"Obscure 2: The Aftermath" is a mixture of a Survival-Horror game and a Teen-Slasher movie.

User Rating: 7.5 | Obscure II PC
The Survival-Horror genre is, unfortunately, not a very popular genre. Sure, some of the genre's classic games are considered a must-play by any self-respecting gamer, but lately it seems that the "horror" element is slowly being mutated into "action". Many franchises, like the "Resident Evil" series, have already taken the easy way out, neglecting the core aspects of Survival Horror, and switching over to the (less) dark side off Action-Adventure. "Obscure: The Aftermath" doesn't escape this ill-fate completely, but manages to keep an unstable balance between the two.

The game takes place two years after the events of the first game, in Fallcreek University. A popular new drug extracted for a strange flower that grows around campus is turning students into mutated monsters, and it's up to a few survivors to escape the university grounds and prevent the infection's spread. Throughout the game, the player will take control of 8 different characters (Shannon, Kenny, Stan, Corey, Amy, Mei, Jun and Sven), each with a unique look and ability.

Anyone who played the original "Obscure" will know what to expect, since the core gameplay stayed precisely the same. The player can take control of only two characters at a time, and switch between them at a push of a button. There is a co-op mode that allows a second player to play as the additional character instead of the A.I.; the lack of split-screen can make the co-op difficult to pull off, because the camera tends to focus on the first player, leaving the second player to struggle trying to keep up. Most of the time the game will decide which two characters are available for each scenario, but there will be times where this choice is left for the player.

The atmosphere is also preserved from the first game, giving the feeling of playing a teen-slasher movie, a really good teen-slasher. The characters all act like you'd expect them to (like annoying college kids), the settings are perfect for the genre and the dialog is straight out of a Hollywood summer movie. Subjects like drugs and sex are frequent conversation topics, and the humor is so low you can't help but laugh.
Few things that can damage the all "horror" atmosphere are the cheap scares the game tends to throw at the player from time to time, like monsters crashing through walls or windows. There are some truly scary and disturbing moments, but the majority of them are cheap frights, trying to keep the players on their tows.

Although the story is a bit obscure at first, it offers tons of twists and turns that help the whole experience stay fresh and interesting. With so many characters around, and so many locations, "Obscure: The Aftermath" is a shining example for good game and level design. At no point throughout the entire game will anything feel out of place. Dialog may be a bit juvenile, but it fits well into the teen-slasher shtick.

One major add-on is the mini-games. Instead of just clicking a button to use a special ability, it is now necessary to complete a mini game in order to execute the ability successfully. For example, Mei's ability to hack electric locks triggers a mini game where you need to use given letters to form the name of a famous historical figure. Other times Amy's ability to decipher codes requires you to complete a jigsaw puzzle of sorts.
No Survival Horror game is complete without puzzles, and "Obscure: The Aftermath" has lots of them. Most of the puzzles are classic, like pushing boxes and bookcases around, while others are a bit more sophisticated. None of the puzzles are too hard to figure out, and can probably be solved in two to three tries. The mini games themselves can be considered as puzzles, since they require more thinking and planning.

Another thing that is different is the fact that this time, the game won't continue if one of the teenagers dies. In the previous game is was possible to finish the game with only one character left, but this time around, every character is necessary to finish the game. Every time a character dies, the game will backtrack to the last saving point (assuming you saved the game recently).

Saving the game can be done in saving points scattered throughout the game, in the shape of a big flower. Once used, though, the flower will vanish and you'll have to find another save point to save the game again. This makes the game a bit more difficult since it forces you to think hard before saving. It can be really annoying to save the game, only to realize you need a different character in order to overcome the next obstacle (and backtrack to the nearest gathering point, where the other characters are waiting).

As in other Survival Horror titles, the combat in "Obscure: The Aftermath" suffers from a severe case of simplicity. There is nothing challenging in the combat mechanics, and more times than none, combat feels like a chore. When in "combat mode" (holding down the right mouse button) the camera shifts behind the character, an action that also activates the automatic aim. A little blue circle indicates the current enemy your character is aiming at (making the combat even less challenging). Speaking of the camera, the game suffers from the syndrome known as fixed camera angles. Sometimes the player can actually control the movement of the camera with the mouse, but even so it is hard to make it go where the action is, or even look around, causing endless backtracking and puzzlement, just because a key item was out of the camera's sight. Using the "combat mode" to navigate around becomes a necessity fairly quick.

The combat is even easier given the fact that ammo and health items are abundant at most places. It seems that the game developers decided to put mountains of helpful items at certain areas, and completely neglect other areas altogether. This makes the difficulty curve jump up and down like a sugar-high child.

And now on to the graphics; this whole section can be summarized by one word: ugly. Since "Obscure: The Aftermath" has a PS2 and a Wii versions as well, the graphics are dated and bland; even cut scenes look bad. It's a shame that the PC has to suffer from lacking graphics because of the other versions. Characters models, although different from one another, are ugly and under-detailed. The faces can seem expressionless at times, and even when trying to convey emotions, they just cramp up, winding out looking silly and generally unbelievable. The one good aspect of the graphics are the backgrounds; every scenario has its own environment, and they all look decent and some are even creepy enough to keep the player alert and ready to fight off some monsters.

The sound is good for the most part. Sound effects are good: monsters groan and scream, gun fire is believable, and the background noises are unnerving. The soundtrack and music is probably the best I've heard in months, with great orchestral pieces that shifts into pop-punk in a heart beat. Both styles help to preserve the atmosphere and feel of the game, with the orchestral pieces for the combat/creepy segments and the pop-punk for the story related and lighter parts. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the voice acting. While some characters (Shannon and Sven, for example) are well dubbed and their dialog is well suited for their characters, the other characters come off as childish, annoying little babies. It's hard to pin-point the exact flaw; maybe it's the high pitched voices, or the whinny dialog, but most of the characters are unlikable, because of the poor voice work.

"Obscure: The Aftermath" is a good Survival Horror game, with a few flaws and a few brilliant moments. Fans of the genre, and the original game, will have a good time playing this game, and reminisce on the good old days, when horror was horror and silly, unclear dialog was a must in every self-respecting title. Bottom-line, "Obscure: The Aftermath" is more of the same; a sequel that preserves the original experience, without compromising gameplay or atmosphere.
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