I dig survival horror games. I lapped up Resident Evil and I totally devoured Silent Hill in all shapes/forms. I've replayed the Silent Hill series time and time again over a number of years, because they're so damn good. So when I get a survival horror game that plays on the Silent Hill style theme and dashes in a smattering of Resident Evil I start to get a little excited.
I quite liked Obscure back in the day, the quirky adventure against weird plant-things in a definite nod of the head to Teen Horror movies drew me it. It wasn't without its flaws or its shortcomings but I liked it non-the-less. Well, it's back again with the sequel and it's pretty much more of the same with a similar style of engine.
The teenage horror is back with a bang, or more of a kind of slow shiver than anything. The original story plot kind-of returns and this time it's a new mysterious drug that sends kids on a trip to nirvana-style bliss before transforming them into rabid hellcreatures hungry for more than just the munchies. Two years have passed since the first incident (3 years since the first game slipped into the very mists of obscurity) and now a new group of teen horror cast members are about to be butchered in a variety of ways.
Enter Corey and Mei, about to get stoned and rock out to some tunes with their buds. They experiment with the new drug and everything goes a little Silent Hill meets the Magic Roundabout, only Zebedee is a psychotic torso killer (wait, that's a lot like the Magic Roundabout!). Corey snaps back to the real world and finds Mei flat out on the floor. The rest of the game now unfolds via a series of linear gameplay and chapters, as they discover the nightmare they just had has gone all Freddy Krueger and is killing people for real.
The same mechanic from the 2004 game returns, each character has specific skills that allow them to access different areas. Sven (the big hunk of the group) can move heavy objects; Corey is an acrobatic style character who can get to otherwise inaccessible areas. There are hacking, decrypting and of course lock-picking spread out amongst the rest of the cast. So a lot of the gameplay involves you working out which pair to use for the right situation.
You can switch characters flawlessly and I should mention moving items around from character to character is great, it definitely got that part of the process right.
Just like the old game you'll quickly discover that the evil doesn't like light, so you'd have expected the developers to make a big deal of this, perhaps putting in a lot more of this gameplay element/mechanic into the game. No, they went the totally opposite way and reduced it. I found this rather odd but continued on with the game regardless. I found that it's more like the Buffy style games, where the action is focussed upon combat and not the delicate balance of horror as in the previous game.
The camera was an issue with me and whilst it wasn't bad all the time it did choose some odd angles, fortunately however the lock-on system made up for that and made it a lot easier to play. It was also quite fun until I discovered that the developers had taken another step backwards and gone from having a plentiful save system to a limited save point one. This forced me to repeat huge chunks again and again and made the game tedious: especially since it's so focussed on Resident Evil 4 shooting style play now.
It does have drop in drop-out co-op, but there's a tug-of-war between the camera that can be positively bloody annoying. It's good fun, but it very quickly becomes a battle between both players as the action heats up. Combat is definitely not as good as it could have been, some people described it as clunky, I'd go one further to say cloddy and it needed some serious polish for the co-op side of the game, regularly hitting the other person doesn't make it fun.
Especially when it's bloody GAME OVER when you lose just one of your pair!
Add the annoying save system to that and you start to see where the initial shine wears off quickly.
The voice acting suffers a lot, there's bad dialogue and the only real saving grace in the sound department is the score, the music is pretty good and adds to the creepy atmosphere that the linear fast-pace destroys at times.
The game's engine looks dated, this is to be expected with a PS2 of course, but still they could have put as much effort into the animation as they did the character models and some environments/monsters. I give it major props in the co-op department still however despite some of the sp and co-op problems, it's a unique component to the genre of survival horror that more developers need to pick up on.
I'd kill for a Silent Hill style co-op, Resident Evil co-op or even Dead Rising 2...that should have co-op, so developers take note. Co-op is good Ok? It's a useful social device and makes the game easier when you have to deal with annoying sp co-op puzzles and dodgy AI. Yeah, some of the AI in the game needs a good slap.
All in all though, if you're a fan of survival horror style games: then picking this one up isn't a bad idea. It's not without its problems and it's nothing fantastic as a sequel goes. What really lets the game down however is that for this style of game, it's too damn short.
Developers stop cutting corners and make our games longer damn you!