Bit of a horrorthon fail this year, I managed to clear only 2 games before the month’s end. At least on a more positive note I’ve finally gotten around to starting the Project Zero series despite having owned all the games for years.
Project Zero is a very Japanese take on horror; it has more in common with classic Japanese horror films like The Ring or The Grudge than with the American B-movie style of the likes of Resident Evil. Mafuyu has travelled to a mansion to look for a writer and his entourage that mysteriously vanished and ends up disappearing himself. His sister Miku in a classic horror movie cliché enters this mysterious mansion, which any sane person would stay the hell out of, to search for her missing brother and along the way uncovers the horrific past of the mansion.
Miku soon discovers that the mansion is infested with some pretty malicious ghosts that don’t take kindly to her presence. Thankfully Miku is armed with her family heirloom, a strange camera that has the power to exorcise ghosts. To exorcise the ghosts Miku must look through the view finder which enters a first person mode and focus on her attackers. The longer she stays focused on a ghost the more damage will be dealt when she takes a picture. However the ghosts won’t make it easy on Miku and will teleport or evaporate out of sight. A special ‘zero shot’ can also be performed but doing so is risky. When the power meter turns red you have a split second to take a picture that will do huge damage to the ghost and interrupt its attack. However opportunities to perform these ‘zero shots’ only occur right before an enemy ghost is about to attack. The camera mechanics have a great risk/reward dynamic that makes for some very intense and often times genuinely scary encounters with ghosts. The first person view also limits what the player sees and can be quite claustrophobic. It’s quite a challenging game, health items are sparse and I found myself dying a few times. It was tough but always a fair challenge.
|Zero shot lined up, now would be a good time to take that picture!|
The camera isn’t just used for combat either and can be used to solve puzzles. Taking a picture of a locked door may reveal a visual clue to the whereabouts of the key to unlock it and many hidden ghosts can be found scattered throughout the mansion that reward you with experience points to level up your camera and give more insight into the events that happened in the mansions past. When the puzzles aren’t utilising the camera they can be a little disappointing, often times following the Resident Evil template but unfortunately many of the same puzzles are repeated. Thankfully the excellent camera combat makes up for these short comings.
For such an early game in the PS2’s life Project Zero still looks excellent. The mansion is genuinely creepy and complimented by some excellent light and shadow effects. The ghosts look equally amazing, utilising some impressive transparency effects and distorting the background. The story of the mansion that is gradually revealed over the course of the game is disturbing yet moving and quite well written. It’s a bit of a surprise considering this game came from developer Tecmo, best known for their pioneering work in breast physics in the Dead or Alive series! It’s strange and welcoming seeing such restraint from them. Only some slightly dodgy voice acting lets the side down but thankfully isn’t as hilariously bad as some other survival horror games. Project Zero is an excellent and unique videogame horror series and my only regret is that it took me close to ten years to finally play it.