A review by Moz.
When I was asked to review Obscure I have to admit I knew nothing about the game other than I was told it was in the survival horror genre. Now the last time I was given a relatively unknown survival horror title to review it was a game developed in Russia called Midnight Nowhere for the PC and it was pants, and rather stained pants at that, in fact one of the worst games I have ever had the misfortune to play (lets just say that the Russian humour doesn't translate very well). So I did not have great hopes for Obscure, but I was pleasantly surprised as the game had some original features.
At the start of the game the first cut scene shows what appears to be the end of a perfectly normal sunny day at a typical American High School. The kids are milling about outside in the school yard and in the halls after classes have finished for the day. The scene then moves indoors to the gym where a basketball game is reaching its end played to the sound of a SUM 41 track "Still Waiting". As the game progresses the camera freeze frames on two of the players, a guy with a camcorder and a girl watching from the stands. These are four of the story's five main characters, Kenny, Stan, Josh and Shannon. Josh, the guy with the camcorder, is a reporter for the High School magazine and is doing a story on Kenny and Stan the stars of the basketball team. Shannon is Kenny's' sister and is waiting for her brother so they can go home. When the game ends Stan hits the showers. Kenny tells his sister that he is not going home as he wants to "shoot a few more baskets". Shannon is annoyed at her brother, telling him she knows the real reason he doesn't want to go home. Kenny tells her he has made other plans to sleep elsewhere that night as their parents are out of town. Annoyed Shannon leaves the gym with Josh and Stan leaving Kenny alone in the gym. Here is where you initially take control and play as Kenny.
You find yourself still on the basketball court in front of a hoop and a basketball. By pressing the "X" which is the action button Kenny will immediately pick up the ball and throw it through the hoop, this can be done over and over again but has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. When you eventually tire of shooting hoops you can take a look around the gym, but there is nothing much to see other than a few posters promoting forthcoming basketball games. However, when you near a door on the far side of the gym you will hear a phone ringing from the adjoining locker room. As you enter Kenny states that the phone call will probably be from Ashley (his girlfriend) who he has arranged to stay the night with. As you move between the lockers you see your bag and mobile phone where you left them on the locker room bench. When you answer the phone this triggers another cut scene which shows Ashley at home waiting for Kenny who is late for their date. Kenny tells her that he is on his way, but as he finishes the call he sees a shadowy figure grab his bag from the bench and exit through the door into the gym. This is where you take over again; a screen prompt will appear telling you to press the "square" button which is the "ability" button and will make Kenny run faster. You give chase and follow the thief through the gym, outside into the schoolyard and through a gate before finding yourself inside the cellar of a nearby spooky building. Inside you find a torch, some sticky tape and a gun...! Of course you do! Screen prompts then tell you how to attach the torch to the gun with the sticky tape using the shoulder buttons and the left and right analogue sticks. This done, you make your way down a ladder through a hole in the floor. At the bottom you continue through a tunnel with strange roots growing from its walls and ceiling at the bottom there is a door which appears to be covered in a kind of dark green haze which you are unable to pass and if touched drains you heath, apparently by shining you torch at the area this disappears. When you enter through the door you find yourself in a e room filled with cages and boxes, there is also another door which is locked for the moment, follow the path round and you come to a well lit area and yet another door. This one opens however into another room with nothing of interest. After further investigation you find yourself in a room with another student. This student is pale, scrawny and terrified, he asks you about the monsters that are roaming the school. As you both leave the student takes a gun from a cabinet you passed earlier. As you try to leave the building you are attacked by monsters that appear from the previously locked door, despite killing a few eventually you are overpowered, knocked out dragged down a hole.
Yet another cut scene (for god sake when does this game actually start...?) shows Ashley and Shannon talking the following day in the school yard. Ashley complains that Kenny stood her up and Shannon tells her that he didn't come home the previous night. The bell sounds and everyone goes inside. During class, Ashley and Shannon meet up with Stan and Josh, they say they have not seen or heard from Kenny either. They all suspect that something must have happened to Kenny and agree to meet up in the cafeteria at 6.00 if he hasn't turned up. By six o'clock the school is deserted and as the four meet as agreed they find that they have been locked in by the janitor. This is where the game starts in earnest as they go in search of Kenny ...
The first thing that impressed me about Obscure was the original gameplay for a survival horror title. The way to complete this game is to use all of your four players in a kind of tag team scenario. Each character you play has a different ability, one can pick locks quicker, one can tell you if there is anything left in the room of use, one can suggest solutions to a problem and can heal 25% of others health, one has a special stronger attack and one can run faster than the others. You can play as any of the main characters and you can take along another for company, switching control between the two at will, reminiscent of Resident Evil Zero on the Gamecube or Project Eden on the PS2, (in my opinion a vastly underrated game that which was out a few years ago). Thought must be given as to who you choose to tag along as solving certain problems will require the special ability of a specific character and you can only take one along for the ride. The others characters will wait in a "safe" area that you can return to at anytime from the map. Another nice feature to the game was the fact that there is also a two player option available. However only two characters can be controlled the others are still left behind. This option does give the survival horror genre another dimension and one which may be worth considering from some of the more established survival horror titles that are around. You can also ask your partner to "stay" or "help" for example, these commands are assigned to the left, right, up, down buttons on the controls.
The rest of the gameplay is pretty much what you would expect of any other survival horror title. As the game progresses you acquire varies weapons ie, baseball bats, metal bars, guns etc, etc as well as first aid kits and energy drinks your improve your health. These items can be swapped at random amongst the group. Shining the torch at an enemy will weaken it and makes finishing them off with a weapon easier and takes less effort and/or ammunition. Another thing worth noting is that smashing windows also helps as enemies appear to be sensitive to light. Saving the game can be done at any time with the aid if computer disks which are dispersed liberally throughout the game.
This all sounds very promising but the game unfortunately does have its bad points. Firstly it can become quite repetitive, as you have to keep returning to "safe" areas to gain the ability of a different character to solve certain puzzles. This means sometimes re-treading old ground a number of times before progress can be made. Another big problem is the static camera angle, this often restricts your view of your surroundings and I often found myself under surprise attack and taking damage from an enemy but unable to see where the attack was coming from. The graphics and sound effects are ok but uninspiring and nothing to write home about and somehow gives the game a kind of old fashioned feel.
Basically there were things about this game that I loved and things I hated. The idea behind Obscure is a good one and provides a good foundation on which the game can be developed. If the few faults that Obscure has can be rectified then the developers could be on to a winner in the future.