It's a flawed game, but goes to a realm which games have very rarely explored, and changes up the survival gaming genre.
You play Keith Helm, a journalist heading toward his new job on Stiver Island, a manmade island out in some bay off the coast of Japan. On his way toward the centre of the city, however, the entire island is rocked by an earthquake originating from the island itself. Upon waking up, Keith must do his best to navigate the crippled city in an attempt to survive and be rescued.
Gameplay is centered around the old-school styled survival-horror games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, without all the zombies and bizarre creatures trying to take a bite out of you. Instead of fending off mutant creatures, you spend your time solving puzzles to go about navigating the destroyed landscape of Capital City. You encounter several other survivors along your journey, and you are charged with taking care of them. The main difficulty in your survival comes from the constant demand of water. You must consistently drink water to maintain your hydration meter - if you get too thirsty, you lose mobility, making you more prone to being squashed by falling debris or buildings during the constant aftershocks that rock the city. When those quakes do shake the city, your only essential defense is good ol' fashioned duck and cover; fail to duck, and you're likely to get covered in rubble.
There are two modes of story to play, following one of two survivors throughout the city. You're free to follow Karen Morris to search for her puppy that she got separated from, or to aid Kelly Austin in finding her younger brother Jason, who got lost during the chaos of the quake. Karen seems a bit maniacal about finding her puppy, so Kelly seems to be the more sane option; however, both sides of the story offer a unique perspective on events, and different puzzles to solve, as well as different areas of the dilapidated island to navigate.
There is hardly any music in the game, leaving you to the lonely trotting of the characters footsteps. Some of the sound is a bit shoddy, reflecting the meagerness of the game's development. However, when the quakes begin to rock the island, the sound brings everything to life; the sounds of twisting, turning metal, horrific pounds, and earth shaking rumbles really brings a lot of immersion to the game. Most of the dialogue between characters has voice over, and while it's not always the best acting you'll ever encounter, most is presented with a sense of authenticity and believability.
It's not the best game. That much should be said from the start. It has major imperfections, between the visuals and quaint voice-acting. However, Disaster Report offers a unique blend of survival gaming that no other game has really ever matched. The story isn't the most fantastic, and gets a little silly at times (and excessively melodramatic near the end). Yet it remains solid, and enjoyable the whole way through; there is enough differentiation in the gameplay to keep players intrigued, and the ability to collect novelty compasses strewn about the city, and the challenge of unlocking all the different endings, the game boasts a slight replay value. The two difficulties offered are normal and hard - the only difference being that hard cuts your hydration bar by half, making things more cumbersome than difficult; on normal mode, your character is a camel in the Sahara, while on hard, Keith dehydrates faster than someone who just downed an entire salt shaker.
Again, it's by no means perfect. But that certainly doesn't lower the intrigue in this hidden little gem. In this day and age of commercialism in the gaming industry, games that try to go against the grain are rare. Disaster Report is one of those rarities. Are such inventive, unique games always major successes? No, and Disaster Report is an example of such a game. But such experimentation with gaming should definitely be hailed. Thus, Disaster Report - though quaint - remains a fun, intriguing game that's worth a playthru or two by those dedicated PS2 users that remain fixated to their slowly outdated console.