First posted on 15 June 2010. Last updated on 15 June 2010.
|The hallways of Leafmore High look strangely abandoned.|
|An evil presence permeates everywhere in the school.|
|A note is conveniently left behind as a clue.|
|A flashlight is a lifesaving necessity.|
There are many survival horror games, but few are as scary as Hydravision Entertainment's ObsCure. It is a game that can send chills down the back of your neck as you lurk around every corner and peek behind every door, not knowing what danger lies just ahead. The game breaks new ground in the established survival horror genre by instilling unadulterated terror when you least expect it. I have imagined many words to describe ObsCure, but in the end I have chosen these words to speak about it:
"ObsCure is a near perfect survival horror game. The atmosphere is creepy, the characters are interesting (albeit stereotypical), and the game dynamics are superb. All these elements work together to make ObsCure a gem of an action adventure."
The story of ObsCure is set in the fictional high school Leafmore High. When a student goes missing after a basketball practice on school grounds, 5 of his friends try to find him but instead find themselves in mid of a supernatural mystery. Not everything is what it seems in the local academy: strange experiments are happening in the school undergrounds, and other students have also mysteriously disappeared over the years. Now, the group needs to survive and escape with their own lives, all the while uncovering an unearthly conspiracy that involves mutated students, the school principal, and even the school nurse.
Undoubtedly, the greatest attraction of ObsCure is the ability for you to take control of any of the 5 characters (Josh Carter, Stanley Jones, Kenny Matthews, Shannon Matthews, and Ashley Thompson) during several parts of the game. Technically, this gives you a completely different experience by playing the game from each of the 5 different perspectives of these playable characters. Playing a different character also allows you to access a wide array of unique aptitudes and abilities associated specifically with that individual. You can switch between the characters at any time whenever they are in close proximity to each other. I do not want to describe the characters in too much detail, as it will spoil both the game's story and some of the game's puzzles. Suffice to say that each character is only playable for a short amount of time, revealing different clues and details about the underlying mystery.
In addition to a solo mode, the game also supports a special cooperative mode with 2 players. However, this mode is only available for local play, since there is no online or network support. Gameplay is a mix between action, mostly combat, and adventure. Both melee (such as a bat) and range (such as a gun) weapons are available. You can even use the flashlight as a weapon against enemies that have an aversion to light. The game features a clever warning system such that a black aura will develop around the player character wherever the character is in imminent danger. In addition, you will need to collect first-aid kits to restore health, keys to open locked doors, and even CDs to save your game (a throwback to the ink ribbon in Resident Evil).
Without pretense, I have to say that ObsCure is among my favorite action adventure games of all time. The story is interesting, in part because it is such a faithful take on campy teen horror flicks. Playing ObsCure feels like playing Friday the 13th or Halloween, in which the nonstop adrenaline you get and the relentless fear that you may be killed off at any moment are constant motivators to help you to fight for your survival. The intensity of the gameplay is truly excellent. My only advice is to play the game with a gamepad or joystick: the complex keyboard control may be too bewildering for novice players.
The graphics in ObsCure are a mix between 3D and 2.5D (for example, in the gym at the beginning of the game, the camera shifts between a fully 3D and a 2.5D perspective). The game employs a stationary camera, similar to the original Resident Evil. There is an obvious parallel between ObsCure and Resident Evil. Not only do they share similar paranormal themes, even the story in ObsCure pays heavy homage to the Umbrella Corporation, the T-ALOS project, and the Nemesis that are the mythology of Resident Evil.
The gameplay in ObsCure offers 3 levels of difficulties. The lowest difficulty is quite easy to master and is a good setting for novice players trying to learn the basic mechanics of the game. However, even at the lowest difficulty, the game can be quite hard in some areas (for example, the fights with the mutants and the last boss). Despite the short length of the game (6-8 hours of gameplay), the game truly makes you fight for your survival at all times and to earn it at any cost.
The musical score composed by Olivier Derivière (who is also the composer for Atari's Alone in the Dark) as well as the music featured by Sum 41 and Span in ObsCure are superb. The voice acting is also good. They really immerse you into the story and give a retro "je ne sais quoi" character to the game that makes ObsCure charming, frightening, and enjoyable, all at the same time. The game is released in both CD-ROM and DVD-ROM versions.
As a last word, I will say that ObsCure is among my most favorite survival horror games I have ever played. The gameplay is well crafted, the story is well written, and the production is well executed. All in all, ObsCure has much potential to become the next Resident Evil.