Sometimes living in Jolly Old England has its advantages. I don't get enough sunlight, most of my friends teeth ARE bad and I've had enough of the Royal Family for a lifetime, BUT I did get to play this ace game before my mates in North America.

Released here by Ubi Soft, Obscure is pure Americana - 5 teenagers trying to solve a mystery in a high school infested with monsters - but here's the arse up: It was developed in France.

You'll start the game as Kenny, star basketball player. The poor bloke's bag gets stolen and he'll be off trying to retrieve it. I don't want to say much, but you won't be playing as Kenny for too long. You'll then take control of the 5 other playable characters (3 guys and 2 girls) who are worried that Kenny didn't show up for school the next day, so they do the Scooby Doo thing and decide to look for him.

If you imagine a crossover between the Buffy and Resident Evil games with a dash of Silent Hill, you'll be very close. Obscure pays homage to the games in the survival horror genre without ever falling into pure imitation and even goes so far to advance the genre a bit. One example of this is the complete absence of a health meter. You will only have the beating of the vibration in your controller to warn of you impending death (if you so desire you can hunt for the health meter buried in the inventory menu). Another is the teammate aspect. You will travel in pairs on your adventure and you can switch at anytime. However the AI of your CPU controlled partner is almost always excellent and won't be getting hung up on doors, waltzing into your line of fire and will always help you when danger is imminent. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses and the spare ones (still left alive) will be available at certain checkpoints so you can switch between them. As an added extra two players can play the game at the same time shortening progress time so you'll breeze even faster through the game.

Most of the enemies you will encounter can be blown away with the large amounts of weapons and ammo you'll find hidden around the school (remember, this is an American school we're talking about!) but in a very cool twist, most enemies can be harmed by contact with direct sunlight so you will want to shoot out windows to make cleansing the school of beasties that much easier. I love a game that allows you to save at any point and Obscure offers this service, which enhanced my enjoyment of this game a thousandfold.

Where Obscure falls a little flat is when it forces players to hunt for keys and other items which will feel overly familiar. It's part of the genres trappings I understand, but it's no longer welcome as far as I'm concerned. The puzzles in the game aren't difficult and most require manipulation of the two characters which is a nice change.

The screenshots I provided below look much better than the actual game, although it's really no slouch in graphics. I found Obscure to be one of the best looking PS2 games to date, save Splinter Cell. The drawback to this high level of polish are the numerous load times you will have to sit through when entering any door. The load times aren't very long but there are a LOT of doors. If that doesn't bother you, you will surely be intoxicated by the sparkling level of presentation in Obscure. Unfortunately the artistic brilliance doens't quite carry over to the various monsters you'll encounter, which seem oddly uninspired. Let's put it another way. The imagination scarring demons from Silent Hill won't be making an appearance in this game. The character design seems to be a slight step away from the Scooby Doo movies.

I'm not sure when Obscure will be appearing in North America but I will say that this game very definitely blows away the Resident Evil Outbreak series on the PS2. It's a scream of a good time and even though it's not perfect, it manages to entertain almost every step of the way Get into the school "spirit" and enrol for some obscure classes later this year..... bwahahahahahaha!.


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System: PS2
Dev: Hydravision
Pub: Ubi Soft
Release: Jan 2005
Players: 1
Review by Kelly