Obscure: The Aftermath (OTA) is targeted toward a niche market. And those in that niche market know exactly who they are: geeky fans of horror movies and games—the cheesier the better. I happen to be one of those geeks. I try to pepper my Gamefly and Netflix queues with items from the horror genre roughly once every three rentals to keep myself in a constant state of fear. So it was a true pleasure to be able to dust off my PSP and give OTA a spin this week.
Many may be curious how well the game translates onto the handheld screen. The answer: incredibly well. In fact, it might be better looking than some of the console versions of the title. With an integrated co-op feature, and new extras not found on the console versions of the title, the PSP version might be the definitive OTA experience.
Obscure: The Aftermath starts you off in a college co-ed dorm like any other found across the globe. In fact, it filled my heart with warm memories of my past life as a college dorm student. The local bulletin boards filled with both real and comical posts; friends playing practical jokes on one another; and having crippling nightmares of my friends and loved ones being dragged off by bloody hell creatures after imbibing in questionable substances freely offered to me by my slasher-film-archetypal friends.
Wait… that last part didn’t happen.
In the dorm, you start the game by controlling Corey: a skater / car lover / daredevil with a random shotgun in the trunk of his car. As the adventure continues, you meet your friends, all of which are controllable with their own special abilities. Mei, Corey’s girlfriend is the geek who loves games and therefore, she can hack into keypads. Sven is the jock who can move large objects that other characters cannot. Amy is the go-getter beauty, whose logic skills can decipher meanings in codes and more. Since Corey is the daredevil, he can climb objects that others cannot. You have the choice of playing as any two characters at a time and then freely switch between those two with a simple push of a button. Or, better yet, you can have a friend join in wirelessly through co-op and each of you can control one character. The world is in short supply of co-op titles. And since horror co-op titles aren’t running as rampant on the PSP as they are on the PC, it’s nice to see this feature in place. Selective use of your characters also creates some excellent puzzles to solve and riddles to de-riddlefly.
Obscure is beautiful on the PSP. All the lighting effects are done incredibly well. The monsters are appropriately J-horror creepy and the character models are done well for a handheld. Upon first firing it up, I was surprised at the fidelity the handheld pushed forward.
The gameplay moves slightly away from “survival horror” and moves more toward “action horror” though not to the extent of Resident Evil 5. Most fights are unfortunately unavoidable. Ammunition is in short supply and most of the time you’re left to defend yourself with whatever melee weapon you have found in your travels. So you need to take an intelligent approach to how you engage your enemies.
Though we only had a chance to play the first few levels of the PSP version, it is clear that the story isn’t OTA’s strong suit. But outside of Silent Hill 2, the entire horror genre isn’t known for its stellar storytelling. If you want an amazing story, go pick up something written by Toni Morrison. If you’re a fan of horror and love cheap, twisted scares, Obscure: The Aftermath might be for you. Though the writing isn’t the best, it is clear that Obscure is self-aware of its cheesiness. At one point, Corey and Mei come upon a frat house just LOADED with mutilated corpses. They both decide instead of calling the police or running away, it was “more important to find their friends” while defending themselves with a hockey stick and a golf club. Right from the start, OTA doesn’t waste time before pouring on the creepy. Within minutes you’re submerged in J-horror-themed goodness, listening to unsuspecting victims being dragged off to their demise. The story progresses fairly episodically, so it makes for a fantastic portable game when you only have the option for gaming in small doses.
So far, it seems that OTA blends western and eastern horror styles relatively well but it might be too cheesy for some. And for PSP horror fans, when OTA releases in a few weeks it might be worth checking out.