Teen themed horror movies. Like them or not, they’ve pretty much dominated the genre ever since Wes Craven had his cloaked killer make his first obscene phone call to Drew Barrymore. Since then we’ve all been treated to fresh faced, all too perfect looking cast members from the WB’s hottest shows and elsewhere getting slashed and hacked; posters containing the ominous head collage of pretty stars; and of course, lightning quick editing making everything look, feel, and sound like a music video. Bubble gum chills have worn out their welcome as far as I am concerned.
There have been a few notable exceptions though. The smartly written Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the universe that it spawned come to mind. I am happy to say that DreamCatcher Games’ latest offering Obscure follows along in the same (pardon the pun) vein as Buffy with good characters, a nice dark script, and some pretty memorable beasties!
The story is as simple as it should be for this type of game: Several students embark upon a quest to find their friend, who mysteriously disappeared within the ominous hallways of Leafmore High School. The atmosphere is dark and deep and at times quite reminiscent of Silent Hill. The school’s architecture is strangely Gothic, and you can expect some really classic horror themes – long hallways, spiraling staircases, and some truly Lovecraftian inspired creatures. This is never a bad thing!
The gameplay is where this baby really shines though. In single player mode you can either take command of any other characters that you may come across, each with their own skill sets, or just tell them what to do at the press of a button. “Wait here! Come with me!” You know the drill by now as we’ve been treated to about as many squad based games as we have teen horror films lately. Either way the mechanic never feels clunky and works seamlessly. Two player co-op is a whole other story though. That’s when things get really cool. There’s nothing like grabbing a buddy and running down dark hallways brimming with monsters by flashlight. This just never gets old. I would have liked to have seen some online support to fully utilize this feature, but hey, you can’t have everything.
Budget games are usually a mixed bag in terms of quality, but the fine folks behind Obscure didn’t skimp at all. The cut scenes and character models in the game, while not exactly up to Resident Evil 4 type standards, are more than competent. Animations are smooth and realistic, and some really top-notch lighting effects do a lot to suck you into the game’s story. Shadows dancing on the walls, swinging shafts of light – it’s all here, and it all looks damned good.
Also working for the game is its sound design. Aside from incessant warbling from boy band rockers Sum 41, we’re treated to some solid composition. Nothing spectacular mind you but nothing to outright make you roll your eyes and damn the audio gods above.
All in all this is a solid package, and coming in at a more than reasonable price tag of $19.99, you’re not gonna do much better in terms of horror bang for your buck.
*Gives a PG-13 rated boob flash* What?! It worked for Neve Campbell! *sigh*
PlayStation 2, Xbox (reviewed), P.C.
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