Everyone knows about Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Both series have multiple entries and multiple movie adaptations. Those two are arguably the most popular video game franchises. Then there’s Dead Space, Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, Fatal Frame, and other survivor horror series that are revered by gamers. Ever since the genre’s been coined, we’ve seen a steady increase of survival horror games. Some of them are good (Silent Hill 2), and some of them are bad (∞). But there are some decent, if flawed, survivor horror games that continue to go overlooked. They may not be among the best, but each of the following has their own unique qualities.
It took 16 companies in 14 different countries to bring this title to fruition, but it stands as one of the most underrated games on the Wii. It’s a slow burn type of game, which may or may not turn some people off. It’s about a mountain climber who treks deep within the Himalayas to find his brother. Instead he finds an abandoned village filled with the angry spirits of former villagers and mountain climbers. So basically, you just go around exorcising ghosts while taking in the atmospheric Tibetan setting. There’s common ghost tropes like having to follow a spirit around corners, or having them appear in the background, conveniently out of site of the main character, however there are still several frightening moments found within the game. In general, the game plays very much like Fatal Frame, except gestures are used to combat the ghosts instead of a spirit camera. And because you had to use a Wii controller to make the gestures, it was sluggish as all hell; even the PC controls didn’t fare much better. However, if you still own a Wii, or a Wii-U, consider getting Cursed Mountain; it’s a fairly decent horror title.
Cold Fear takes place on a giant Russian Whaler, and you play a disgraced former soldier turned U.S. Coast Guard agent sent in to investigate why it stalled. The setting was definitely unique for its time. Navigating the whaler proved to be no cakewalk, what with the Russian language signs, the confusing layout, and the amount of backtracking that had to be done. And while Coast Guard Guy encountered some living, breathing humans, most of the crew onboard were infected with a parasite that turned them into mindless, aggressive creatures.
You had to fight them in claustrophobic hallways, and if you weren’t careful, you could easily become overwhelmed. As far as terror goes, the game used jump scares in the form of monsters popping out of chests and enemies jumping out while you were busy opening doors. Also it tried hard to imitate Resident 4, but the only thing it did better was allow the player to move and aim at the same time. The controls were very awkward, and the game had the nerve to implement a stamina bar. But it did have some cool things about it; it had some decent water effects and the violent waters acted as a formidable environmental hazard, especially when combined with frayed electrical wires. Even cooler is the flash of lightning that makes you see an enemy that isn’t really there. Cold Fear definitely focuses more on the action than on the scares, but aside from that and the rigid controls, it was an interesting departure from standard survival horror games.
Yep, it’s “ObsCure,” not “Obscure,” weird, I know. The ObsCure series is a series best known for utilizing co-op in a way that’s actually fun. Both games open with a teen pop song so mainstream, they made you feel like you were watching an episode of Dawson’s Creek. But the tone quickly changed, and what seemed like a campy teen drama end up being a surprisingly supernatural, if clumsily made, horror game. The games thrived on co-op play, and implemented a system in which players would have to work together to advance through the game. Each character has his or her own specialty, and the perspective changed enough so that you never played as a particular couple for too long. One drawback was that there was no split screen, so if one player had to venture off by themselves, the other player was left in video game limbo. The ObsCure series had cringe-worthy voice-acting, and stilted dialogue. And to make matters worse, the stereo-typical teen characters gave you no reason to care whatsoever. But the series did provide a fun experience as one of the earliest co-op survival horror games. However, playing today will only instill laughter rather than fear.
Imagine Mean Girls set in a 1930s English orphanage, but add steam punk technology, a thought-provoking storyline, a canine companion, and a dash of sexual undertones. The result: Rule of Rose, a game so controversial that Sony of America refused to release it on grounds of sexual themes involving female minors. Publishers in other countries would follow suit, even going so far as to insinuate a crime had been committed. And while not the focus of the game, there absolutely were controversial themes and implications throughout, such as one character possibly being sexually abused by one her wards.
However, the game played more like a dark, twisted fairy tale. Chapters within the game drew parallels to what the main character was going through with the depiction of short stories about doomed anthropomorphic animals. The narrative is done in an atypical nature that’s reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, but the gameplay didn’t do it any favors. To truly experience the game means to force yourself to play some of the worst controls known to man. The combat was atrocious; terrible hit detection and rigid attacks forced you to labor through long, drawn out boss battles. Depending on what weapon you used, it could take upwards of 50 sluggish hits to defeat a boss.
Aside from the battles, your canine friend can be used to sniff out items or lead you to your objective, which would be good if he didn’t move like a sloth, or constantly get decked by bosses. The characters were interesting, and the creative story kept you guessing, but you need the patience of Buddha to appreciate what this game has to offer.
A.K.A., Siren: New Translation. A.K.A., J-Horror: The Video Game. A.K.A., the scariest game you never played. Siren: Blood Curse is technically the third in the series, but it’s actually a remake of the first in the series, known as Forbidden Siren in Japan. It’s a episodic game that puts you in the shoes of multiple characters including a high school student, a professor, doctor, and a little girl. They’re all trying to escape from a rural village in Hanuda, Japan before a ritual summoning some god completes. Stopping everyone from leaving, however, are a collection of undead villagers called the Shibito. And boy, are they some of the hardest enemies you’ll ever face. This game is the definition of survival horror; save for a couple of characters, most of them start off with no weapons, and the ones that do have a limited amount of ammo. The quickest, and safest, way to get pass a Shibito is to either learn their movement pattern, or distract them and stealthily sneak past them.
A cool mechanic called “sight-jacking” makes the stealth portions easier. With that, the screen splits in two and you’re able to see what a Shibito sees; an invaluable tool when it comes to escaping. But what really makes this game stand out is the atmosphere. One of the most atmospheric levels in a survival horror game has to be the episode where you’re the little girl in the hospital. Trying to hide from enemies, knowing you’re defenseless, and that any sound you make will get their attention, makes for a very nerve-racking experience. Unfortunately, the story is all over the place, and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll beat the game asking yourself: “What just happened?” Although every episode begins with a quick recap, so you’ll never be completely clueless, just slightly bewildered. Regardless of whether or not you comprehend the story, Siren: Blood Curse is easily a must-play for survival horror enthusiasts.
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