Being scared by your Wii…
I can remember quite clearly the first time I was scared by a movie. I was around 10 years old and had watched The Exorcist (don’t blame my parents, I was at a friends house). We lived on a farm so the nights were filled with complete darkness and strange noises. The restless night was pretty much topped off at dawn the next morning when, in a dramatic style, my curtains were suddenly caught by a freak gust of wind and a strange shadow could be seen on my window sill. As it happens, one of the farm chickens had jumped through my window, obviously at the suggestion of some demonic force, but the following few nights contained very little sleep and plenty of keeping my light on. Even now, the film manages to send shivers up my spine.
Scary movies don’t really bother me now. That being said, Japanese movies such as Ju-On and Ringu (far superior to the Hollywood remakes) still manage to give me the creeps. So it was with some anticipation that I sat down in a darkened room to play Project Zero 2: Wii Edition.
The game is part of Tecmo Koei’s Project Zero series, also known as Fatal Frame, and was originally released way back in 2003 for the PlayStation 2. The franchise is now at least partially owned by Nintendo, who obviously thought that the Wii could do with a damn good scare in its final hours.
Project Zero 2 is a horror game that is obviously influenced by Japanese movies such as Ringu and Ju-On. We are not talking about your average slasher horror here, but something far more subtle. The fact that the story centres around a pair of young twins only serves to heighten the sense of dread in the game. The adversaries in the game come in the form of the ghostly inhabitants of a small village into which the twins have stumbled. The story gradually reveals itself as the the player progresses, explaining exactly what is going on in typical ghost story fashion.
It is the atmosphere of the game that is the real star here. From the very beginning, there is a sense of foreboding and, to be quite honest, a feeling that most normal people would simply run like hell from any village that looks like this. Anticipation is raised with the excessive darkness of the environments, little noises and things moving in the players peripheral vision, and a tension that suggests the next corner they turn will be their last. Seriously, this is a creepy game.
To make matters worse, the players only form of defence against the ghosts is the “Camera Obscura”. This magical camera changes the view to first-person and allows the player to search for the ghosts and eliminate them. It may be a leap of the imagination to think that using a magical camera is the only way to survive the ghostly onslaught, but once again it is designed to raise the tension. Switching to the first-person view of the camera is unnerving as the player never really knows what they will see, and using it to search the environment can be totally terror-inducing. It’s a brilliant mechanic that leaves the player with a sense of vulnerability, something we are not perhaps used to in videogames.
So far, it may sound like the perfect scarefest, but unfortunately there are a few things that stop the game from being the horror extravaganza that it should be. Primary amongst these are the controls. Whilst movement works relatively well using the Nunchuk, adjusting the view with the WiiMote’s motion control is inaccurate and flighty, and very likely to frustrate some gamers. Alongside the controls, the game suffers from repetition as players explore the village, and the puzzles are not as challenging as they could be.
The improvements made for this Wii Edition, other than the motion controls, are fairly successful. The visuals have all been improved upon, with some impressive lighting now present, and the camera has been tweaked for a better experience. There has even been a whole new mode added which rates how scared you get through an “on-the-rails” sequence during which the player has to keep the controller still. Not exactly deep, but a nice addition to the package.
Project Zero 2: Wii Edition is a horror game on two fronts. Whilst the creepy atmosphere will no doubt excite gamers who are looking for something edgy from their Wii, the somewhat awkward controls will prove themselves a horrific experience to other gamers. As there are very few titles like this on the Wii, it is a nice addition to the catalogue and is heartily recommended. Just be aware that the tense atmosphere may not come only from the games’ creepy setting…