• Add Review
  • Subscribe
  • Nominate
  • Submit Media
  • RSS

Strong atmosphere combined with off the wall humor

  • Silviera
  • 11/03/2009 08:52 PM
Battle System- 1/5
Easily the weakest part of the game, so I'll tell you the good news up front. First off, battles are quite infrequent. In fact it will probably be an hour or so into the game before you ever come across your first fight. Additionally, included in the game's help file is an easy to activate method to turn battle cheats on. These allow you to alter your stats as you see fit or skip battles on a case by case basis. Assuming you hated the battles as much as I did taking advantage of this will make the game infinitely more enjoyable.

Now on to why battles are so painful you'll probably want to resort to cheating. The main problem stems from how stats are upgraded. Rather than gaining experience through combat you'll be able to upgrade your abilities by examining paintings, bookcases, and sinks. It is a very strange setup and the game gives absolutely no explanation for why these very specific objects upgrade your stats, but considering this is somewhat of a survival horror experience focused on exploration the idea itself fits well enough. The problem, however, is that the game expects you to find a good 90-100% of the upgrades to stand any chance in combat. You have a very limited window in which to uncover each upgrade before it becomes lost forever, so it's very possible to get yourself into an unwinnable situation if you aren't diligent in your exploration. The worst part is that if you or any of your allies drop to 0 hp you are instantly given a game over, even though you have no influence over the stat growth of your allies.

Lastly, although battles are generally infrequent, the game does have a few areas with random encounters. The encounter rate in these areas is insanely high, you'll be getting into a battle every 20-30 steps without fail. Since there's no experience or currency to gain from these battles they tend to feel like a waste of time, and in fact actively discourage exploration.

Storyline- 4/5
Three friends find themselves lost in a rainy forest at night and come across a weird mansion in the middle of nowhere. They park their car and head inside to inquire about using a phone and maybe getting some directions out of the forest. Naturally, the mansion does not happen to be equipped with a phone. The owner kindly invites them to stay the evening so they take her up on the offer. It isn't long before everything goes completely crazy, and soon enough you'll find yourself wandering through nightmarish landscapes trying to piece together the mystery of the mansion before something big and scary rips your face off. The writing is very strong and the mansion holds enough secrets to easily keep your attention throughout the entire game. The game does take a bit of a genre shift towards the last arc, where it shifts from atmospheric horror to a sort of rise against the darkness. Considering how much of the game you spend running for your life it presents an extremely satisfying conclusion.

Despite the horrific setting, the game's writing also includes a healthy dose of well timed humor. It is present in various areas, but most often appears in the protagonist's dialogue and the books/paintings you can examine to boost your parameters. That the game does not always take itself seriously really adds to the experience, especially in some of the more relaxed areas of the game.

Characters- 4/5
Aside from the three friends mentioned above the cast consists of the mansion owner, her son, and a few surprises. The strongest member of the cast is clearly the protagonist, who seems to be just a normal girl. You are allowed to choose every bit of her dialogue and are usually given at least 3-4 options in every conversation. There are some normal responses, which sound natural enough but aren't particularly interesting. And then there are always one or two snarky comments present which are by far the most entertaining. These provide options to insult your friends, openly taunt the villains, and many other frequently humorous effects. I highly recommend exclusively choosing these comments, as they infuse the protagonist with a hilarious personality that contrasts with all the crazy events she is forced to endure. The two other friends are normal enough, though the mansion rapidly begins to corrupt them in interesting ways. As a final note the primary antagonist is both horrifying and powerful, which is pretty much perfect for this type of game. Your only instinct when they are shown on screen is to run like crazy.

Level Design- 4/5
A very strong aspect of the game. Each level is built in mind with a singular purpose, to create a strong atmosphere. You'll spend most of the game wandering through the twisting halls of the dark mansion, exploring for power ups and attempting to unravel various puzzles to unlock the next area. Dozens of small details designed to play with your mind combined with the rest of the game's aspects effectively create an extremely tense atmosphere. Most of the puzzles are quite creative, though a handful are on the difficult side, and some of them feel like cheap ways to extend playtime a few more minutes.

Towards the end of the game is an extremely short but nonetheless maddeningly annoying sequence in which the game's atmosphere is utterly shattered. Even it is over quickly it is so completely jarring and annoying you'll undoubtedly wish it had been removed entirely.

Graphics- 3/5
This game primarily uses the RTP and it is often surprising how well it is utilized for this genre. It has brought in a few extra graphics, mostly blood and gore to help spice up the atmosphere and make some of the more violent scenes that much more powerful. It does occasionally throw in a panorama graphic that feels completely out of place, but other than that graphics remain fairly solid. One thing of note here is that any painting in the game which provides a boost to your stats will also have a large picture appear on screen. These range from various works of art to strange and vaguely disturbing images (and at least one random anime poster).

Music/Sound- 4.5/5
Easily the strongest point of the game. The music and sound are really what make this game come together as a solid horror entry. The music instantly sets the mood and expertly maintains the atmosphere, while the sound effects serve as the main scare attempts and often serve to strengthen the background even further. This category is dragged down by two very specific occurrences. Firstly, the game employs a handful of screamers which really feel out of place and will likely annoy more than they scare. The other misfire is during the horrifying sequence I briefly described during the level design section earlier. Accompanying the worst level in the game is a song that will burst your eardrums and make your eyes bleed out of your nostrils.

Random stuff I like-
The game includes a handy help file which explains a number of the game's features. It also includes a full walkthrough in case you get stuck on any of the puzzles, and to top it all off includes an easy to activate cheat that lets you bypass the worst part of the game.

The credits. I will say no more.

Random stuff I hated-
Nothing I haven't mentioned twice already in this review.

Final Thoughts-
A unique blend of atmospheric horror and wacky humor. It only takes a few hours to run through and is an excellent choice if you enjoy horror games or are just looking for an interesting story.


Pages: 1
"The encounter rate in these areas is insanely high, you'll be getting into a battle every 20-30 steps without fail."

20-30 steps is considered insanely high these days? Every RPG from the PS1 days and earlier has more frequent encounters. Never check out Tales of Phantasia on the SNES, as I've seen Stark play it on YouTube, and not only are battles then every FIVE steps, but they're often against the same enemy group for almost an entire area.
Considering it takes roughly 10 seconds to take 20 steps I would call that insanely high, especially in a game that encourages you to walk around and check every bookcase and painting you come across. I'm not exactly sure what point you're trying to make with the Phantasia comparison, though having played it myself I know you are making a gross exaggeration. Just because some game creates an even more annoying encounter system doesn't automatically turn this one to gold.
Besides, Phantasia's battles actually provided some sort of bonus, in the form of EXP, Gald, etc.... So you didn't feel like wasting time. Meh, posting after more than one year and a half. But it's a review, so I guess it's OK tro praise the review, and especially, the game, eh?
I really liked a lot this game. I got stuck right after the first BAT battle. The rest of the battles wouldn't trigger... :I
And I was locked at the cave. I tried opening with the editor b ut I gave up. xD
I"ll try again tomoerrow. My, this game is nice. *_*
Really. <3
Pages: 1