Thursday, April 17, 2014

VGR ObsCure

Listen to this song. 'Done? Good.

Now check out this following slightly-related review...

VGR: ObsCure 
From Hydravision Entertainment /DreamCatcher Interactive/MC2-Microïds 
Played on PC
Also available on Xbox & PS2

Type Survival horror
Year 2004

Developed by Hydravision Entertainment and published by Microids, ObsCure is a survival horror that won't necessary revolutionize the whole genre, but at least it tried to bring some new ideas to the table.

ObsCure was the first real game by the small independent French studio Hydravision. A little company that was founded by two brothers, Denis & Francois Potentier. After some successful independent projects, Microids decided to finance their first video game project.

While it barely got any attention around its release, it's really too bad since despite a couple of flaws ObsCure is actually a genuinely pretty good game.

First of all, ObsCure was developed specifically with PC in mind (even if console ports followed shortly). Meaning it's a great looking game that didn't age much to this day.

ObsCure just looks nice, really nice.

While it might not scare you like true survival horror games such as Silent Hill games, it has a nice atmosphere of its own.

They wanted to make a sort of  teen horror-styled game. ObsCure was inspired by a lot of pop culture. Directly inspired by the movie The Faculty as well as other teen movies and even series such as Buffy. ObsCure takes directs cues from the 1998 cult classic, from the entire setting to the story structure (opening on a shocking twist), the whole cast of characters and even the way the movie starts with a cult song from the 90s. Actually the game opens to "Still Waiting" by Sum 41, which certainly helps set the tone right from the first second. Not only is the whole music scene inspired by these 90s classics, but we also get the same kind of classic scenery from these sort of teen movies, the basketball court, classrooms, the dormitory, shady undergrounds (the entire school premises seems to have been greatly inspired by The Faculty's).

The story might act as a parody of sorts of these kind of horror films, the monsters and entire plot take most of its influence directly from Lovecraft.

The game certainly takes some of its roots from the original Alone in the Dark game.

The gameplay itself takes some cues from the famous Silent Hill series, and most notably the second episode. A lot of elements, the way you progress through the various buildings is very much inspired by Silent Hill.

Set at Leafmore High School, our story opens with basketball fan/jock Kenny Matthews. One night, Kenny hears some strange sounds and follows those around the premise. He finds something by accident, another student held captive... and some mysterious creatures hiding deep underground!

Kenny goes missing. And so this great prologue chapter sets the tone of the game.

Anyone can die in ObsCure! Anything goes!

Next day, his friends go looking for him after class, once everyone left.

There's been some strange events at the school lately, from strange noises to missing students. Our protagonists discover the disappearances actually have been going for ages, through the long history of the school.

In ObsCure you get to play as one of these five high school students looking for their friend at first. They find some strange labs in the basement of the school. They get to meet other few survivors.. at least, the ones that didn't "turn".

Our stupid teenagers while have to turn into badass survivors if they wanna survive these monstrous plant-like infected creatures!

Like in the Resident Evil series, you can find some notes here and there that reveal more about the background plot (as well as some VHS tapes and old films).
While usually survival horrors count on the whole solitude aspect and isolation to scare you, ObsCure goes away with all of this for a different approach of the genre.
With co-operative gameplay!

The game follows these five college students trapped during a night at their school. They find that some really strange things have been going since the foundation of the school a hundred years ago....

The fun story is complemented by these 5 playable characters you can switch as you while on the go. You get to pick one character and a partner, if you want to. And you can swap between those two as you please. You can select a different pair at the nearest "safe point".

They all have their different stats and some have these great abilities, others have useless gimmicks though... 

There's Kenny the jock, the first one you get to play as, he is the faster and the stronger so be careful to have him survive the prologue! Then you have Josh Carter, a techno-geek /wanna-be journalist who has the most useful ability of the entire game, he can locate if an item can be found in the current room (how I wish this was in most survival horror games...). Then there's Shannon Matthews,  Kenny's sister and another of best characters in the game, not only can she boost your healing items but she also can say tips regarding the next clue and puzzles. Ashley Thompson is Kenny's girlfriend and she can deal more damages with most weapons and has a nice brawl-like melee special attack. Finally Stanley Jones is the obligatory stoner and can - for some strange reason - pick locks fast (the others can do that as well, but he does that faster). 

When playing alone, the second character is AI-controlled. You can take control of your partner whenever you want, but the computer's actually pretty smart for a change, compared to other games. It's kind of a similar idea to what Capcom tried with Resident Evil Zero but sadly never properly followed upon... If your hero "dies", you will then control your partner or the next best possible scenario.

That's right! Characters can die in ObsCure!

It plays like your classic survival horror titles, as far as gameplay go.

There's a few puzzles, some might require a bit of teamwork, but not much since the game has to be playable even if all partners die.

Once someone dies, you get to loot for their items the last place they where.

The game features one of the rarest examples of a 2-player mode in this genre (modern Resident Evil games excluded). The second player can join in the fun whenever (s)he wants to, thanks to a great jump-in feature. You can swap items and weapons between characters, etc.

Despite the camera only focusing on the first player, it's not that difficult to manage to work with it.

One player the game is great, but it's also much more fun at 2, although probably less scary obviously. But that's ok since that wasn't what they were aiming for with ObsCure.

Finally let's discuss the principal gimmick of this game!

As the title implies, light and shadows are a great deal in ObsCure.

There's a big focus on darkness, hence the title, but light is actually your primary weapon against these monsters. Sort of like what the creators of the original Alone in the Dark had in mind but were never truly able to achieve at the time.

The game features a great lighting system. The monsters in ObsCure are really sensitive to bright shining light. To get to them you might need to shine a flashlight in their faces first, to weaken their defenses. You can also break windows to let the light long as it's still early enough in the day. Once the night really sets in, that won't work anymore!

The darkness makes them stronger, literally. To kill them you need to "kill" the shadows around the school. In a way, probably mocking Doom 3 at the time, you can attach flashlights to your guns to burn away the darkness.

The beginning of the game is really, really difficult. You start with these defenseless characters. You will probably lose a lot of health, no doubt. You have to get flashlights first, better weapons and a couple of medikits (don't spend them all right away!). The ammo starts pretty scarce in the first few chapters...

But once it properly starts, it's a fantastic little game!

There's probably not that many creatures. You get a different new waves of enemies as you progress through the story, replacing the general foes you will see everywhere. There's a lot of backtracking as well. It's all kind of reminiscent of the original Resident Evil in a way.

The game has a great fun story and nice creature designs.

Really good graphics. A great tension from time to time, whenever many monsters pop up in new locations.

Finally ObsCure has some great creepy music, sung by a choir. Really giving the game a unique atmosphere. The music was composed by Olivier Derivière with The Paris Opera's Children Choir. It gives ObsCure an eerie atmosphere, an uneasy mood. It works great as you walk through this old European-style building.

Once finished, you get a "new game +" of sorts in the form of an "extra game mode" where you can use alternate costumes and a few new weapons available.

Overall, ObsCure is a fun take on the whole survival horror genre, really recommended if you're a fan looking for something new. Made in France!  

ObsCure has this sort of Buffy meets Illbleeed impression. It's fun, original and doesn't take itself too seriously.

One of the most original features of the game is without a doubt this seamlessly co-op mode, giving your 5 different characters you can play whenever you want, either simultaneously via the CPU or co-op. Each with their own abilities.  

Lovely graphics and a very nice simple but effective lighting mechanics. 

Its title better probably had the better of it, as the game pretty much passed under the radar of most gamers. Even looking for it on google is not that easy, thank you stupid silly title!

Following a generally favorable PC release, the game was quickly ported to PS2 and Xbox

ObsCure was then followed by a sequel in 2007, Obscure II. Taking place two years later and following some of the survivors in a new life, at a new school, now in college.  

Two additional spinoffs were announced as well back then. First Obscure: Dark Aura, a spinoff aimed for PSP and DS in 2010. It would have seen the return of Shannon again as a sort of mid-quel/parallel follow-up to ObsCure 1. And in 2012 there were rumors of an Obscure: Survivor but that didn't go that far, not much is known regarding that episode...

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Quacks!

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