The Wii has mostly been seen as a console for kids or casual gamers, and not really friendly to hardcore gamers. Disproving this view is a Wii remake of a PS2 horror game: Project Zero 2 (called Fatal Frame 2 on the PS2). I braved the chills and scares of this haunting game to bring you this review.
Horror games generally tend to fall into one of two categories: survival horror, where you’re pretty much weaponless and need to rely on stealth and skill to progress, and action horror, where you’re armed to the teeth and can pretty much dismember the ghoulies and ghosties at will (yes, yes, I know all about the other subgenres, but if I delve THERE, this review will NEVER end!) Project Zero 2 falls quite snugly into a very strange category part way between the two. So while the thrills and scares come at you quite nicely, you’re armed to the teeth as well—with a camera.
Project Zero 2 tells the tale twin sisters Mio and Mayu (yes, I know, it gets confusing) who find an abandoned village. They soon discover that the entire place is more infested with ghosts than a picnic is with ants. The story delves into the grim history of the village, and as you discover more about what happens, the chills come faster. The key to the game is the Camera Obscura, your only weapon in the game. The camera has the unique ability to exorcise the spirits that wander the village. It wouldn’t be much of a horror game if your ammo weren’t limited, so of course, you’re limited by the amount of shots available on the reel of film. Various types of film exist around the village, allowing you to defeat stronger spirits, but you need to ration yourself.
Honestly, because of what you’re armed with, the game is one of the creepiest I’ve ever played. I’m not talking about Dead Space style scares here. We’re talking about the kind of insidious, slow, psychological horror that comes at you slowly through the environment and the gameplay. For example, just the act of picking something up can be creepy, because every now and again, a pair of spectral hands appears to try and grasp it back from you. Because it happens rarely, it’s creepy as hell when it does. The characters are beautifully rendered (and updated from the PS2 version, including new voice acting), and the environment is much the same as I recall. The Wii remote lends itself nicely to the game’s method of control, allowing you to more precisely and elegantly frame your shots. Holding the ghost in frame long enough to take the shot can be one hell of a challenge, especially in later levels when said ghost tends to fly in and out of picture, often appearing right behind you to scare you with screams. On the other hand, the controls can be…difficult, to say the least. It takes a while to learn how to get around properly, and just when you think you have it figured out, the game changes enough to make controlling it another small learning experience.
The other addition to the game is the new “Haunted House” mode, which sees you (and possibly a friend) wandering through a haunted house. The mode has several sub modes, including just taking a tour of a haunted house and a mode which sees you collecting dolls. Haunted house mode judges you based on how bold you were, how exploratory you were, and how much the controller shook in your hand as you made your way through the course. Each event is completely random, and so there’s no way to anticipate what’s to come. It is good fun for a horror party, but the mode is otherwise somewhat forgettable if you’re playing by yourself.
By and large, Project Zero 2 is one of the creepiest games I’ve ever had to endure. And now I’ve had to endure it twice on two different platforms. The controls on the Wii might be a little clunky, and I’m still trying to decide whether it’s part of the game’s charm or just something broken, but I still think it’s better than the old PS2 controls. It could go both ways, really. This game is not—I repeat, NOT—for the faint of heart. It’s scary as hell, and if you think you’re brave by having played through Silent Hill or Dead Space, you have another think coming if you decide to try Project Zero 2 Wii Edition. Good luck, my friend. May the spirits, hopefully, NOT be with you.
Final score: 8.5 pants-browningly scary prawns out of 10
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa (Core)
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Age Rating: 16+…but this is well debatable.