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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Obscure (Xbox)


By Michael Palisano

Dreamcatcher's survival-horror title Obscure takes players on a dark journey through the creepy halls of a haunted high school. It's a fairly interesting game, with a feel and style similar to the many teen slasher flicks from the past few years. Obscure plays similarly to Resident Evil and lets you explore the school with one of five different characters in teams or cooperatively. During the game, you'll have to solve a number of puzzles and fight a variety of demonic foes as you try to unravel the mystery of what's going on. The gameplay offers a balanced mix of exploration, puzzles, and combat against demonic enemies that's both enjoyable and challenging. Obscure won't win any awards for innovation, but it's a solidly entertaining game that offers plenty of thrills and chills making it a solid game worth the bargain price.

Players looking for something different in the survival-horror genre might want to check out Obscure, an excellent adventure title for the Xbox. Developed by Hydravision, the game is set in a High School. Something is definitely afoot, as the students who've been caught staying after class are about to find out. It's definitely going to be a long night. Playing as a one of five different alternating characters, your mission is to uncover the mysterious goings on at your school. These characters fit into generic high-school stereotypes: There's Kenny, the Athlete, Ashley the smart girl, Shannon, the juvenile delinquent, Stanley, the Slacker, and finally, there's Josh, the nerdy reporter for the school newspaper. Each of these characters brings a unique skill to the missions, making them important in your quest. However, when a character dies during the game, they can't be used again later, so you need to be careful. During the game, players begin as a single character, but can draft another character onto their team. In the single player mode, they can command the other characters to follow them, stay put or help them in their quests. One interesting aspect of the game is that Obscure also includes a cooperative mode where a second player can control the other character. As you progress through the haunted hallways and classrooms, you'll find a number of objects scattered around. These items can include clues that help you uncover the mysteries, or items such as flashlights, gems, baseball bats, keys, plus guns and pistols that you'll need when you face off against enemies. During each level, players can view the onscreen map, which comes in particularly handy when you are in a hallway with many different doorways.

From a control standpoint, the game stays true to many of the conventions of the survival horror genre. You move around and use the shift button to hold your weapon, and swing it with the A button, which is simple enough. The characters generally move through fixed perspective environments, and can't change the camera angle manually. Players can switch characters quite easily, but you can only have two in your party at one time. This gives the game a more cinematic feel, which is good, but also constrains your viewpoints, which makes locating enemies in the dark more problematic than it should be. However, players can lock on to an enemy with their flashlight and to uncover an enemy's weak points, which makes them much easier to destroy. Obscure's approach and implementation is relatively straightforward and the controls should be immediately familiar to fans of the survival-horror genre. One interesting aspect of the game are the gathering areas. When you reach one of these areas, you can automatically return by pressing the black button, which makes things much easier. However, this doesn't work in all areas of the game. In addition, there are plenty of save discs around, which helps a lot when you reach some of the more difficult areas.

The game's inventory system is straightforward and allows you to manage and use items easily. One interesting aspect of this is the ability to use sticky tape to combine different objects, such as a gun and flashlight, so you don't have to switch between them. Players can also use the in-game interface to switch between characters. This is important because each student has a different specialty, such a picking locks, which allows you to progress through the game. You can also give and take items between the characters, which helps. During each level, players will also encounter a number of interesting puzzles and obstacles, which take some thinking to solve. Many of these require the characters to work together co-operatively, such as boosting another character to unlock and crawl through vents, or unlock a series of cages or doors. Players will also face a number of creatures during the game and these combat sequences can be quite difficult. However, if a character dies during these battles, the other characters can return to the scene and recover their items to help them in the game.

Visually, Obscure delivers a decent looking experience on the Xbox with realistic environments that make the adventure feels like its taking place in an actual high school. The characters themselves are nicely animated; with each offering a decent range of action and emotion, that lends them believability. The game's overall look is not for the faint of heart, with blood soaked, decrepit hallways, and the dark underground areas you'll encounter later on giving off an appropriately creepy feel. The enemies themselves are masses of pulp and blood, with excellent animation. These creatures can be quite intimidating at times and borderline disturbing as well. Obscure also features a number of in-game cut scenes that draw you closer into the game's story, and can highlight areas that contain clues, so pay attention. The in-game score is decent with several pop-punk bands adding to their tracks as well. The game's lighting effects are decent as well, with your flashlight used to see in the dark areas. Some of the dialogue is a bit more humorous than you'd expect, and this immaturity detracts somewhat from the atmosphere, but the majority of the game remains creepy. The game's storyline and plot are interesting, and the plot moves along at a decent pace, keeping your interest level high throughout. While it looks and feels slightly familiar, it's nicely implemented. Obscure's graphics are decent for the Xbox, and create a believably terrifying atmosphere.

Like many of the horror movies that inspired it, Obscure is a solid game that starts slowly. You spend a lot of time early on exploring the school and looking for clues. However, as you gradually uncover clues behind the sinister events and face off against the hordes of creatures over-running your school things become a lot more interesting. Some of the puzzles are a little too oblique, causing you to become stuck in certain areas. However, the game's pacing is generally good, and there are some interesting gameplay ideas such as switching characters and the use of the flashlight to destroy enemies that set it apart from the pack. Most players should find plenty to enjoy, with multiple playable characters, unexpected plot twists and some downright scary moments, Obscure offers everything players would expect from this type of game. From a visual standpoint, it looks solid with dark environments, excellent character animation and some truly terrifying creatures who lurch at you from out of nowhere. While it's not a breakthrough title from a technical standpoint, the creepy plot, and challenging puzzles make Obscure a solidly entertaining entry in the survival horror genre.

Grade: B-

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