Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Release Date: March 25, 2008
There are few games with a title as apt as Obscure. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it; few have. Released at the budget price of $20 and produced in fairly low quantities, it was a horror game basically like no other. Half "Breakfast Club" and half Resident Evil, Obscure starred the students of Leafmore High as they struggled to overcome the mysterious experiments of their principal, Herbert Friedmen, who created a terrible race of mutation-causing spores in an attempt to save his brother's life. It was both a horror game and a send-up of teen slasher movies, often parodying the very same thing it was itself referencing. The big selling point for Obscure was the fact that it was a two-player survival horror game, allowing two friends to take on the horrors of high school together. Despite this, Obscure remained relatively unknown, and it certainly didn't seem like the sort of title to be destined for a sequel. Yet developer Hydravision still has a few tricks up their sleeves, and they're not willing to let the franchise vanish in the mist just yet.
Obscure: The Aftermath opens up two years after the events of the original Obscure. Leafmore High survivors Kenny and Shannon Matthews have moved on to college at Fallcreek University, while the rest of the Leafmore survivors scattered to the winds in an attempt to cope with the events that occurred on that fateful day. Things have seemed to return to normal, although both Kenny and Shannon still suffer aftereffects from the nasty experiments of their former principal. Unfortunately, such peace was not destined to remain. Being stupid college students, the teens at Fallcreek have recently become addicted to a new pastime: burning and inhaling a mysterious new flower in order to get high. Sadly for the students of Fallcreek, this new flower is somehow connected to the mysterious spores that caused the tragedy at Leafmore, and before long, most of the students on campus are transformed into flesh-rending monsters. It's up to the survivors of Leafmore and the other few remaining untransformed students to figure out a way to survive this new nightmare.
Much like the original, Obscure: The Aftermath is a two-player survival-horror game. Except for a brief moment early on, you're never without a partner. While the game is designed to be played with two players supporting one another, it's also playable in single-player mode, with the computer AI playing whichever character isn't currently under the player's control. However, while this is very similar to the original Obscure, there are a few differences to be found. For one, you can no longer allow any of the teenagers to die, as you could in Obscure. Lose either one of your heroes, and the game is over. This plays into the more linear progress of the plot, as Obscure: The Aftermath focuses a lot more on the interplay and development between the various characters, instead of focusing on whom the player can keep alive.
The other major difference is that your two-character team is no longer optional. In the original Obscure, each teenager had a unique special ability that could make the game easier, but most certainly wasn't required to progress. Obscure: The Aftermath takes a slightly different approach. Rather than picking your two-teen team, your characters are thrown together by different plot events. Each character has a unique set of special abilities, ranging from skateboarder Corey's ability to perform death-defying acrobatics to former jailbird Stan's deft lockpicking skills. Whatever your two-person combination is, you'll have to use their skills in unison to progress through the game's areas. For example, one area involves the beefy Sven pushing crates and boxes around to form platforms and areas for Corey to swing and climb to, which then allows Corey to open up a path for the less agile Sven to follow.
While many of the game's puzzles focus on using the two characters' skills to get past specific obstacles, there are also a few areas where two characters will have to work in perfect unison in order to survive. This is certainly possible in single-player mode, due to a reasonably competent AI, but these are the segments where the two-player mode is going to come into the spotlight. One such segment, for example, involves one character picking off harpies with a ranged weapon while the other controls Corey, who is struggling to climb across a gap while the harpies try to tear him apart. Another has a character manning a high-powered flashlight to keep a swarm of enemies off the other, guiding one ally through a pitch-black maze using a video camera, or rowing a rowboat while the other fights off enemies.
The monsters in Obscure: The Aftermath have changed a bit from their counterparts at Leafmore High. While the Fallcreek monsters are still vulnerable to light, a baseball bat or handgun can take out a monster just as well now, and there aren't any black auras around foes that need to be dissolved with your flashlight. This isn't to say that the monsters have completely lost their weakness to bright lights, though, as a flash bang grenade or other high-powered light source can instantly kill some of the strongest foes, but these are a last resort now, rather than a crucial part of your combat strategy. There is, however, a new benefit to monsters as well, to forgive their fewer weaknesses: When you kill specific monsters in the game, they leave behind their still-beating hearts. By using a special syringe, you can drain the blood and proteins from these hearts and convert them into a serum that restores a substantial amount of health, which is a great boon, considering both of your team must remain alive.
Obscure: The Aftermath has a fairly impressive soundtrack, composed by Olivier Deriviere and performed by the Boston Quartet. It's a chilling mix of slow and somber tunes and more fast-paced tracks that lend a solid atmosphere to the title. In fact, for those who'd like to hear it, the soundtrack is available for download on (http://www.olivierderiviere.com) Deriviere's Web site. The voice acting is provided by a healthy mix of talented actors, including radio personality Buster Cox, who voices a number of characters, such as returning character Kenny, newcomer Corey and the mysterious Dr. James.
Obscure: The Aftermath offers more of the multiplayer action and teen drama that were done so well in the original title. For PS2 gamers who are seeking a Resident Evil-style game, or just a good game to play with a friend, Obscure: The Aftermath is shaping up to be a solid addition to the aging system's impressive survival-horror lineup.