By: Alex D.
As children, many of us have known the eerie silence and feeling of walking the halls of school alone at night. The dark and desolate atmosphere blended with the shadows left many creeped out. Dreamcatcher’s new horror title “Obscure” helps recreate the mood present in after-school escapades through the halls all while adding things that will unnerve gamers on a whole new level. Obscure takes players through the roles of five stereotypical high school students as they begin to uncover clues about mysterious disappearances and bizarre experiments that have been going on for a long time.
The game starts with a nice pre-rendered cutscene showing off the main characters and backdrop present in Obscure and sets up as an introduction to the first character, a jock named Kenny. After finishing shooting some hoops in the school’s gymnasium, players head into the locker rooms where players witness the theft of Kenny’s gym bag. Not letting this crime go unpunished, our hero chases down the thief into an abandoned and decrepit looking basement. Hidden in a box is a pistol and flashlight, which players can combine to help get a better look around, all the while packing heat. Strange and creepy noises are heard from a shaft in the same room where the thief descended. After a few minutes of exploration of the lower level of the basement, Kenny comes across a student named Dan who looks like he has been unaccustomed to eating for a while and is terrified out of his mind about a mysterious character who has had him trapped in the basement. This is where players finally run into the first monsters of the game and both Kenny and Dan are locked in the basement. The following day, Kenny’s sister, girlfriend and friend all stay after school in hopes of locating the missing jock and this is where the real fun begins. Gamers can control up to two players at a time in either co-op mode or by issuing simple orders with the numpad. Each character has a personality and can interact with each other to help accomplish puzzles or fight against the creatures. If one dies, players switch to another character and repeat until there is only one left. The game can be completed as long as one character still lives, but players are rewarded with unlockables after each level depending on the amount of characters still alive.
Obscure’s interface is simple and easy to get acquainted with but the control scheme leaves to be desired. Fumbling around to find and hold a series of keys to be able to shoot while being charged isn’t my cup of tea. The main gripe I had with the controls was the awkward positioning and sheer amount of keys to press to get something done. While remapping the controls helped to a certain extent, the control scheme still felt too cumbersome. Players control the characters entirely with the keyboard since the camera is fixed at specific locations in each room, this also causes problems when trying to navigate or battle against the baddies ala Resident Evil since you’ll often be blind as to where you’re trying to move until the camera angle changes. Like in Resident Evil, this also leads to enemies popping around corners and other obstacles without you knowing until its too late. I hope that the issue will be addressed in the full version of the game, as these two issues are the main problems plaguing this title.
The graphics on the other hand, are overall spot on. Leafmore High has a very dark and gloomy feel to it and has an allure of an aging asylum than a school. Needless to say, the game looks and runs the best on PC. The framerate never dips under 30 and the textures appear to be of higher quality, even if it’s a port. That said, there’s still some low-resolution textures that caught my eye but these can be easily overlooked as most of the time will be spent searching for clues or fleeing for your life. The audio aspect of Obscure seems very promising as well. The characters sound believable help animate their clichéd personalities. The sounds in horror games are half the show and the ambience achieved in this title can very well be credited to the sound effects. Monsters sound down right scary. Your heart will skip a beat when you encounter them, not just because they are visually bone chilling but they sound it, which is what helps the whole atmosphere.
With its North American release approaching ever so quickly, Obscure is shaping out to be quite a contender in the already existing superabundance of cheap horror titles. If Dreamcatcher can remedy the issue with the controls and alleviate the pain caused by the awkward camera positioning, there’s no telling how far this title will go. The preview build we received was only 55% of the game and although it went by rapidly, I cannot wait to complete the full version.