Posted: July 9, 2014
Combine a storyline more loopy and incoherent than almost every Japanese anime ever made, a cumbersome real-time item-choosing system guaranteed to make you use those medkits even faster, a save system which ensures you'll have to waste countless minutes at a time getting back to the bit which killed you in the first place, the occasional obstructive "camera angle" almost deliberately designed to ♥♥♥♥ you six-ways-to-Sunday, and some of the ♥♥♥♥♥iest boss fights in all of video game history...and what do you have? Well, oddly enough, a mostly enjoyable and worthwhile gaming experience...but ONLY if you've already played several dozen other post-Resident Evil third-person "survival horror" games, and are so addicted to such curiosities that you'll endure almost any level of punishment in search of that next elusive "fix".
I recently played and wrote a review of the first Obscure in which I declared it a "pleasant surprise", or words to roughly that effect. Given that I had slightly higher expectations of this one in the wake of its more-than-serviceable predecessor, I wouldn't say that I'm "disappointed" so much as a little bewildered at just how nutty and, well, frankly "incompetent" this one so often is.
Don't get me wrong: There's a lot of REALLY GOOD IDEAS here. One improvement it arguably makes over the original are the very distinct "special abilities" which each character has, all of which you will at some point REQUIRE to make progress through the game (as opposed to the "vaguely-useful-but-mostly-inessential" abilities evidenced by most of the characters in Obscure 1). To this effect, most of the puzzle-solving in this game is actually quite clever (though asking the player to pick a tricky lock puzzle in the midst of the climactic boss fight while a monster clobbers you from the side was perhaps pushing the friendship a little)! And the learning curve applied to these virtual "mini-game-within-a-game"s is mostly realistic and achievable, even for a certifiable doofus such as I. The scenery is also frequently interesting and varied...perhaps a little TOO varied for realistic geography purposes, but never mind (just think of it like one of those epic sword-and-sorcery fantasy worlds where a blazingly hot desert and an icy wasteland are just a hop, skip and a jump away from each other...apparently suburban high schools and spooky, near-desolate islands inhabited by in-bred Texas Chainsaw rejects do much the same thing). It's also a game with lots of "personality", not least of all within the characters themselves...plenty of entertaining banter and carry-on whilst the gameplay continues unabated, giving it a convincingly "cinematic" feel and making you actually "care" a little more for the fate of said characters than your average paper cut-out video game personas (off the top of my head, the Walking Dead and Left 4 Dead games are about the only other horror titles so earnestly devoted to giving their protagonists more than two dimensions).
Look, it's pretty clear by now that I have a certain fondness for these games, even if this one in particular infuriated me almost to the point of electronic pulpification. Mostly I'm just relieved that there was never an Obscure 3, 'cause you know that I'd feel obliged to play it, and judging by the quality arc this series has evidenced thus far, it would probably be almost intolerably "bad". ALMOST. In the tradition of the best "trashy" horror films, let's just chalk this one up as a "guilty pleasure"...even if the "pleasure" parts only seem to come in spurts...