Life slowly faded back to normal two years after the events of the original Obscure. What was a gruesome reality to some, was passed along as a story time and time again to the point where it simply became another urban legend. But the survivors of the Leafmore High “incident” know the truth, as they forge forward through their scarred existences.
Not far from Leafmore High lies the campus of Fallcreek University. Recently, some strange dark flowers began to sprout all over campus. It didn’t take long for the student to realize that the plants could be dried, ground down, put into tea, and used as a narcotic. Not marked as an controlled substance, almost everyone on campus started to partake.
You begin the story playing as Corey, a daredevil college student whose priorities are in perfect order: love’s his girlfriend most, his car second, and his shotgun third. Everything else is just filler. Corey meets up with his friends just before a frat party, takes a hit from the new flower-drug and begins the worst nightmare of his life.
After waking from a dream riddled with the brutal torture and death of his friends and loved ones, Corey shakes off the effect of the hallucinogen with an energy drink. Then he and Mei head to the frat party. While on the way, most of the students who experimented with the black flower transform into human/plant hell beasts and unapologetically shred the rest of the student body of Fallcreek and the nearby hospital. It’s up to Corey and his surviving friends—Mei and her twin sister Jun, Sven, Shannon, Stan, Kenny, Josh and Amy—to discover the source of the mutations, and if they’re lucky, survive.
Playing Obscure 2: The Aftermath (OTA) on the PSP is not an experience I’ll forget anytime soon. OTA delivers solid visuals on the handheld. In fact, the PSP version of OTA might be the best looking version of the game outside of its PC release. It bolsters outstanding sound design and some interesting play mechanics. The relationships between the characters feel well thought out as their banter delivers much-needed and perfectly delivered comic relief. The traps and puzzles are appropriately fiendish. And most importantly, it presents legitimate scares and unexpected story twists to keep even the most steel-willed gamers on their toes. On the other hand, OTA also suffers from a few bad voice actors, a very cheesy plot line, and a semi-clunky camera system.
During the game, you play as any of combination of two of the aforementioned friends. You can equip each player with melee weapons or ranged weapons, but each player has a special skill like hacking, deciphering clues, climbing, or lifting and moving heavy objects. It’s up to you to figure out which characters are best for each situation as you hack, slash and shoot your way through some of the most twisted creatures found on the PSP. The best part is, you can also do it all with a friend through co-op play!
Horror games on handhelds is almost better than playing on a big screen. Because external light sources are almost always a cause for glare, gamers gravitate toward darker corners. Not wanting to bother those around you, you play with headphones on. Both of these external influences play perfectly into OTA‘s design. For a PSP game, OTA delivers beautiful visuals. Its well-lit environments are all perfectly detailed and believable, while is more creepy haunts are never over the top. The abandoned school, feels like an abandoned school. The destroyed frat house feels like a destroyed frat house. The creepy stalker’s house in the woods feels like I should get the hell out and never look back. The game never resorts to overused rusty wall effects like those found in some other horror games. Each environment is as unique and potentially as frightening as its real-life counterpart.
The sound design is my absolute favorite element of OTA. The few firearms and monsters sound like they should. But the disembodied screams resonating through the atmosphere are the real toe-curlers. After hearing my first “Shaaaanoooooon!!” from a distance, I stopped moving my characters, put the PSP on my lap and thought to myself, “OK, I don’t want to hear that again.” And even though I’ve heard the sound dozens of times, I still get a the chills from the awful creaking sound the black flowers emit while spewing their evil pollen. It’s the audio equivalent of a beetle crawling into your ear.
The puzzles add some definite challenge and variety to OTA. They start off at a 2 on the Richter Scale and work their way up to “woah mama.” Some of later puzzles will definitely leave gamers clamoring for a nearby walkthrough. Lock picking, on the other hand, is perfect. No matter how difficult the lock picking challenge gets, it perpetually feels as though you “almost have it” and makes it hard to put the PSP down.
It’s not all scares and gore. The dynamic between the characters you choose will lighten the tension. The jocks will make fun of the skater. The women will call the men clumsy and aloof while the men reciprocate the abuse. Generally, each archetype will tease each other for being too stereotypical. But the jokes themselves aren’t what make them truly funny. It’s how they are delivered by the voice actors that makes the sale. They tease and jest each other as though actual friends would, and that’s what will bring the experience home for most players.
But the voice acting is also one of the games biggest setbacks. Horror films have never been known for their award winning acting performances. Considering this game is almost a tribute to the slasher genre, I wasn’t expecting much. But still, a few of the voice actors are near “Yuna”-level of bad. Unfortunately, Corey, who plays one of the lead roles, is a big offender. He’s whiny and nasally and doesn’t portray the role of “daredevil” at all. Mei’s twin sister Jun is easily the worst of the voice actors as her character is presented as overly-adolescent for a woman attending college. Thankfully, she doesn’t have much on-screen time, but what little time she has is more than enough.
The script is the game’s second biggest fault. Not long after watching his girlfriend’s head get brutally crushed by a rapist plant monster man, Corey is seen teasing other characters for having crushes on one another. I’m sorry, but if my girlfriend’s head was juiced on the floor by a rapist plant monster man, I don’t think I’d be in the mood to talk at all, let alone prance about like a faun, giggling over crushes among my friends.
The camera’s finicky nature sometimes made it difficult for me to tell if my character was properly aiming at aggressive off-screen monsters. Not wanting to waste ammo, I didn’t fire and in the end, got killed. The save points are a little too few and far between, so death also got a little frustrating. neither are deal-breakers though.
Obsure 2: The Aftermath is guaranteed to deliver some well-earned scares as it balances both western and J-horror scares. But be warned, OTA is difficult. Even on my second playthrough, I had to carefully ration my health packs and monitor my attack patterns. The story is nothing to write home about, but I can guarantee that it will deliver more than a few “Holy crap! Did that just happen?!” moments. In the end, if you’re a fan of horror games or horror films, OTA is definitely worth your time. For everyone else, it’s worth renting.