Obscure: The Aftermath Review

April 21, 2008



Following up on the original title released in 2005, Obscure: The Aftermath comes to the Wii with everything you'd expect from a summer horror flick, including partying college students, dark hikes through the woods, vacant hospitals, and horrifying mutant creatures. But will you dread playing this game because it's scary or just scarily bad?

Obscure: The Aftermath takes place two years after the principal of Leafmore High School unleashed a series of botanical experiments on the student populace, transforming many of them into bloodthirsty monsters. Now, college students have stumbled on the madman's leftovers in the form of hallucinogenic flowers. Having spread their seeds through drug abuse and unprotected sex, the plants germinate, replicating the terrors of Leafmore and leaving only a handful of survivors to escape with their lives.

Like the B-movie fare the game emulates, much of the entertainment comes from listening to just how corny the dialogue can get and how stupid the characters' decisions can be. You'll be lulled into hoping that the nightmare is almost over multiple times as the story progresses, but the plot stumbles on to introduce new villains and situations. Even after the credits roll, Obscure manages to drag you back to Fallcreek for one more chapter of pain.

True to the survival horror formula, Obscure: The Aftermath provides you with limited amounts of health and ammo and blocks your way with a variety of puzzles. The catch comes with the game's buddy system, which has you managing pairs of characters at a time; keeping both supplied with adequate weapons and health kits.

Each character has a different skill that you'll need to proceed. Corey is good at climbing, Sven is strong enough to push heavy objects, Stan can pick locks, and Mei knows how to hack into electronics. The six characters split up multiple times throughout the game, but they always share the same inventory, even when one group is searching the dorms while another is at the hospital across town.

A friend can jump in to join you at any time, but co-op isn't necessarily beneficial. The camera only follows one player, leaving the other to follow closely or get left behind, and thanks to the frustrating controls, AI characters actually stand a better chance of hitting their targets. Whenever your partners do get out of line, feel free to correct them via baseball bat, golf club, or chainsaw because you can punish them all you like without lowering their health.

To save your game, you'll have to locate and touch large flowers that cause your characters to comically pass out. It's a bit silly, and the game also fails to provide chances to save between chapters, frequently causing you to repeat puzzles or difficult battles. We even encountered a bug that loads the wrong save file after you die.

Gameplay in Obscure: The Aftermath is a bit clumsy to start, but the issues get even worse with tacked-on Wii controls. The camera system mashes together pointer-based camera control with fixed viewpoints, creating confusion as the camera dramatically shifts from one angle to the next.

To use melee weapons like baseball bats, you hold the Z button and swing the remote vertically or horizontally. The weapons are effective against smaller crawling enemies, but the limited range makes them nearly useless against relentless flying vagina monsters. Firing guns is clunky as well. Rather than simply pointing and shooting, you need to hold Z to ready your weapon, then hold A to lock-on to a target (which doesn't always work), and then fire with the trigger.

The game also makes extended use of motion controls in various situations--usually for the worst. The interface for picking locks works well, but most of the time you're simply waggling. You waggle to jump to ledges and lift your partner. You waggle to use a chainsaw on a fallen log, and you even waggle to charge batteries for your equipment. The worst offender, though, is a lift that requires both characters to turn wheels in unison. Getting the lift to rise feels entirely random, and if your pace falters for any reason, it can easily drop back down again.

Puzzles are fairly light throughout the game, usually consisting of finding the right items, turning a few knobs, or solving word jumbles to hack into doors. Sometimes you'll have the added pressure of solving a puzzle while your partner is being attacked, which can make you panic a little.

Visually, there isn't much that stands out in Obscure: The Aftermath. It looks like an average PS2 game with average meatbag monster designs. The prerendered cut-scenes look particularly awful with ugly character models. The bad dialogue doesn't help much either, and the music consists of your standard mix of haunting choirs and heavy guitars.

Obscure: The Aftermath is a poorly-executed horror game with a lot of control and design issues. It's a rather painful game to play, and fails to provide any real scares. We recommend playing Resident Evil 4 again before spending the time and money on this.