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TVG returns to college in Hydravision's sequel to the 2004 teen-horror title...
- Solid homage to teen horror.
- Engaging puzzles.
- Decent enough atmosphere.
- Rather short-lived.
- Tug-o-War two player camera.
- Bad dialogue.
As gamers wait for a triple-bill of survival horror during 2008 in the form of Resident Evil 5, Silent Hill V, and Alone in the Dark, Dutch publisher PlayLogic has stepped in to provide some scares with ObsCure II, the sequel to the original game released back in 2004. Set two years after the events of the first instalment, ObsCure II follows the survivors and some of their new college friends as they encounter deadly...(cue screams of terror)...flowers!
Ok, so Sven, Mei, Amy, and the rest of this survival-horror Scooby Gang also have to contend with a group of Silent Hill rejects too, but it seems that the videogame equivalent to 'Day of the Triffids' isn't an instant scare. The sense of ObsCure II's homage to teen-horror movies does remain at the heart of the game however. Right from the off a pseudo-indie song plays over a rather cinematic intro sequence (complete with Emo monologue) that certainly drops a hat to the influx of Final Urban Scream Creepers that have emerged from Hollywood in the last ten years. And like its sources, ObsCure II doesn't waste much time getting to the guts of the horror-lite story. It seems that those 'scary' flowers have been used recreationally by the students to attain a natural nirvana-like state; the downside being that they end up having vividly lucid nightmares - just before they turn into creatures from hell itself. So it's up to our band of disparate students to try and survive and discover the truth behind the events at Fallcreek University...
The first title in the series managed to capture much of the essence of teen-horror movies and survival-horror games to good effect, and this is something retained in the follow-up. The band of friends, each with their own personal demons - and abilities for that matter - picked off one by one in pre-rendered death scenes, the engaging variety of puzzles that spread throughout the game from start to finish, and the quite frankly by-numbers narrative, all work together to good effect to deliver this faithful interpretation of teen-horror.
Like any good teen horror sequel, ObsCure II features the survivors from the first instalment, though thanks to their previous experience with the horrors of Leafmore High, some have expanded their own skills - the rather criminal ability of lock picking (the best representation seen in a videogame) and the supernatural 'Black Aura' breathing skill. Six supremely stereotypical characters (including the Jock - or two, the Blonde, and the computer whiz) are periodically unlocked during the early stages of the game, splitting up into teams of two, which can then be swapped around during ObsCure II's occasional 'safe house' locations.
Although an enhancement to the two-player co-op mode from the original game allows drop-in/drop-out gameplay, ObsCure II doesn't include one of the other features from its predecessor - the ability to combine objects together. That said, there's rarely a point where it's actually needed, and the ability isn't missed at any point of the game. Cooperative gameplay does have one issue however, and that's without doubt the 'tug-o-war' over the camera, with both players having equal footing over where it points to. Tearing away from the solid enough camera ObsCure II otherwise has in single-player, the constant battling between the two players muddies down the experience. Playing through the game with another does at least however mean that the cooperative puzzles spread through the game become slightly more meaningful.
There was one element that Hydravision has polished since TVG's preview of the game earlier in the summer: the aiming system. Now much tighter and responsive, the auto-lock does more then enough to ensure that combat (either melee or ballistic) doesn't get too frustrating. That said, taking on the mutated humans in the game isn't the main point of ObsCure II, they're just there to add some occasional scares between its numerous puzzles and unveiling more of the mystery.
Teen movies have never been particularly critically-acclaimed, with dodgy acting and dialogue at the top of the reasons why, and it's exactly the same with ObsCure II. A range of questionable lines with whiney teens moping about their stolen car when they should really be more focused on staying alive, and bickering amongst themselves in general, may continue the thread of homage but it is a bit of a strain for a lot of the time - even dampening down what would otherwise be genuinely creepy situations. Where the audio does shine however is the soundtrack, a haunting mix of choral hints and live-orchestral music and screeches - all of which could have been taken from the back catalogue of Mark "X-Files" Snow, a reference which in itself harks back to the 1990s that ObsCure II finds itself entrenched in.
There are (as you'd expect) clichÃ©s aplenty, from the Bogeyman in the woods outside the college, to its almost nostalgic structure and production values that shout late-90s survival horror game. ObsCure II remains in the domain of the early Resident Evils and Silent Hills, something that's not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes the experience feel like something that some gamers will have played though six or seven years back. Perhaps the most perfect way that ObsCure II pays homage to its feature film inspirations is with (and we're not going to spoil anything here) final twist - let's just say that there is more to the game than you think...
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