A horror game on a Nintendo console may sound like a rare commodity, but there are actually a fair few. These include ZombiU for the Wii U, Dementium: The Ward for the DS, and even Resident Evil 4 was a GameCube exclusive for a while. A couple weeks ago saw a new exclusive horror game for a Nintendo console, and a new entry into the Project Zero (aka Fatal Frame), Project Zero: Maiden of Blackwater.
Will this new entry give players a good fright, or is it just like that one kid in the cheaply made ghost disguise? Read our review after the break!
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water primarily takes place on the fictional Hikami Mountain, a spiritual area where people have visited for sacrificial rituals and suicides. Shrine Maidens once resided on the mountain to ensure that those who came to end their now lives would do so peacefully. Throughout the game, there are three playable characters, Yuuri Kozukata, Ren Hojo, Miu Hinasaki. While rescuing each other, you will also be exploring the dark and creepy forests, shrines, and cabins of the mountain, unveiling the mysteries surrounding the maidens and ghosts, while trying to stay alive.
The story of the title is told brilliantly, during my playtime (or should I say scare time), I’ve always been so tempted to play the next chapter when I should have really gone to bed, because I want to see how the story unfolds, for example, after escaping the Womb Cavern, I thought everything would be safe for a while but then… sorry, no spoilers. I will say this however, you will only understand part of the story if you are only interested in speeding to the end, if you don’t explore every nook and cranny, you may not fully reveal what exactly has happened. There are notes, diary passages and more, hidden throughout the mountain which expand on the story further.
Something that Project Zero does great is how the scares induced by the title do not rely on jump scares, or shocking gore and violence, but rather taking a more psychological route. First, there’s the setting. As I mentioned earlier, the game is set on Hikami Mountain where people go to end their own lives. Resident shrine maidens use mind control techniques to make sure that those people encounter a peaceful death. Just when you thought it couldn’t get creepier, there was also one visitor who was extremely fearful of the maidens and their powers, so much so, he went out to gouge out their eyes and murder the maidens in cold blood. If that isn’t enough, because of their murder, the maidens now haunt the mountain, luring even the passersby to commit suicide and haunt the mountain too. What makes things eerier are the written passages you find hidden throughout the mountain. Some of these demonstrate how the visitors felt lured in by the shrine, or revealed details of how the maiden murderer killed his victims.
I have to admit something, there were plenty of times where it would take me a while to gather the courage to enter certain areas, especially those with very narrow corridors. A ghost could appear when you open a door, pick up an item from the floor, or even just while you are casually walking down a creepy corridor, they can appear anytime and anywhere, the only place where you are usually safe would be back at Ren’s house. One area in particular where I was nervous was the basement of the Doll Shrine. This area has you walking waist deep in water, navigating a small maze of sacrificial dolls, not only could a ghost appear at any time, but they could easily posses a child sized doll… eek!
Like previous entries of Project Zero, Maiden of Black Water utilises the Camera Obscura, the only weapon you can use against the vengeful and malevolent spirits of Hikami Mountain. The Camera Obscura in’t any ordinary camera as it can literally look into the land of the dead and capture spirits. You use the GamePad gyro controls to use the device. The viewfinder appears on the GamePad screen and you use the gyro to move the view. To damage a ghost, you have to take photos of its face, depending on the angle, range, and visibility of the target will affect how much damage you deal. Taking photos of the ghost will also cause it to temporarily release fragments, the more of these which are in shot will also increase the damage, as well as fill up your spirit meter. This spirit meter is used to unleash abilities associated with different lenses you will find around the mountain. Each one has a different power, such as dealing an impressive amount of damage, or healing yourself depending on the level of the ghost you are fighting. You can equip up to three lenses at one time. At certain points, right before a ghost attacks you, you can perform a Fatal Frame shot. This allows you to take multiple powerful shots quickly in a very short period of time. There are several types of film you can use to fight the ghosts, these all affect the damage you deal and the loading time (the time it takes between shots). The Camera Obscura isn’t primarily used for combat however. There will be times where you will have to look through to the other world to try and reclaim items that have been lost to it.
Something which I found annoying about the combat is how quickly it can take to become really repetitive. After a few chapters, I started to avoid coming into contact with ghosts not from fear, but because it was becoming tedious. Throughout the game, the only reason you would need to change tactics slightly is when the ghosts become more difficult to put to rest. If you are having trouble defeating a specific entity it is usually due to the area of combat. There are so many narrow corridors and small areas on the mountain, because of this, it can become pretty difficult to gain some distance from your assailant while looking through the camera. More often than not you’ll constantly be running your back into walls and accidentally walking into the grasp of devious ghouls.
What doesn’t help is the fact that the controls can become irritating when moving. There are times where I will be fighting the game to move the character to where I want him or her to move, for example, pulling back on the control stick won’t cause the character to turn around, instead you have to rotate the camera to the other side of your character and push forwards; perhaps I am just so used to more free movement. The gyro controls can also get in the way. Most games I play on the Wii U, I absolutely love the gyro controls, though with how quickly the ghosts can move, it is so much easier just using the control sticks and turning motion controls off in settings.
With a impressive yet disturbing story and fantastic scares, Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is definitely a brilliant game, What pulls the title back from being completely amazing is the dodgy controls and how the combat can become very repetitive after a few chapters. If you are wanting a decent survival horror to play on your Wii U, then this is the game for you. If you don’t like being scared, or if even the slightest control issue scares you to death then you should definitely give this title a miss. 6.5/10
Had a chance to delve into the deranged world of Hikami Mountain? If so, what do you think? Tell us in the comments below!