I’ve never been a fan of survival horror games. More correctly, I’ve never actually played a horror survival game before having a go at ObsCure, a budget entry into the genre by Dreamcatcher Interactive and Hydravision. And I have to say, I’m really not all that impressed by my first venture into the world of survival horror. ObsCure is mildly entertaining, but it never really gets exciting or even scary.
ObsCure opens in cliché horror fashion, as The Brawny Sports Guy stays late at his incredibly creepy school to shoot some hoops. One by one his friends leave for home, and the sun begins to set. After a few strange noises, he heads to Scary Dark Places to investigate, and Bad Things happen. We fast-forward to the next day as the rest of Our Heroes begin noticing their friend is missing. So The No-Nonsense Beautiful Cheerleader Girlfriend teams up with The Brainy-and-Beautiful Little Sister, The Geeky Journalism Guy, and The Slacker, and they all begin to try to figure out what’s really going on at the spooky old school. The cliché doesn’t stop with the characters, either. From the opening sequence to the final battle, there’s really not an original moment in the entire story.
Players control one or two of the kids at a time, solving various simple puzzles and occasionally getting jumped by a rather unimpressive assortment of monsters. ObsCure’s tag-team approach is actually one of the highlights of the game. Players control one of the characters while a fairly competent AI controls the other. At any time, players can swap control of the characters with the press of a button. Having two characters helps out during some of the fights when a little extra firepower is needed, as well as making both of the characters’ special abilities available at the same time. Each character has a special ability, some of which are quite useful. Two of the character abilities almost make the game too simple, so a little caution is needed. The Journalism Guy can tell if there are any objects left in the room, having an almost sixth sense about that sort of thing. While I dislike the pixel-hunt as much as the next guy, just having everything handed to me took out some of the challenge. Further reducing the challenge level, Little Sister will give some blatant hints about what needs to be done. If these hints are too much, or if a few characters find themselves wounded or dead, players can almost always head back to a “gathering point” and swap out characters from the pool of students.
As one might expect from a horror game, the kids often have to go toe-to-toe with the forces of darkness. Combat was a little disappointing, though. I found the controls to be quite clunky for fighting, and while the AI did a decent job keeping my teammate out of danger, quite often it was just easier to fight solo. In an interesting twist, light plays an important part in combat. Seems the evil critters just don’t like bright lights. Knowing this, the kids can secure flashlights to each of their weapons, allowing them to weaken the monsters a bit before filling them with lead. Unfortunately, the flashlights can’t hold the damaging “high beam” setting forever, and they’ll need to cool down a bit between fights. As an aside, ObsCure’s high school has to be one of the best-armed schools I’ve ever seen. Weapons and ammunition are just lying around the campus, often in plain sight. It’s no wonder that they also have one of the biggest collections of first-aid kits on the planet.
Aside from the clichéd plot, the bland puzzles, and the less-than-stellar combat, the rest of the game is quite good. The school looks great, although why any parents would allow their children to attend such a run-down institution is beyond me. Still, there’s enough spooky lighting and odd camera angles to keep everything just a little off-balance. The camera itself is fixed, which comes with the usual problems of not being able to see everything I’d like, but it was done reasonably well. Combat suffered a bit from monsters attacking from offscreen a little too often, but that’s a minor problem compared with the rest of the combat quirkiness. The sound effects and music were great, probably the best part of the game. Odd noises, growls, and occasional screams set the mood perfectly. The music was well timed, appropriately changing with the action onscreen. The voice work would have been good, if the actors had anything of quality to work with. The dialogue itself was cheesy, jarring, and soon repetitive.
There is a two player mode available for play, and aside from some slight control and camera issues, it ads a rather enjoyable element to the very short game. Alone or with a friend, ObsCure will run around 5 hours, much shorter on replay. There are a few extras to unlock with repeated plays, for those so inclined.
Overall, ObsCure just didn’t win me over to the survival horror genre. The puzzles were too easy, the combat too clunky, and the plot was a rehash of a generic B-grade movie. I didn’t end up disliking the game, but I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for it, either. Perhaps those fans who just can’t get enough of the genre will gain some amusement out of this title, especially at the budget-priced offering.
A bland, budget-priced survival horror game. There are some interesting twists, with two-character teams a 2-player co-op mode available, but itâ€™s just not enough to win me over.
Rating: 6.1 Flawed
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.
Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.