07/01/2022

๐Ÿ“ธ Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water | XBOX Series X | Review | 7/10 | "Yes, This Game is D.A.R.K." ๐Ÿ“ธ @project_zero_kt @ShowMeMagic #IndieGame #GameDev #IndieGames

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At the time of writing this, it’s Halloween season, a time to immerse yourself in anything scary; watch a few horrors, play a couple of spooky games - and this year is no different as I’ve been asked to review this Japanese supernatural game which is either a blessing or a curse, only time will tell.  I have always had a thing for Asian horror movies. They are so atmospheric and the separation from the Western world just takes it to another level. This game is no exception.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water looks and feels like an early version of Resident Evil (good) and plays like an Asian horror movie (also, good), drawing in welcoming comparisons to the 2004 game Obscure and the frightening VHS black and white flashbacks pay direct homage to likes of Ringu.  Yes, it is terrifying.   

Project Zero is set in the hills of Mount Hikami, a place where people mysteriously disappear without a trace. One such girl is Miu Hinasaki, our first female protagonist who awakes to find herself in a pool of water in an old half-flooded building. The water is shallow, but the creepy environment makes me think I am out of my depth and in over my head.  It’s instantly full-on, the first 5 seconds will have your goosebumps running for cover …and this is just episode one! 

Mt. Hikami has become infamous for suicides, a hotspot for those wishing not to be alone when they die (you have been warned). A place where the Maidens of Black Water lead you to your death, or so the folklore goes.  The game is full of jump-scares and the occasional jumper. Some jumps cannot be unseen. 

Yes, this game is D.A.R.K.

The residents (evil) of Hikami, through gaming evolution, have developed the ability to see the echoes of a past tragedy, this is known as Shadow Reading, a similar power seen in the 2008 Japanese survival horror, Siren Blood Curse, a good game that is also let down by the controls. In Project Zero, the default setting on the controller is more sensitive than I am with a hangover. It can be easily adjusted and improved, however, it will never be perfect. 

I clutch my heart and bravely head into episode 2 where we meet our next female hero. A psychic investigator who, armed with only a mysterious camera and a mini skirt, bravely lurks through the basement of the damp, outright creepy and quite frankly, terrifying Ichriu Manor. A place where only evil would find comfort. The environments are atmospheric and dripping in decay. This game is genuinely nerve-racking and actually pretty scary. 

Hint: There is no pause button, so if your ticker needs a rest, simply press the Xbox button.

You will play as three different characters throughout the game. Each one will have significant differences in the ways that their camera powers work.  

The mysterious camera, or Camera Obscure as it is more accurately known, becomes your lifeblood. It is the weapon of choice. You will discover that shooting a spirit with a Kodak is much more efficient, especially when you have five dead things lunging towards you at once and in need of exorcising! When confronted, you’ll whip out your camera to fight off the terror, the camera uses the focus to inflict damage and the more body parts you have in focus, the more powerful the attack. Sounds simple, huh? Not when you have to wait for the camera to reload which makes for intense combat situations.   

The fight scenes are a vastly different experience from other, more popular survival horrors I’ve played but, it’s very unique and a welcome change.   

The camera also gives the ability to see ‘Traces’, which are shadows of the past that will guide her to the next objective. Nobody wants the past catching up with them, but she seems to thrive on it. The device can be upgraded with the points you earn from taking photos of dead people.    

As much as I am enjoying this game, it does seem to struggle with the simplest of tasks such as opening a door, the transition is slow and feels likes you are waiting for the graphics in the next room to finish the art of Feng Shui before welcoming you in. Crawling under obstacles is not much better and the animation of the girl is cringing to watch. 

The female character designs in the game are exactly what we’ve come to expect for Japanese-designed teenage protagonists and the creepy sexualisation is a little incongruous. Moreover, of course, there are costumes to unlock and obviously there is a swimsuit option, because, when you are investigating the paranormal, it is the outfit of choice. 

Can ghosts swim? -1XP

The soundtrack really comes alive through my headphones. I find this my preferred way to play horror games as the audio is extremely atmospheric, hauntingly eerie and builds up the tension, and as Aerosmith once said you “don’t want to miss a thing.” 

Project Zero is a great, old school, supernatural survival horror and is the darkest game I’ve ever played. I mean, how often do you get to see your friend top herself and instantly start haunting you like Christmas past?… Yes, it’s another festive reference but it’s now November and who knows when this will be published. (7th January 2022 - Ed)

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