With Halloween just around the corner, we're starting to see an influx of cheesy horror films starring good looking teenagers doing everything they can to make it to the end credits. From The Final Destination to Halloween II to Saw VI, there's no shortage of brainless horror films stinking up your local multiplex. But what if you don't want deal with sky high ticket prices and all of those kids texting during the movie? Playlogic Entertainment hopes that you'll spend the night playing Obscure: The Aftermath for the Sony PSP.
This survival horror sequel picks up two years after the events of the first game. Instead of simply playing one or two characters, the game has a unique narrative that switches from one dumb teenager to another, often teaming them up in pairs. Early on you'll meet Kenny, a jock with big muscles that allows him to move heavy objects around the room. And then there's Mei, a nerdy girl gamer with a big brain that allows her to hack into all kinds of computers and security panels. And let's not forget the half-naked Amy, who will make all of the boys drool with her big, um, deductive skills.
In total there are six playable characters, each with their own stories and skills. It's obvious from the get-go that the levels are designed around each player's set of skills. When you're investigating the spooky frat house you'll see computers you'll have to hack in order to open certain rooms, so clearly you're going to meet up with Mei in the near future. And that puzzle that requires you to move book shelves, obviously you'll need Kenny for this job. Everybody has a job and the level is going to remind you of that.
You play the game in pairs, so you'll always have somebody next to you helping you out. This means that in order to get the most out of the levels you will need to both characters, which is as easy as pushing the switch button. But there's no reason you need to play this game by yourself because Obscure: The Aftermath uses the ad hoc WiFi to support two-player thrills. Unfortunately I was unable to test this mode out in the preview build; however the idea of allowing a friend to jump in at any time does excite me.
The preview build allow me to explore several different locations, each dripping in spooky atmosphere. Early on you are exploring schools and frat houses, but soon enough you're making your way through a deadly nature trail and making your way to the local hospital. The story early on offers a lot of horror clichés, such as the frightened girl all alone in the house and the all-too-familiar creepy scientist. But cliches be damned, I'm actually kind of interested to see where this story takes these annoying school kids.
In case you didn't already know, Obscure: The Aftermath is a long-overdue port of a console game. First appearing on the Wii and PlayStation 2 back in March of 2008, this portable version is more than a year late. Sadly I did not have a chance to play the original console versions, however the online reviews were a little chilly. Although this is fundamentally the same game that came out last year, the developers have gone back and tweaked the game for the portable market. They've also added a few bonus features, a way to access the gorgeous music and some multiplayer support. What I played of the preview build was fun, however it is far too early for me to make a final judgment about the game.
This game looks remarkably close to the Wii and PlayStation 2 versions, no small feat for a PSP game. The backgrounds are highly detailed and there is a surprising amount of attention put into each of the game's linear environments. I was also blown away by the game's audio, which mixes some rock tunes in with some moody classical. The incidental music feels like it comes straight out of The Final Destination, it fits the character's personalities and early on it adds a lot to the feel of the game.
One thing I noticed about the preview build is that the audio doesn't always feel like it's in sync with the visuals. There are times when your teammate will be yelling at you to shoot a bad guy who has already been killed. In one unintentionally hilarious scene Amy suggests that "we find the car" while standing mere inches away from the car. I would like to believe that these bits of stray dialogue is there to make these characters look as stupid as the ones in Friday the 13th, but I have a hunch it's because the audio isn't keeping up with the action on screen.
The big question is whether the game is scary or not. In the short amount of time I put into the preview build, I can tell you that the game gets the atmosphere right. I won't go as far as to say it's frightening, but it's not like there's a lot to compare it to on the PSP. It's also worth noting that many of the characters were annoying stereotypes, which is no different from the cheesy horror films this game is riffing on.
PSP owners who already battled their way through Silent Hill Origins and can't wait for the upcoming Resident Evil game will likely find that Obscure: The Aftermath is offers enough thrills to keep them busy. Whether that's enough to make for a solid portable game is still yet to be seen, but I'm impressed by what I've seen of Obscure: The Aftermath.