Siren: Blood Curse's episodic structure also keeps things engaging. The game is divided into twelve TV-style episodes, and each comes complete with a quick recap at the beginning and a preview of the next episode at the end. Each episode, in turn, is divided into chapters. No single chapter is very long, so you're constantly jumping from one character to another and from one gameplay style to another. In one chapter you may be alone, armed, and able to handle yourself in a fight, while in the next you may have to escort another character to safety, or avoid contact with the enemy altogether. Stealth and escort missions are elements that could quickly drag a game down, but by constantly changing things up, Blood Curse keeps things moving at a steady clip.
The game also keeps you on a short leash. Objectives are always updated to tell you exactly what you're supposed to do next, and there's usually a handy icon on the map that tells you exactly where you need to go to do it. This doesn't mean that every objective in the game is an easy one, and in fact, there are some checkpoints you'll undoubtedly have to attempt multiple times before you succeed. But always knowing exactly what you're trying to accomplish--even if you're having trouble accomplishing it--keeps the game focused and free of aimless wandering. Although some chapters seem to end before they even begin, the constant shifting of characters and objectives will motivate you to keep playing just to see what the next episode brings.
What the next episode probably won't bring is a location you haven't seen before. Throughout Blood Curse, you see the same few locales over and over again. The locations themselves are fine, and some, like a town square that's been flooded with blood-red water, are especially memorable. But by the fifth time you have to pass through the same area, you'll start to wish that there were just a bit more to the village of Hanuda. This would be a really glaring issue in a full-price retail release, but it's somewhat easier to swallow when you consider the game's downloadable release and $40 price point. There just isn't quite enough to Blood Curse to warrant a full-fledged release, but it's a good fit for the PlayStation Network.
Technically speaking, the graphics aren't particularly impressive. There's an omnipresent fog, which means you're never able to see all that far ahead of you, and even the character models for the living, breathing humans have a lifeless, zombielike look to them. Also, while some animations, such as those that accompany the dealing of a severe blow to a shibito, are intense and satisfying, others are poor, like the way characters just plummet straight down when walking off an edge. The mood that the game's visuals create is what's most important, though, and in that regard, the presentation works. Everything about the village of Hanuda is grimy, decaying, and oppressive. There's a grainy, flickering quality to sightjacking that makes it seem as if you're tuning in to a weak, distant television station.
The sound design is outstanding. The voice acting by the main cast is very good throughout, without any sign of the hammy overacting that you so often hear in horror games. Adding to the suspense of the game's stealthy moments is the way a heartbeat sound effect pulsates when enemies are near, each beat accompanied by a vibration in the controller. The music is creepy, too, but it's the disturbing voices of the shibito that will really send shivers down your spine. Particularly chilling is the way the voices of any sightjacked shibito resonate--as if you're hearing them echo inside your own head.
Each of Blood Curse's 12 episodes will probably take you about 30 to 45 minutes to complete, so it isn't all that long of a game. However, those of you who really want to get to the bottom of the story will find some replay value in going back to find each of the game's 50 archive items, each of which sheds a bit of light on the village, the characters, or the events of the game. The surprisingly small number of locales, along with the short running time and the awkward controls, would doom a lesser game to failure. But Blood Curse, with its great use of the sightjacking mechanic, is an unusual game that finds an unusual, terrifying kind of success.