Reviewed: October 19, 2009
Released: September 29, 2009
School is hell. These words ring true to many a student in high school and even college. But to the students of the fictional Fallcreek University, things are about to go hell in ObsCure: The Aftermath for the PSP. ObsCure: The Aftermath makes its way to the PSP in classic survival horror fashion having originally been released on the Wii (which I reviewed) and the PS2 last year.
You play as Kenny, Shannon and Stan as you start anew at Fallcreek University. Well at least Kenny and Shannon continued onto college. Stan dropped out of school and became a pizza delivery dude. Along for the ride is Amy and her jock boyfriend Sven, Corey and his girlfriend Mei, and her twin sister Jun. Oh and the professor named Richard, who conveniently is an expert in the field of biology.
Last year, I reviewed the Wii version of ObsCure: The Aftermath and I loved it. Sure the controls were a bit unruly and uncooperative at times but it was fun. Now we return to more conventional controls on a smaller scale that is a welcome return to the series as I first knew it. The overall gameplay is pretty much identical to that of the console versions. The HUD very simply and quickly fades off the screen when you are not engaged in combat or doing various feats. The use of the analog stick to move the desired characters freely is similar to both the PS and Wii versions. The only real difference from my experiences with the Wii version is the much more simplified aim/target lock/fire execution.
One of the cool things about ObsCure: The Aftermath is that each playable character has their own unique ability... to an extent. The only two characters that are remotely the same are Sven and Kenny as they can both move big heavy objects. The other abilities vary from Stanís lock picking skills to Shannonís wicked ability to control and absorb black auras. If you played the first ObsCure, then you will remember that it was not necessary to use a specific character to do certain jobs. Even though Stan is the *cough* man at picking locks, Josh could do it taking a few for seconds to do the task than Stan would. This time around in ObsCure: The Aftermath certain tasks can only be performed by their respected characters. This is a double-edged sword in terms of gameplay sometimes.
I say this because the title gives you no indication of who you are going to need out of the 6 main characters to progress. For example if you take Mei and Corey with you and end up at an obstacle far away from the ďsafe roomĒ only to realize that you need Kenny instead of Mei, then you have to either backtrack to the group or load up a save file that is hopefully not going to set you back 20 minutes. While I am bringing up Save Points, I will say that I was surprised to see that the proverbial disc/ribbon save feature was nixed all together and replaced with black flowers that are affixed to walls. You simply touch the flower and you save your progress. However each flower can only be used once.
Besides the single player mode, the Co-op mode returns in this new installment. Iím a big fan of Co-op modes in general and that reason alone was probably my biggest reason for playing the first ObsCure, that and I like scary titles. Well, this second installment didnít disappoint me in the slightest. I really liked the single player mode, but it really was more fun with another person behind the controls of the second character. Not that the AI is retarded or anything, I just think experiences like this should be shared with others.
There are even instances where having two players is actually more beneficial. A perfect example would be when I had to get Jun through a maze of corridors to unlock a door and operate the cameras at the same time. Doing it alone you had to switch back and forth between the camera focusing controls and Jun. This was a royal pain in the butt especially when baddies appeared while you were adjusting the focus. If you play with two people, Player 1 moves Jun while Player 2 constantly focuses the camera.
I also liked the fact that you could use items pretty much on the fly. There are no menus to open. The only time you need to open a menu it to assign weapons to your current characters. Your weapons are conveniently mapped to the D-Pad for quick changing. You can also use items like Med Kits by holding down the L Button and using the assigned D-Pad direction. Both players are able to do this, when playing with a friend and can prove quite useful in certain situations.
While there is a lot of good to say about ObsCure: The Aftermath, there unfortunately is the bad to cover too. One of the biggest flaws to any survival horror is the camera system, and this title is no exception. There are a few clever camera tricks throughout the title and those are a welcome touch. The genre as a whole has never really been able to fix the camera angle problem outside of FPS titles so its pretty much something we gamers have to deal with.
When I loaded this title up with a friend and we got into certain narrow passages or a boss room, the monster(s) would inevitable get in-between both characters. The first player could see what was going on but the second was trapped on the other side. If you are using melee weapons then this is not much of an issue, but it is almost impossible if the second player is using a firearm.
Okay graphically, ObsCure: The Aftermath is pretty decent. The character models are well done, though you will probably not be able to tell since most of the adventure is done in almost near pitch darkness. But the darkness is probably this titles saving grace. The atmospherically creepy darkness is what keeps you in a constant sense of unease. The creep factor is not as high as what is seen in Condemned 2, but itís still creepy. I also liked the use of the black aura effects that were used. A lot of times you will come across creatures that were shrouded with the aura in real time and some exits were blocked by it. I also particular the way Dryads just faded to black vapor after you dispatched them. Annoying little buggers.
And finally I have to talk about the blood. A horror survival title just isnít complete without some blood and gore. This title does deserve every bit if itís M Rating. Itís not as bad as some of the visuals seen in Condemned 2 but there are a few moments that are a little unnerving. One such scene is where you find a girlís corpse with her lower jaw ripped off. Itís even creepier as it is the first thing you see camera wise in the room. All I can say is that they did a great job here for a PSP port.
The sound department of ObsCure: The Aftermath is by far my favorite thing about this title. The wonderfully creepy soundtrack gives this title the creepy feel it needs to be a successful survival horror. The soundtrack is composer by Olivier Deriviere, the man responsible for the original ObsCureís sound. Hats go of to the Boston String Quartet and the Paris Opera's children's choir for making this one of more memorable soundtracks in my gaming life. The soundtrack has been altered a little bit and can be listened to in-game via the Extras menu.
The creature noises are well done and aided heavily by Deriviereís score. The maniacal little cackle that the Dryads make is just wicked. Also For those of us that care about the soundtracks to game you can find the soundtrack to this new game here at Playlogicís website free of charge to download. While the sound department is without a doubt the highlight of this title, it is hindered by the voice acting. The voice acting is just bad, really bad actually. However I will give the developers the benefit of the doubt and say that it was probably done intentionally. I say this because; to me the ObsCure series has been homage of sorts to all of the teenage horror movies, like Scream or Friday the 13th.
ObsCure: The Aftermath is pretty much going to be a one play through for most people. There really is no reason to play this title again unless; you are looking for a good survival horror to play with a friend later on down the road. ObsCure: The Aftermath utilizes the Ad-Hoc infrastructure where you or another player with a copy of the game can join up and help each other through this creepy flower trip. Personally I will probably end up playing this one again soon, especially since I can take this one on the go. The single player mode is cool, but it is so much cooler to play with a friend. This version retails for $30, which puts it at the same price as Wii version.
At the end of this reviewerís fun and albeit frustrating adventure, I rather liked ObsCure: The Aftermath. The title is by no means perfect and suffers from several of the trappings of survival horrors especially the camera angles. The controls are much more manageable as they should be for PSP designed controls.
I did love the soundtrack and the overall feel of this title and I severely liked the ability to play with a friend. The sense of danger that ObsCure: The Aftermath emits is due to several factors. Some of those reasons include med kits that are often scarce and ammo that is always on the verge of running out. And to top it off a soundtrack that is just awesomely creepy.
I recommend this title for those seeking a fairly solid single player adventure with the bonus of drop in/out option over Ad-Hoc. If youíre still not sure on whether or not to pick this title up, then I would hold off until it drops to the $20 dollar mark. But for fans of the original ObsCure then, I definitely recommend picking up this title.