Review by Jame Son
When I first started hearing about this game, I'll admit I thought that it sounded a little goofy. Taking pictures of ghosts didn't sound half as terrifying as gunning down a zombie doberman hauling ass toward your jugular. I figured it would be spooky (a little), but let me tell you something all my little buddies, this is one of the SCARIEST GAMES I HAVE EVER PLAYED. No joke.
GAMEPLAY - 8/10
The game is pretty much as simple as it sounds. You control a young girl named Miku who is searching an old haunted mansion in search of her missing brother Mafuyu (whom you get to play as in the very cool intro sequence). The entire mansion is infested with hostile ghosts who are trying to kill Miku, and the only weapon she has with her is a magical camera that vaporizes any ghost that is unlucky enough to get its picture taken (sound cheesy? Well, I agree). Most of the game is shown in a Silent Hill/Resident Evil type view, with you exploring the house from a third-person perspective, but whenever you want to take a picture of a ghost or something else, you must switch into a first-person ''finder'' view by pressing the circle button. It is with this view that the faults of the game finally surface.
Even though I eventually got used to it, I found that the finder/camera mode was extraordinarily difficult to use at first. You use the left analog stick to control the camera movement and the right analog to move Miku around. This can get very confusing and will oftentimes have you running right into ghosts or getting so discombobulated that a ghost can sucker-punch you before you even realize which direction you are facing. It's not so bad at first, but later on when the ghosts start to attack in pairs or start warping around and throwing fireballs, you may have a hard time. Hopefully you will be used to controlling the camera by that time.
There is another tiny problem in the overall exploration of the mansion. While it is pretty much the same as other games like this, with Miku finding a locked door and then having to find a key or something like that to unlock it with, there is sometimes a bit too much backtracking. You will enter most of the rooms of the mansion very early on in the game, and after that you will be running around in the same rooms quite often. It can be a bit irksome to come to a locked door and realize you have to go twenty rooms back to get what you need, but at least the programmers were smart enough to occasionally put new ghosts in the rooms you must revisit. This prevents the backtracking from being really boring and it keeps you on your toes.
GRAPHICS/SOUND - 9/10
I hadn't heard much in the way of graphics when I got this game, and I didn't expect this game to look quite as good as it did, either. In all honesty, I don't think I've ever seen better lighting effects in all my years of gaming. Miku walks around with a flashlight and it shines and casts shadows perfectly on everything. One of the coolest things I find in the game is Miku's shadow herself, which will change depending on the lighting. The game is in color, but in a grainy noise style, much like Silent Hill 2. It looks very realistic, but there really aren't too many colors to look at. You're in a dark mansion after all, so its not like it would be adorned with gold and pink. It looks very much like a spooky deserted house, and I guess that's all it needs to look like. Some of the textures look pretty plain (especially the water), but I think that the lighting effects more than make up for it. And wait until you see the ghosts! Scary!
The sound in this game is nothing short of fantastic. The entire game is played with an ominous and chilling soundtrack in the background. While the music might not be entertaining to listen to while, say, driving in your car, it fits very nicely to the game's environment. There are also several chilling sound effects, such as a woman crying, people screaming, doors knocking, and Miku's heartbeat when she is scared. I'm peeing my pants just imagining being in her shoes.
CONTROL - 7/10
Don't let the score for control fool you into thinking the entire game is a pain to move around in. Far from it. In fact, the basic controls are really very good. They don't copy the Resident Evil style, where you must always press up to go forward, but rather the Devil May Cry style, where you move in the same direction as the button you press. This makes it very simple. One small problem is that Miku does move pretty damn slowly. Her walk is normal, but she runs about as fast as a one-legged man who's one leg is severely sprained. This can definitely be annoying in those instances where you have to backtrack, and it takes forever because Miku moves slower than a turtle on depressants.
Actually, the reason that I gave the controls a 7 is because of the previously mentioned finder view. Not only is this hard to use, but it seems so out of place in this game. It's really not as bad as I'm making it out to be. Just give it some time and you may warm up to it. It's not really that hard, I just personally didn't like it that much.
STORY - 8/10
The story starts out simply enough: A writer named Takamine journeys to the Himoru mansion to try and find some material for his new book. After he disappears, a promising student of his named Mafuyu goes to the mansion to try and find out where the hell he went. Then when HE disappears, his sister Miku goes to the mansion to try and find out where the hell HE went. That's easy to understand, but then it eventually delves deeply into dark, age-old Japanese rituals that are a bit hard to understand unless you are actually from 15th century Japan or something. Sure, it's easy to understand that the house is haunted, but exactly WHY it is haunted takes some thinking. There are literally dozens of files and scraps that Miku will find throughout the mansion to help explain things, but it still can be a bit weird. I found myself pausing the game sometimes just to run through all the stuff that was going on in my head to see if I understood exactly what was happening.
OVERALL - 8/10
If you're the kind of person who liked Silent Hill, then by all means buy this game. And if you're the kind of person who enjoyed Pokemon snap, but deep down wished that it was satanic and nightmare-inducing, then buy this game as well!
Seriously folks, you might want to think about buying some clean underpants right after you buy this game. You may need them.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/20/02, Updated 03/20/02
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