This survival horror game looks good and controls well but never manages to bring either the scares or the laughs it's aiming for.
- Excellent graphics
- Good soundtrack
- Controls well
- Fun Co-Op mode.
- Poor storyline
- Lousy voice-overs
- Problematic camera
- Overly aggressive companion AI.
Classic survival horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill were never noted for their outstanding combat or truly dynamic gameplay. Their power rested on the fear generated by the constant struggle to stay alive in a world where you're outnumbered and outgunned and being chased by things with way too many teeth and arms in all the wrong places. That's the bitter irony of Obscure: The Aftermath, a good PSP port of a Wii game that was itself a sequel to a marginally popular Resident Evil knockoff released back in 2004. Much about the game is a well-done throwback to those early survival horror days. Unfortunately, for all the game's virtues, it never manages to rise above a decent homage because it fails in the one area that those games excelled in: creating a sense of atmospheric dread and genuine scares.
The original Obscure followed the harrowing adventures of a group of high school students battling biological monstrosities and their own teachers as a deadly evil overtook a quiet suburban school. Obscure: The Aftermath picks up the story as a few of the survivors of the original game, now college students, must deal with a strange black flower spreading like kudzu all over their campus. Students are grinding the flower up and making tea out of it in order to get high. This naturally leads to all sorts of unpleasant things, and on the night of a big frat party, homicidal jocks, big lumpy meat monsters, and a fascinating collection of ugly Lovecraftian beasties are looking to chow down on your dysfunctional crew of erstwhile academics.
If you've ever played a survival horror game, you'll be right at home in Obscure: The Aftermath. You control one of six characters trying to survive, and you'll have an AI companion in tow. Sometimes you'll get to choose which characters to use; other times the pairing will be dictated by the storyline. In each case, movement and combat are relatively slow and straightforward: the right shoulder button is used to go into fighting mode, and the left is used to switch weapons and use items. It's a good, if not completely elegant, system and is certainly serviceable enough that you'll never feel like you're fighting the controls rather than the monsters. What really helps is that the inventory screens and combat controls have clearly been designed with the wide screen of the PSP and the positions of the unit's physical controls in mind.
The major problem with the game's combat is actually the AI companion. Because you'll never be fighting alone, decent companion AI would seem to be a must for this game. Unfortunately, the companions you get all seem to have a death wish, because they frequently go rushing in at the biggest monster and flail away in melee, often getting in the way of your own efforts to kill the thing and taking damage from unintended friendly fire. The camera doesn't help matters much, since it frequently picks really bad angles to view the action from. Fortunately, the camera is somewhat under your control via the directional pad--at least until the game itself unexpectedly wrests control out of your hands at what's often the worst time. It's not bad enough to ruin the game outright and can be overcome with some careful maneuvering on your part. It's just an annoyance the game could have avoided merely by using a static rather than a free-floating third-person camera and toning down your companion's bloodlust.
The good news is that there are two ways to overcome the poor companion AI. The first is by switching between the two currently active characters, a one-button option available at any time that works well. This option also plays a key role in using a character's special abilities. Each character has a different skill--such as being able to climb to high ledges, pushing heavy objects, or hacking electronics--that will need to be used to overcome the game's fairly simple but enjoyable puzzles. The only issue with this is that it is possible to run into annoying roadblocks when you select the wrong characters for a particular segment and are forced to backtrack to where the other four are hiding.
- Downloadable Game