Obscure: The Aftermath Review
One of the best parts about this job is getting to play certain games before they even hit stores, but the absolute best part is letting everyone know just what they have to look forward to – or not. Which brings us to the PSP port of Obscure: Aftermath – the new PSP survival horror game that may be a new release, but I've had for some time and have already finished. Obscure: Aftermath is the sequel to 2004's Obscure, a marginally popular PC/PS2 adventure. The original game gave players control of a group of high school kids who found themselves living either a dream or a nightmare – depending on your perspective – in which their teachers had become infected, non-human monsters. In classic Resident Evil survival horror-style, the group (mostly) made it through, but not before solving puzzles, being startled by "jump out" scares and, of course, splattering some seriously hideous creatures. The game's biggest draw was its co-op play, which added another dimension to the tried and true formula, and that mechanic is fully realized in this sequel as well.
Obscure: Aftermath picks up with the remaining characters, now in college together, living their lives as normal. As the game begins, just enough backstory is given to allow for players unfamiliar with the first to jump right in, but for a lot of folks (myself included) what is revealed isn't quite enough, especially if you expect the events in the sequel to have the same kind of weight as they would for a fan of the original. It wasn't until after I had completed this game that I had the good sense to go online and read about the first; a few "a-ha" moments were totally lost on me, and reading about them after the fact was a bit like having a joke explained – it makes sense, but it isn't nearly as amusing. On it's own, Obscure: Aftermath's story is just OK, it fits the bill and sets up some showpiece moments, but it is much, much better when experienced through the lens of the first game.
When it comes to actually playing the game, you'll either love it or hate it, depending on how you view the PS1 survival horror days. Obscure: Aftermath is pure Resident Evil when it comes right down to it. The now-irrelevant "tank" controls are back in full retro force here. Those unfamiliar with how these games used to be played will immediately be turned off by the unwieldy character controls, but if you got used to it back in the day, you'll adjust to this game in no time flat. To be fair, this game's characters do move a little faster and more deliberately than the Resident Evil team ever did, but their controls are much closer to the STARS team than they are to your average 3D action game. Adding the second character can complicate things in some close-quarters areas, as the switch off mechanic can conflict with the difficult controls scheme, but this doesn't happen often enough to be an issue.