We’re drawing ever closer to that spookiest of holidays, so it’s time for us to take a look at yet another scary game in what has (unfortunately) become dubbed as “Shocktober”. Today’s subject is one of the most terrifying digital experiences ever put to disc - and all you have to defend yourself is a camera!
Truth be told, I am equally as scared of other media titles of the same genre (games and movies alike). If you’re a fan of Japanese films then you will probably have played today’s title, or at least seen it in action – and you probably were just as disturbed as me…
Project Zero / Fatal Frame (PlayStation 2 2001, Xbox 2002)
If you’re familiar with Asian cinema, then you’re probably no stranger to absolute gems such as Ringu (which coincidentally has had its ending repeatedly voted in the top scariest moments in cinema), Ju-On and The Eye. And obviously when I say ‘gems’ I mean pant-wettingly terrifying cinematic monsterpieces – they are amazing pieces of film, however scary they might be. Project Zero takes its inspiration from all of these and more, which can never be a particularly bad thing in my book.
Miku Hinasaki journeys to the supposedly haunted Himuro Mansion (again with the mansions!) in the mid ‘80s to search for her older brother Mayu. Mayu hasn’t been heard from in a fortnight, after he himself visited on a search and rescue mission of his own. Mayu’s mentor was investigating the mansion when he, his assistant and his editor all disappeared.
You play as Miku for the majority of the game except for the prologue – when you will play as Mayu - and the game is split into four stages, which are labelled as ‘nights’. You are tasked with both finding your brother and uncovering the truth behind the mansions many, many secrets.
All seems legit so far, right?
The real fun begins when you realise that all you have at your disposal in the ghost busting department….is your camera. Yes, that’s it. It does happen to be a special camera actually capable of defeating apparitions, which is probably better than a Kodak or something. However, what this means is that instead of aiming down a scope or other empowering piece of weaponry, you aim through your viewfinder – a fact that you are constantly very aware of. With most other survival horror games you have at least a slight sense of power, even if you are armed with only a pistol or a plank of wood – Project Zero takes that power away. This in itself is reason enough to be very nervous, but when you’re squeezing yourself underneath the floorboards trying to reach the next area – it is absolutely terrifying. The game thrives on the sense of claustrophobia that it creates, even in more open areas.
And those open areas aren’t any less frightening. There are often times when the game presents you with larger, open rooms – and although these help to alleviate your claustrophobia, they are often laced with ulterior motive. When you actually encounter spirits it is nothing short of horrifying. You try to take aim with your camera and gleefully bathe in the short-lived glory that washes over you with a successful victory. In these more open areas you are often faced with two or more enemies at once.
This, coupled with the fact that your foes often fade from view until they are right next to you, induces a kind of panic rarely experienced by today’s gamers. Now, I’ve been gaming for the best part of twenty years – and nothing else has ever made me actually drop my controller and yell. I don’t have a problem with fighting many enemies at once – but when I can’t actually see them, it’s time to panic.
And that’s why I chose Project Zero as today’s spooky game. It takes away any power you thought you might have, and locks you in a cramped mansion with a load of invisible enemies. When you look at it like that, it’s no wonder my hands are sweaty just writing about it….
Project Zero Gameplay Video
Have you played Project Zero or its sequels? What were your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!
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