Obscure: The Aftermath Review
The newest chapter in the Obscure series comes to PSP for the Halloween season. Does Playlogic's portable installment of The Aftermath have what it takes?
Obscure seems like it’s trying to be Silent Hill at first glance. Everything from the enemies to the puzzles and even the environments cast a familiar shadow of the original Silent Hill title. Whether developer Ignition was going for a clone or not, Obscure thankfully has plenty of subtle differences to stand out on its own. Having not played the original Obscure or this sequel on consoles I can’t speak to the differences, but The Aftermath seems perfectly suited for portables.
The story opens with a group of teenagers who survived a massacre at Leafmore High (guessing this is the premise for the first title) and have now moved on, hoping to leave all the terrors of that night behind. Now in college, the group hangs out on campus where many of the students are getting high from sniffing the essence of a strange flower. One night at a fraternity party, all hell literally breaks loose and once again the group is forced to fight their way through strange creatures on the campus and survive a new massacre.
Slated as a survival horror title, Obscure: The Aftermath sits somewhere between Resident Evil and Silent Hill because it has a near perfect balance of puzzles and enemy confrontations. While you do have an entire group of teenagers at your disposal, you can only use two of them at a time to solve puzzles and survive enemies. Some types of puzzles, like hacking terminals or decrypting symbols, may even have to be solved while your partner fights off a horde of enemies and you’re completely vulnerable. This may sound like a cheap shot to add a false sense of difficulty, but it does add to the intended tension of the situation.
In terms of gameplay, there are a few nagging issues that are immediately apparent and never seem to go away. The camera is one of the biggest gripes. In most PSP games you can rotate the camera with the LB and RB, but these buttons are being used by the weapon and item interface so the d-pad is the substitute. As a result, you are forced to stop moving to readjust the camera, which works fine when solving a puzzle but not so well when running from a hulking monster. The lock-on targeting seems beneficial but with mostly melee weapons, you will find yourself often hitting your partner on accident (causing damage) when clearing out a room and given the small number of health pickups this can be frustrating. Partner AI could also use some tweaking because just as Shiva in RE 5 would run your clips dry, so will your teammate in this game unless you’re lucky enough to have a live friend to join in for online co-op with their own game and PSP.
Aside from that, Ignition has done a great job of adjusting to the single analog PSP controls. Quick access to your various weapons and items outside of the pause screen gives you the flexibility to adjust to your encounters without losing touch of the action. The controls are tight and intuitive after about 30 minutes of play so you’re not constantly trying to readjust as you play along. I was also pleased with the frequency of the save points. You will usually come to a save point every 10-20 minutes of gameplay, which is perfect for PSP gamers since they may not be able to play for much longer than that in each session.