|Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly|
Release Date: Out Now
The survival horror genre is getting pretty crowded out there, with new developers releasing their own variants all the time. Quite a few of them play similarly; find a puzzle, get the bits for it, grab the key to get to the new area. All with big guns, zombies, monsters and even freaked-out security guards with cockney accents. It's beginning to get a bit samey, and even Capcom - the creator of survival horror videogames - are changing their Resident Evil series from the classic structure, which will be very welcome.
The weapon system in Project Zero II is unique. Whereas in Resident Evil or Silent Hill, you would have a gun or a knife, against ghosts these sorts of weapons would prove rather useless. You are instead equipped with a weapon called the Camera Obscura. When you see a ghost approaching, you can press circle to bring up the viewfinder, which puts you into first person view. Here you can pan the camera and still walk around, which is obviously handy for the quicker ghosts. You aim the camera at the ghost, and the power bar will start to charge up. The higher it gets, the more damage you will do when you take a picture. The player takes damage from ghosts when they either walk through you, or actually grab you for a moment. As you progress through the game you can upgrade your camera by adding new features and levelling up its abilities.
The story is based around two young sisters, Mio and Mayu. The start of the story is told in a CG intro; they are playing near a river one day, and Mayu is thinking back to when she received a serious injury to her leg. The story is told briefly in flashbacks and spoken dialogue. Mayu then sees a crimson coloured butterfly fluttering away in the distance. Being the curious chick that she is, Mayu follows the unusually coloured butterfly into the forest. Suddenly everything goes a bit strange, and they end up at the top of a hill, looking down on an ancient looking Japanese village. This is where the game begins.
Project Zero II is an adventure game through and through, and plays similarly to other survival horror titles. You progress through the village via a number of chapters, and along the way you pick up diaries and notes that people have left, which tells the story and explains mysteries that you come across. You occasionally also get a cut scene that drives the story along, and is similar to other survival horror games in that respect too.
However, where Project Zero II differs is the atmosphere. It's one of the scariest games I have ever played. In fact, I think it is the scariest game I've ever played. Massive monsters, shuffling zombies and nurses with knives for heads are one thing, but ghosts are right on the other end of the scare scale for me. They can look evil, they sound evil, and when they come at you and you can't escape - it's extremely unnerving and on many occasions when playing this game I yelped out at the top of my voice when being set upon. The dirty and murky colour palette that Tecmo use in the game really works well too, and it conjures up an unsettled sense of fear when playing. Shadows, darkness and torch beams are beautifully executed, and the ghosts themselves look incredible, with lovely transparency and particle effects - Tecmo know how to make Playstation 2 fly, that's for sure. Sound is also something this game does really well too, with creepy samples and music - even more so than Silent Hill. Voice acting is also very good, and comparing it to Forbidden Siren, it shows what can be done with a little effort. There might be a downside to this atmosphere though - it could prove too scary and disturbing for some people…
In summary, this is a fantastic addition to the survival horror genre, and although it doesn't offer anything really groundbreaking in its initial approach, I think the camera system is very innovative, and having ghosts instead of freaks or monsters it offers something different to from the usual survival horror fare. I doubt it will pull many players in who don't like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but for fans of the genre this should be an essential part of your collection. Just be careful playing it on your own, late at night, in the dark…
- Original battle system.
- Hugely atmospheric.
- It's very, very scary.
- Not massively different from other survival horror titles.
- It' s very, very scary.