Obscure: The Aftermath is a video game take on teen horror films. As the follow-up to 2005's Obscure, the sequel picks up with many of the same characters after they've survived a nightmarish experience at the hands of crazed high school teachers. Now the main cast of characters is older, supposedly wiser, and living it up at a local college ... until things turn bad, as they so often seem to do when you're young, attractive, and in a horror scenario.
The original Obscure was apparently an experience worth having; while this blogger never got around to it, it's one of those games I might have played, had I managed to scrape up the free time. It was on a list. Even though it wasn't hailed as the second coming in survival horror, it had something very interesting going for it: cooperative play. The idea of traversing a very silly, yet sometimes-scary story with a partner (either living or AI) was just neat, and it's one that's carried over to the sequel.
Unfortunately, the neat pretty much stops there. That isn't to say Obscure: The Aftermath doesn't have anything going for it, because it does. The graphics are not only less-than-horrible, but the environments are filled with details, the characters, while shallow, are just as compelling as those in any typical slasher flick, and the story isn't half bad. The problem is that for every good element, there's one that is much, much worse; the game is so dark at times that it's impossible to navigate, and the brightness adjustment simply did not work for me. The game tried to calibrate using images that did not show up on my screen. Worse yet is the camera, which is often facing in the general direction of away from anything even remotely useful, and while you can swing it around with the Wiimote, that doesn't always work -- at least, not in any discernibly helpful fashion. The control tutorials completely fail at times, offering up half-assed descriptions of tacked-on motion controls that aren't mentioned in the manual. And, tragically, if you can't find a human player to help in co-op mode (my human companion refused to continue assisting after a very short gameplay session), your AI teammates are pretty wretchedly stupid. Even if you can find a human companion, Obscure really means for you to be very, very cooperative; you need to stay close together if you both want to be on the screen, and forget both of you being able to see at once until you get used to moving together, which can take a while, thanks to the camera.
But worst of all is the combat. On the face, it seems fine: target with the Z button on the nunchuk, perform a melee attack by swinging the Wii remote, or fire with the trigger (B button). But that pesky camera continually interferes, and it's nearly impossible at times to actually hit anything (besides the occasional swing that connects with your ignorant teammate, who doesn't appreciate it).
In the end, rather than recommending you actually play Obscure: The
Aftermath, we instead suggest watching some of the trailers and promotional videos for the game, because they're a lot better than the actual game, and lend themselves to the creation of a convenient drinking game (which we recommend all younger readers play with delicious root beer).
Drink up under the following conditions:
- Any time there is smoke, fog, or dust.
- Any time there is lascivious behavior. Those darned college kids!
- Any time there is a dramatic cut. Beware of the video embedded below unless you think drinking games are serious (drunken) business.
- Any time someone wears a hat.
- Any time someone makes a face (surprisingly often).
- Ditto flailing around like a crazed octopus.
- And, of course, at every scream.
The basics (or, the review is in the details):
Controls: Decent in all the ways that don't matter, and terrible in nearly all the ways that do. Movement is just fine, even with the wonky, unnecessary motion controls for some simple actions, and combat can be managed with practice -- but why would you want to? Word is, however, that the Wii version is much worse here than the other versions.
Visuals: Better than expected, to be honest. Like many Wii games, looks much better on your television than it does in stills. The character models are a little rough at times, but the environments have a lot of interesting little details that add to the experience.
Sound: The voice acting is predictably bad (and likely on purpose), but the music is much, much better than you'd expect to find in a budget title (especially this one). When combined with the environments, the sound works to create a very lovely atmosphere that would work well in a better game. Here, sadly, it's mostly wasted.
Story: It's as good as it should be for a game paying homage to teen horror films.
Difficulty: More difficult than it should be in places, due to the controls, and much easier than it should be in others, because you're often restricted to a very linear path. It's no fun to find yourself surrounded by enticing doors, only to learn that none of them will open.
Final verdict: 4/10 -- even at a budget price of $29.99, it's just not worth it.