Genre and release?
It’s a clear cut, no-doubts-about-it survival horror. This is more or less the ideals of gameplay for me. It’s got all the boxes ticked: Frightened and alone (large breasted) woman; check, Creepy monsters and creepier old men; check, Large castle/manor to explore; check, gore and clever death scenes; Check, Puzzely bits; Check, difficulty in gameplay/an actual struggle to survive; check and of course little to no combat ability; check.
It was released in 2005 by Capcom for the PS2, no issues (that I know of) with this release.
Is it scary?
Yes. I’m very pleased to say that this game is indeed scary. It’s not the type of stick-with-you-ruin-your-mind-forever fear you get from ‘Silent Hill’ and I imagine if it were a film it would be awful but it has the unique fear you can only get from games, unless of course you have Will Graham’s hyper empathy. It’s a type of dread; you will always be on edge as you never know when the thing that’s chasing you will show up and if they catch you there is nothing you can do but run. There are various places in the environment in which you can hide, but they aren’t guaranteed and if you over use them you will be found, the likelihood of being found also increases the further you get in the game as the things chasing you get more and more intelligent and determined. While you are hiding your pursuers will often search the room and the camera will show the whole room at these times all you can do is sit and hope.
There are two things which make the fear extra intense in this game and they are: your panic meter, this will deteriorate as scary things happening. This will make your vision blurry, your controller shake and a heartbeat sound, and eventually you will go into blind panic, when this happens Fiona will just run, you can steer her, more or less but she won’t stop until she calms down or is caught. If you get caught while panicking you will die. You can also fall while panicking and if this happens you will crawl until you are calmed or killed. The second is the death scenes, there are many fun ways to die in this game, there are a couple of environment based deaths which take their time and really let you know how badly you’ve screwed up, but even the regular deaths from each enemy are quite imaginative they each have their own reason for wanting to kill Fiona and each will express this after her death through some of the most disturbing sounds you’ll ever hear. So basically this all makes you really not want to die, so the probability that you will becomes rather frightening.
The scenery has some scares in it too, some of which will scare Fiona herself on seeing them so the creepy-ness is intensified as her confidence drains.
How about the story?
The story is pretty lame. It starts off well, if a little clichéd. Fiona wakes up in a dungeon like area, with no clothes and has to find her way out. When she leaves she discovers a large castle in which she will be trapped. A creepy woman gives her clothes and instructs her to wear them for her master. Soon she finds Hewie and is just a little bit safer. As she goes through the game she learns of how she got there and eventually the reason. This is where it get rather silly; it’s got something to do with alchemy and it‘s all rather farfetched, but luckily the gameplay and characters are good enough that the main plot doesn’t’ matter too much.
As she goes though the game various people will chase her, all want her for a different reason and all have a different disturbing way of killing her and dealing with her body. Basically every time she thinks she is out someone else catches up with her.
Characters and settings any good?
Fiona is pretty generic, she is young and attractive and large breasted, you never really learn a lot about her personality. She’s an heiress, or at least rich and she has been captured following a car accident, and of course her clothes have been stolen. I often find myself getting rather annoyed at the clothes women in horror films/games chose to wear as they are rather impractical, I give you the fine example of Jill Valentine in ‘Resident Evil 3’ – she knows she is going to be running around the city fighting zombies, she has some experience from number 1 so why does she chose to wear a tube top and miniskirt combo? Poor Fiona, however has to wear what the creeps who kidnapped her give her so you really can’t blame the girl. I imagine, however, you will be highly amused by the physics engine of this game, a lot of work has gone into that jiggle. There isn’t really much else to say about her, she is scared and at no point thinks to pick up a big stick to hit things with but apart from that she’s as brave as whoever is playing I guess. Perhaps she is supposed to be your every woman she has no personality so you can give her your own and truly get into the game…yes, let’s go with that.
Your trusty pooch Hewie is, of course, the best character in the game and a most useful tool. I’m rather unclear as to why young Hewie is there; you find him shortly after you begin the game, tied to a tree. None of the enemies however seem to care much about getting him back all they care about is Fiona so if he is a captive of theirs why did they bother? I don’t think he can be their pet as he follows Fiona and attacks them, something a dog would never do against its owners for another human, unless of course it is abused, but then it wouldn’t trust Fiona either. Well, whatever the case Hewie is there and it’s a damn good thing he is. Hewie is a lovely big ol’ white Shepherd, which just FYI is the same breed as Bolt from, well, ‘Bolt’, if you want to read a little more into why I think they chose this breed it’s in the ‘Rule of Rose’ review. But anyway he helps you along the way by attacking your foes at your command, collecting items for you and squeezing through holes and sitting places to help with the little puzzly bits. He will also growl when enemies are approaching giving you a little extra time to find a hidey hole.
The enemies in this game are great, there are only four really: Debilitas, Daniella, Riccardo and then Lorenzo, though you fight Lorenzo in a few different forms. I won’t go into each character too much as that will take too long, but each has his or her own reason for wanting Fiona and each will stop at nothing to get her. Their persistence is what makes this game great, as well as at parts incredibly frustrating. There is nothing worse than working on some puzzle or searching a room only to have to run a mile out of your way to get free of a pursuit. But they create a wonderful sense of fear, the least frightening and most annoying being Riccardo, he has a gun which just isn’t cool. But at the same time I think his murder sounds, once he has killed, you might be the most horrifying, I won’t ruin it for you but let’s just say he thinks Fiona is pretty fine.
Any other Redeeming/Condemning features?
It’s a decent length game with multiple endings and unlockable costumes plus you get some mini games after you finish it which is always nice. It’ll entertain anyone for a good while and because the ways the things chase you is always different you can never really know when they are going to show up so it keeps its fear factor even after multiple play throughs. The costumes are fun, if not just a tiny bit for the male gaze. The cowgirl outfit is the worst, not to look at, just that it changes your attack to a gun which may sound good but all you can use your attack for is to momentarily stun enemies and break pots and as you can’t aim it’s entirely useless for both. But that’s not a huge issue.
It has some nice little puzzly bits but they are ‘Resident Evil’ level of puzzles (That’s the pre ‘Resi 4’ ones back before they were just shooters) so don’t expect anything much more challenging than take this and put it over there. The use of Hewie adds a bit more thinking to the equation but not a lot.
If you want a good survival horror or to look at some boobies then this is the game for you; it’s not easy but not so difficult that it makes you want to throw it out the window so should be good for everyone. If you like games with brilliant stories then don’t bother, this one is just plain silly. The lack of combat I think is absolutely perfect but if you’re an action nut then don’t bother. Great fun to play, but about as shallow as it gets. But you have a nice doggy.
- Gaming: Rule of Rose (wendyhouseblog.wordpress.com)
- Eli Martin’s Rules For Scaring People (wendyhouseblog.wordpress.com)