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Obscure: The Aftermath (PSP) artwork

Obscure: The Aftermath (PSP) review

" Another scene that comes to mind is one where you are trying to get an elevator moving while a monster charges at the open doors. These scenes kept me on my toes for the whole experience and make me feel obliged to recommend Obscure: The Aftermath to Survival Horror fans. But it’s a recommendation that comes with baggage."

Obscure: The Aftermath is a strange mix of terrible and terrifying. It may as well have been called Obscure: The Hangover, because it leaves a gamer with the feeling that they enjoyed themselves at some point but they can’t recall what that point was.

The game starts in what I think is supposed to be a typical college dorm. It is dirty and filled with alternative rock. Girls want to screw every guy that talks to them and get giggly about water beds and Barry White. Best of all, when people get together to party hard they sniff tea. Yes, that’s right. Sniffing tea is the latest campus craze. Didn’t you hear?

Then, of course, all hell breaks loose. One second students are rampantly sniffing tea, the next they are in the middle of a graveyard watching some hideous creature murder the dorm girls. One might think this a fairly effective manner of warning gamers of the dangers of drugs, but we find out later that these monsters have been spawned due to something much worse...

... sexual promiscuity.

Corey is just such a promiscuous student. He’s your typical tea sniffer who recovers instantly from hangovers by drinking energy drinks and who likes to scale buildings in his free time. His girlfriend is an Asian hottie who is “sweet as sour candy” and “a hardcore gaming fanatic.” Those are quotes from her bio, by the way. Here’s another one: “Life is the most thrilling game of all to Mei, and her favorite playing partner is Corey.”

These are only two of the fabulous characters who will be under your control in Obscure: The Aftermath. There’s also a suave blonde named Sven, a dumb blonde named Amy, and a ton of characters made up of varying degrees of cheese from the first game. Believe it or not, the stupid characters enhance the experience. Watching Corey or another one of these prunes get their faces eaten is always a pleasurable experience. Good thing, too, because it will happen a lot. Dying is pretty common in Obscure. Also common is the feeling that dying wasn’t your fault.

Don’t get me wrong, combat is not complicated in Obscure. You hold down the trigger button and jam on the x button, hoping (a) that the game has selected the right target and (b) that it is close enough for you to hit. The main problem with this? Enemies are extremely maneuverable while your character has the dodging power of the Titanic. If you equip a gun, things are a little more destined to go in your favour, but ammo is scarce and you’ll probably want to save it for the really tough enemies and bosses. Saving ammo isn’t anything new to the genre, nor are stiff combat controls. But forcing players to fight nearly every creature they come across is an unwelcome newcomer.

I remember one instance in particular when I was climbing across a narrow ledge, unable to use a weapon, and was attacked by flying ghosts. The game forced me to drop down and fight them before I could continue on. On a positive note, you should know that this was frightening as hell. Obscure does not fail to deliver in the scare department. The sound is extremely well designed with random scrapings, moanings, and bumpings keeping you jumpy even in the emptiest of rooms. In this particular instance the game was playing some of the creepiest music I’ve ever heard, something along the lines of Celtic children’s choir music backed by an insane violinist. When the ghosts started screaming at me from off screen I commenced shitting my drawers.

That's the thing with Obscure. Despite the poor story and combat annoyances, there are a lot of shockingly tense scenarios that save the experience. My favorite was when you have to control a character from the perspective of a grainy security camera. Not only did it capture the terrifying pre-set angles of yesteryear in an agreeable fashion, but you continually have to adjust the camera’s dials to keep the screen from snowing over with static. Another scene that comes to mind is one where you are trying to get an elevator moving while a monster charges at the open doors. These scenes kept me on my toes for the whole experience and make me feel obliged to recommend Obscure: The Aftermath to Survival Horror fans. But it’s a recommendation that comes with baggage.

For instance, you might want to consider getting the PS2 version instead. Graphically it can a little difficult to spot some of the items on the PSP's small screen. Also, PSP owners will have less of a chance to try out the co-op functionality that the game is so clearly designed around. In Obscure, you rarely travel alone and will quickly learn that the computer AI is a poor companion. If you give them a gun, they’ll go through your sparse ammo in a matter of seconds. If you don’t give them a gun, they’ll rush the enemy with whatever melee weapon they have and cost you all of your health kits instead. The PS2 gives you an easy out of this uneasy partnership if you have a second controller and a friend. The PSP version requires that friend to also own a copy of the game and, while I can definitely recommend picking up Obscure once, I can’t really recommend picking it up twice.


zippdementia's avatar
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (October 27, 2009)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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bloomer posted October 27, 2009:

Good review. I've seen other people commenting about the 'wackiness' of the characters as well.

Something that's weirding me out is that I always thought the game was just called Obscure II. That's what it says on the front of my wii copy, and how I've always heard it described (at Chris Survival Horror Quest site, for instance). I never heard of this 'aftermath' stuff til I saw this review. But both here and gamefaqs only have listings for Obscure: The Aftermath. They're definitely the same thing, as my manual also has the 'sweet as sour candy' thing in it.
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zippdementia posted October 27, 2009:

That's funny, because I didn't know there was a Wii version... again, due to the name differences! Poor naming practices, I guess.

I'd be curious to know how the Wii version controls. I can see them going all happy in the face with all the puzzles and what not.
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honestgamer posted October 28, 2009:

The Wii port was rather obscure, Zipp. I'm not surprised that you weren't aware of its existence. ;-)
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bloomer posted October 28, 2009:


In case anyone's in danger of not interpreting HG's statement punnily... I should point out that when this game was coming, a bunch of us survival horror nerds had got word it was basically in development for the Wii. The first real review I read, halfway through last year, was also for the Wii:
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zippdementia posted October 28, 2009:

I knew of Obscure 1, but Obscure 2 was, well... obscure!

I'm no slouch in the Survival Horror genre. Not just myself, but pretty much all of my friends love the genre and I'm always getting word of what's coming out next.

But none of them had heard of Obscure 2. The Wii is an... interesting system. It releases so many random or half-baked games that I think sometimes things get lost amidst its massive pages of advertisements. Like, if you flip through a gaming magazine, there's usually two or three times as many quick blurbs on Wii games as there are on the other systems.

Of course, the other systems get the big write ups. So it creates this situation where people (probably rightfully) view the Wii as a system which gets a lot of small fish coming to it. The main games that my Survival Horror buddies were looking at for the Wii were Dead Space Extraction (though I shiver to call that survival horror), Cursed Mountain, and Fatal Frame (now not even coming to NA).
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overdrive posted October 28, 2009:

Yeah, I'd say I really agree with this review. It has its suspense/scare moments and some plot twists (ie: deaths) that do provide a good shock when you first experience them and you really want to like it, but it's just so clunky that you can only give it a lukewarm (at best) recommendation.

Like, after whatshisname mutates into the monster you have to fight like three times. During that first battle, I died a gazillion times just due to the clunkiness of things. He's at one end of the room firing black smoke pollen shit at you and occasionally jumping forward to do a ground-shaking attack. It SHOULD be kinda easy to just run back and forth across the screen firing at him between dodging his shots (and then going to the far back of the screen when he prepares to jump). But it seemed like I'd get hung up on my worthless partner and would take a cheap hit due to them that would get me frustrated and lead to me making more mistakes.

It's sort of like a superior Rule of Rose (or whatever the hell that game was called). Both had their share of intriguing moments, but both were let down by blah gameplay. Especially Rule of Rose, where you controlled a teen girl who a not particularly athletic teen girl, leading you to basically run past enemies and only fight when you had no choice in the matter.
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sashanan posted October 28, 2009:

Funny you should mention Rule of Rose, was about to bring it up. Creepy as heck but the game so clunky that the effect is almost (but thankfully not quite) ruined.
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zippdementia posted October 28, 2009:

Thanks for reading OD! I really liked your review of the game and kind've held it up as the standard that I had to meet while writing mine.

Now, me personally, I only died once in Obscure 2 and it was because I tried to use the Chainsaw (which ironically sucks). On the Spider Boss, I just pretty much stood still and fired shotgun blast after shotgun blast. Boring and silly, but it worked with minimal loses. I wrote the review from the extrapolated viewpoint of someone who hasn't played as many poorly controlled Survival Horror games as I have.

I've played enough Survival Horror to know how to handle these crap systems. But I know most people will go in and die so many times they'll be cursing the day this game was made. Because there are no options in the game except to fight. And that's not very... nice. Or good design.

Rule of Rose was one I wanted to play for the creep factor but was turned off mightily by videos of gameplay.
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overdrive posted October 28, 2009:

That's right! The chainsaw! Isn't it only useful for those scripted areas where you have to chop a log out of your path? But utterly worthless in battle? I had trouble understanding that. "Okay, this thing is perfect for chopping down a tree, but it won't damage enemies noticeably. That'll trick them damn know-it-all players!"
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zippdementia posted October 28, 2009:

Yeah, I was really tempted to mention the Chainsaw in my review, but after reading the section it originally was in it was hard to recapture the thread of the review, so I left it out.

It is, nonetheless, the stupidest weapon I've ever encountered in the game. First of all, it's some kind of plasticy rechargeable battery chainsaw that means the characters probably bought it at Costco for $9.99. When I first got it, though, I was excited. After all, it's a fucking chainsaw. As OD points out, you use it to chop trees in half... IN THE GAME.

So when this monster charged me a little later on, I whipped it out, pointed it forward and held down the power button. And got my ass kicked. I don't think it hurt the monster at all.

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