming out of a door, and Miku suddenly does an about face and begins walking out of the room again.

The puzzles in the game are fairly simple to complete, but they differ from the traditional Resident Evil style of puzzles, which is also a nice change.

Fatal Frame is definitely a one time play in my opinion, but its originality makes it stand out from the many other survival horror series out there today. The story may not be the best in the world, but the level design and combat system are not to be missed. I look forward to trying the other Fatal Frame games, and hope that they have fixed some of the original’s problems.

Be sure to check out Chris’s review of this game!

Sega Saturn’s D review

I was inspired by Chris’s Survival Horror Quest, and the whole idea of playing a ton of survival horror games and then posting reviews of them. While I’m not going to be able to play nearly as many as he has (time and money constraints), I like the idea of continuing with my recent theme of reviewing games from a specific genre.

Today I’d like to talk about the game D for Sega Saturn, which was released in 1996. Note the year. 1996 is the year that introduced us to the original Resident Evil on the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. That in mind, I will begin my review of this game.

D‘s storyline takes place in real time, which allows you only two hours to complete the game. Having finished the game in just over one hour, I couldn’t tell you what happens if you fail to satisfy that, other than it’s a Game Over.

What I immediately noticed upon beginning the game was the control scheme. When trying to move the protagonist, Laura, you must first angle her in the direction you want to go, and then press forward on the control pad. Laura will walk a set number of steps in that direction, and then stop again. This sort of movement takes a while to get used to, and it can be frustrating at certain times when the angle doesn’t seem quite right to move you where you want to go. I found myself surprised at certain points when I’d move in a direction that seemed off, but it took me to the place I needed to go. Once you get used to it, though, you can enjoy the scenery and the story line.

The point of the game is to help Laura navigate through a hospital to save her father, who is slowly turning into a vampire. This is where the time limit comes in. Throughout the game Laura receives visions of her father warning her to turn back, or the door to her world will be forever closed off. Unfortunately, because of how dated this game is, these prehistoric cutscenes are no more than comical today. That being said, the graphics are actually quite impressive for its time. The game includes two discs, which proves how the graphics pushed the Saturn’s limits. It is much more visually appealing than the original Resident Evil.

There are a few simple puzzles throughout the game. The control scheme makes some of them much more frustrating than necessary, but the puzzles themselves fit the game well.

My favorite part of this game was the short interactive fight with a knight that required a button-press combination. This is the oldest example of a button-press combo I’ve ever seen, and I really enjoyed it. I only wish there were more of them in the game.

The game is ultimately too short. I would’ve enjoyed it much more had it been twice as long, with a bigger hospital to explore and more puzzles to solve. Still, D‘s storyline and imagery are good enough to make me want to play it over again, and its short length gives me confidence that it’s a game I could end up revisiting a few times in the future. The over-all depth of the game is not impressive at all considering that RE was already out at this time, but when looking for a simple, fun game to kill (a small part of) an afternoon with, D is great for that.

I’d recommend this game over Clock Tower 3 any day!

Check out Chris’s review of D here.

Clock Tower 3 Review Part 2

Instead of a health bar, Alyssa has a panic bar, which rises and falls depending on her situation, and how afraid she becomes by her surroundings. The sight of a subordinate is enough to rise the panic bar a bit, and getting swung at raises the bar considerably. Alyssa becomes harder to control as her panic bar rises, and when it is at its maximum, the bar turns red and the word “PANIC!” appears above it. At this point, the music in the game gets more intense, and Alyssa fumbles around like an idiot. This is extremely annoying to deal with, given how clumsy Alyssa already is when she’s calm. Alyssa may even freeze in place, quivering with fear for a few seconds, leaving the player unable to evade a subordinate’s attacks. A hit while in panic mode can be fatal, whereas a few hits while not fully panicked can leave Alyssa feeling fine. I feel that the panic system just makes Alyssa all the more frustrating to control, and seem like an even more pathetic protagonist.

The panic bar is replaced by a health bar during boss battles, which is nice. Boss battles overall, however, are almost as tedious as the rest of the game. They occur at the end of every chapter of the game, and Alyssa faces off with whatever subordinate has been stalking her. After watching a ridiculously campy cutscene (which reminds me a lot of a Japanese anime or two) of Alyssa receiving the “special arrows,” the player must run Alyssa around the arena, evading the subordinate’s attacks, until a proper time to fire an arrow occurs. The battle continues, and the player is forced to repeat the same tactics over and over again until the subordinate’s  health bar drains, making for a rather un-enjoyable fight.

The soundtrack of the game is no less dull than any of its other components. The characters are all British, so while the dialogue may be bland and over exaggerated, it is at least comical to listen to at times. The voice acting is unimpressive. IGN raved about Sledgehammer(the first subordinate)’s voice actor, but I found him to sound a lot like Otto from The Simpsons…very un-scary. Subordinates also utter the same phrases such as, “Alyssa…where are you?” over and over again, which works on your nerves after being stalked for a couple of minutes.

This game will make you jump at times, but overall it’s not that scary. The spirits of the victims of the subordinates are entirely unthreatening, and look comical when they are released from guarding their body (after you reunite them with whatever item it is that they’ve lost). The story is definitely interesting, and is the sole reason I wanted to keep playing, but the execution of the events leading up to finding out more details is really disappointing. I found myself laughing or groaning way too many times when I should’ve been jumping or considering the game’s few puzzles (which are uncomplicated and more ridiculous than those in other horror series).

If you can deal with tedious gameplay and are interested in the idea of evading enemies most of the time rather than fighting them, I’d give this game a rental at most. If you just want to learn the full story, I’d suggest watching a playthrough on YouTube or reading a full synopsis online.

Here are two more honest reviews of this game. While they’re both nicer than mine, they do touch on some of the same problems I’ve discussed.
Chris’s Survival Horror Quest

Clock Tower 3 Review

Clock Tower 3: Survival horror at its worst?

Clock Tower 3 cover

Warning: This review contains plot synopsis and therefore spoilers.

Years ago, in 2003, Capcom decided to publish a title in a survival horror series that was different from Resident Evil. While they achieved that, the end result of the third installment in the series, Clock Tower 3, is a game that feels like it was created years before it actually was.

The story of the game follows a 14-year-old girl named Alyssa(which sounds just a BIT like “Alessa,” the antagonist from the Silent Hill series, to me), whose ordinary school girl life has just been interrupted by a letter from her mother (who mysteriously vanished) warning her to go into hiding before her 15th birthday. Alyssa finds out later in the game that her family are “Rooders,” which are people responsible for setting free the trapped souls of victims of serial killers, or, as the game refers to them, subordinates. Alyssa has to face off with six of these subordinates and the spirits of a few of their victims throughout her last day as a 14 year old.

This game gets a lot of praise for its cutscenes. I suppose at the time of the game’s release, they were quite impressive. However, today they feel very dated, considering, for example, the protagonist, Alyssa, is always rendered wearing her default outfit (a school uniform) even if the player had selected a different one. Having played games of today in which cutscene elements can now take place during gameplay, this style of game cinematics feels extremely dull.

Though I feel much of GameSpot’s review of this game is too nice, I do agree with the overall point that they make: “Clock Tower 3‘s movie portions are stronger than the gameplay that underpins them, and the result is a game that you’ll probably want to finish more for its storyline than for the fun you’ll have actually playing it.”

The review adds that the gameplay gets “maddeningly frustrating” at times. I agree fully. Instead of combat, the object of this game is to evade the subordinates, and hide from them. Alyssa’s only defense (while not in a boss battle) is a bottle of Holy Water, which halts an enemy temporarily when used. The gameplay becomes very tedious because of this system. The bottle of Holy Water must constantly be refilled after a certain number of uses, and the subordinates chase after you entirely too much, making exploration impossible throughout much of the game.

I’ve got plenty more to rant about Clock Tower 3; be sure to check back for my next post, which will continue the review.