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Obscure Review

Developer: Hydravision Publisher: DreamCatcher
Release Date: April 3, 2005 Also On: PC, PS2, and Xbox

It’s always fun to root for the little guys…well, unless the opposition involves games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, even the GameCube’s Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. This is the case in Hydravision’s Obscure, a rather under-the-radar survival-horror game that simply doesn’t live up to anything that it blatantly mimes, and ends up being another $20 game destined for the bargain bin that it already sits in.

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It’s truly hard to say this, because I can tell that Hydravision and Dreamcatcher really wanted a gripping game to come out of this. However, taking everything (from the control scheme to the puzzles) from once-great games isn’t the way to present your new material. Obscure’s draw lies in its (literally) dark story, which takes place in a private school. Strange disappearances, including one of our friend Kenny, have no explanation and thus a team of unexpected teenagers decide to investigate the disappearance and the school’s dark, century-old history.

What I didn’t mention about these teenagers is they fit a few of today’s typical high school stereotypes, and don’t make for likeable characters. Kenny, a jocky, muscular type, is the main character who simply wants to be the hero. Josh, the above-average student, is a slightly pesky journalistic type. Stan is the stoner who spouts off at the mouth, saying “dawgâ€? and “wackâ€? at every opportunity while excelling in the art of lock-picking. Ashley is your brown sugar “popular girlâ€?, complete with a thong pulled far too high. Ashley, the cute girl that desperately wants to be older, rounds out the pack of boring clichés.

Once things start happening, I was immediately made aware of how much this felt like something I’ve played before. Clearly, the camera angles and control style were almost carbon copies of Eternal Darkness. The puzzles were clever but sometimes seemed randomly placed, like those of Resident Evil. All the while, the creepy ambience is a throwback to Silent Hill. Everywhere you go in this game, enemies cheaply pop out at you from the ceiling, out of vents, and from thin air. Many a time was I attacked simply for not paying attention to every walk down each boring hallway. When battles weren’t so random, I still felt helpless–the control scheme for shooting and whacking enemies with melee weapons is so sluggish, I’d feel as comfortable stomping on my controller as I would actually trying to hit the buttons.

One unique feature that Obscure uses in combat is the “boosting mode� found on flashlights, which can be attached to your weaponry. More powerful than a regular beam of light, you are able to use the rays to drive away the dark mist surrounding enemies, making them vulnerable. Rather than simply plugging away at enemies, you MUST make them vulnerable. Since your boost mode requires frequent recharge, combat is more than simply stopping-and-shooting. Sadly, this system only makes it more annoying to have to kill something.

While the game is terribly short–ranging from 5-9 hours or so, depending on skill and if a friend accompanies you–it can be played alone or with the help of a friend, thanks to the easily-accessible cooperative mode. This makes things slightly easier, if your partner knows the ropes and doesn’t simply eat up rare medical supplies. However, it doesn’t override the fact that this is a short game that isn’t even short enough to be considered short and sweet.

As a high school junior, I was very interested to see how a high school survival-horror game would play out, and I was very disappointed by Obscure. If you’ve never gotten around to play classic horror games, don’t start here. Though Obscure isn’t horrible, it’s a bad excuse of a game, being a compilation of all the basics.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 5.8
Written by Cliff Review Guide