Our tales starts with a young man named Jakob waking up in a cell, with his young lady friend in a state of distress, urging him to a) wake up and b) get them the heck out of there. Once Jakob collects his wits, he finds a conveniently placed metal pipe and uses it to break the chain holding the door.
Upon leaving the cell, they discover they are not the only prisoners or that's the way it seems. There is something more than a little unsettling about the way they moan and shuffle in their cells and feast hungry eyes upon them both. Soon however, she discovers a lever and urges Jakob to pull it as surely all it will do is raise the barred gate she has discovered. Alas no. The gate rises and all the cell doors open releasing the shambling, moaning prisoners!
The young lady finds a corridor and runs down it urging Jakob to follow her. Jakob in the meantime realizes that this is easier said then done. Jakob starts battling with the strange creatures with his trusty steel pipe and as soon as he has cleared a path (or killed them all, that's up to you) he runs after her. But another barred gate is in their way and judging by the moans coming from the distance there are more of the strange shambling creatures.
The lever gets thrown, the grill opens. The two run through only to find the grill they have just opened slams down behind them and another bars their way ahead. Trapped though they may be, it couldn't get any worse could it? Err wrong, for now the walls start to close on the pair!
The camera cuts away as the walls close upon them both and the claret flows through the crack...
Cut to the present day. Josh and Kate are a young married couple that are feeling the strain. Josh is a hard working man that uses booze to relieve the stress of his work. Sadly he has been relying on it a little too much. Maybe a vacation in Eastern Europe will give them both a much needed break?
Well maybe not. Kate wakes up Josh in their carriage and a bottle falls to the floor that was hidden under Josh's jacket. Sighing she leaves the carriage and tells Josh to meet her in the dining car. Now to move things along, we shall slightly gloss over his journey to the diner. On his way he encounters some of the trains other passengers. These include a pair of ballet dancers, a group of youngsters heading for a rave or party and a mysterious fortune teller that gives him an ominous card reading. This is after he has washed his face in the trains bathroom and seen a hallucination of a masked man in the wash room mirror. Eventually he sees Kate talking to a stranger further ahead. Puzzled, Josh makes his way forward and meets a couple of other passengers, one being an obnoxious businessman and another a mysterious but attractive English woman who is gazing out of a window at the passing scenery.
But things take a decided turn for the worse. Upon approaching the dining room, a man is thrown against the door of the carriage and suddenly the glass panel is obscured by blood! Once inside he hears someone screaming behind him. He turns to see the fortune teller addressing someone called Ernst. Now as he turns to face Ernst, it's clear he is more than responsible for the butchery in the carriage as another man falls victim to a Scorpion style chain weapon that runs him through.
The fortune teller he meets earlier begs Ernst to stop what he is doing but he's not listening. What makes matters worse is the fact that Kate is draped over Ernst's shoulder like a sack of laundry! Evil laughter fills the air as Ernst ignores Josh and proceeds on his way forwards. The fortune teller tries to follow and placate Ernst, but other problems soon arise as as the train is crossing a river via a bridge, there is an ominous rumbling and it becomes clear that the train has become derailed! It plunges through the side of the bridge and into the frothing waters of the river below. Josh needless to say gets knocked out and his nightmare begins as he wakes and realizes that the train is on the verge of sinking. He is helpless to stop one ticket collector being swept away by the raging torrents of the river. So Josh had better get moving!
He escapes the train and gets to the rivers shore where he finds other survivors in a cave. There are no cheery songs around the camp fire though. It emerges that the place they have arrived is cursed. To make matters worse another survivor goes off by himself and only his screams indicate that something bad has happened too him. The decision is made to get out of the cave and find some shelter. One man elects (for no good reason that I could see) to stay behind.
So they leave the cave and find a body hanging in a tree! This is not the place for a holiday that's for sure! As they make their way through the undergrowth of a forest or a dense wood, the fortune teller is spotted again and our hero finds an audio cassette. But there's no real time to study it as they now have to swim to some more dry land and once out of the water, get rid of the leeches that have attached themselves to you! But wait, what's that ahead? Lights through the trees. A building, shelter perhaps? Maybe there's a telephone that they can use to get help? (Yeah right!) There's only one way to find out!
Josh heads off in the company of one of the young party goers and find themselves in a cellar. Problem is it's full of bodies and one of them starts twitching. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The nightmare has begun...
OK so here we go, that covers the beginning of the story, the rest is up to you to find out for yourself. We now go onto the usual breakdown of the games highs and lows.
Controls: Well as this is a Kinect only game, there are no bothersome button presses to worry about. Your body is the controller. You can turn to the left and right by turning your upper body, looking down is done by simply doing that. Walking is done by moving one foot forward and levers are opened and objects collected/picked up by moving your hand over the icon shown on the screen. Walking is fine, I'll get to 'running' later. If you want to move backwards, then simply take a step back.
Combat: Like the above is performed by moving your arms. Hand to hand or unarmed combat (and you'll have to do this at the start until you find a weapon) by raising your arms into a classic boxers stance. Crossing your arms in front of you blocks, and you can punch with the left and right hand and you don't have to make the action that vigorous at all to deliver a decent blow. Once you have a weapon then obviously you deal more damage (more on weapons in a bit), you can kick and push enemies away and send them tumbling which is quite satisfying but not as satisfying as decapitating a zombie with a crow bar or some other tool of destruction! But the shove is useful as they will topple like dominoes and that buys you some precious time or some more space to move.
Weapons: Basic melee weapons are available to you such as crowbars and clubs. But there are more than a few tools for use here. There are machetes, hatchets (these can be thrown and picked up again after hitting, this is very useful). Knuckledusters, scalpels, and the best weapon bar one, a chainsaw! This is used by miming the movement of using it and it's very very easy to use all of these.
A little more complicated to use is the Azoth, a device that can burn through obstacles and project street fighter style fire balls at your enemies. This is a little trickier to use but you will soon get the hang of it. It has 6 'shots' so to speak. But if you use them all, watch the HUD and you will know when it's ready to go again.
Enemies: zombies, simples. But there are different types so be wary of them. Some are slow and shambling, but some spew or spit venom/acid and some will run at you and explode! Watch out for the siren as well. These 'ladies' scream so be prepared to cover your ears (Literally!) and then there's Ernst himself.
He wears a helmet and visor and can only see you when the visor is open. But when it's closed he can of course, still sense you and hear you so now we have to get stealthy. This takes timing and patience but the time will come when you have to face him and other boss creatures. Time your attacks and watch out for the prompts that will warn you when to dodge. As for best weapons and tactics? That's for you to find out for yourself. OK that's the meat and gravy what about the trimmings?
Graphics: Functional with a suitably grainy movie like texture to the presentation. Colours are muted so it looks a little like an old Hammer horror movie. Water and other environments are well animated and lighting is suitably moody. The interior of the castle is a little grey and perhaps bland but then again it seems to suit the setting. I don't think the criticism's I have seen aimed at the graphics in some forums are all deserved.
Sound: Very eerie and atmospheric. It's no Dead Space though but what you have works well enough for me.
Music: Again atmospheric enough but lacks some impact for me.
Gameplay: OK for the most part it's easy to get to grips with and is responsive. Combat is intuitive and is quite satisfying in it's own way. As you by now have read, there are many tools of the trade at your disposal but there are..no I am getting a little ahead of myself.
Next come the pro's and the cons. Brace yourself...
Cons: I have to go here first I really really do. This game really is a prime example of imbalanced controls and gameplay. When not prompted some movements are easy to do, in fact they can be done by accident. But sometimes you need to do an act as prompted on the screen by a message under an icon.
Crouch simple enough. No problem.
Use a lever, again easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Running: When not prompted this is easy as pie. No it is. Just move your foot further forward to run, stop by bringing feet level with each other. But when you need to do it and I mean NEED to do it like escaping the sinking train at the start, then be prepared to see the YOU ARE DEAD message again, and again and again. There's an icon sure, and if the move is executed then the icon will turn gold but it simply goes against what is stated in the manual. Do you wait for the Icon to go gold? No, hang on too long the icon goes red and you get swept overboard. Move before it changes colour and you stay exactly where you are. So is it one move to run? Two or three in rapid succession? I have no clue. I made it across the train after lord knows how many attempts to do so and that was by accident. I was moving forward to switch the console off and eject the disc and voila I was across the train!
I am now likewise stuck again on another section that needs running. This time to avoid a mechanical trap. And I have died again and again and again...
Stealth mode is also problematical. Just the slightest movement will alert Ernst when you need to avoid him. So stay still. I mean really really still. If you are also not that careful with the positioning of your left hand, you can find yourself being taken back to the save/load menu. I have done this a few times, trying to do other more actions that are relevant to the character's survival rate.
It's also a shame that with the range of a Kinect sensor that somebody didn't see fit to include a two player co-op mode? A missed opportunity there for sure I feel.
Pros: The gameplay is for the most part responsive. Combat is visceral and satisfying and there is a sense of satisfaction when a goal is achieved. The game does sometimes help you along and hinders at others (see above). The action flows at a reasonable pace and lets you get your breath back when needed before the chills come again.
Summary: This game is best described as a case of swings and roundabouts. When it needs to it delivers a satisfying experience but at the next turn throws frustration in your face. I wouldn't mind but it's in unequal measures. This may well be an indication as to how Kinect games may go in the future, but if so then please someone make sure that the control interface is clearer and more user friendly. Is that too much to ask? I think someone at Sega or several someone's to be honest, missed the boat and I can't help but feel that some bugs were missed before the game got released. Maybe a patch Sega to fix the running problem? Or a clearer explanation as to what to do in the manual.
My advice, try BEFORE you buy. This game could and should deliver in spades. It does not. But it does have it's moments so I urge you to try this on a rental basis first. I feel a patch is needed or a clearer manual. The score reflects my opinion of the game as it stands now. If it gets patched and the run problem is negated then I'd happily rescore it.