Obscure stars a group of high school students that will instantly remind you of the cast of horror movies like “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” There’s even a character that looks exactly like Josh Hartnett, star of “The Faculty”; another teen horror romp. After the disappearance a classmate, a ragtag group of friends decide to band together find him/save the day. After school, they all meet up in a classroom when they suddenly find themselves locked in! Even worse than being locked in, the school has been taken over by random monsters! Inside this angst-filled drama, this team of students must work together and overcome their fears should they hope to survive the survival horror.
While this premise is avoided in many films because it’s only led to box office flops, it’s new to video games. Since this is one of the first times this has been done in video games it actually plays out pretty well in Obscure. Sure, the characters aren’t particularly well developed, but they’re quite a bit different than the typical characters in survival horror games. They also react to what is going on, often by shouting out “what are these things!” unlike Silent Hill characters that tend to be rather silent when they aren’t featured in a cutscene.
There are actually hardly any cutscenes to be found in Obscure. While that may scream “low production values,” in actuality it works for the game really well. Most of the story is told through notes and records left around the school (those dastardly villains are always leaving their notes behind!) and as the plot progresses from “where’d our friend go?” to “wow, this place is *beep* up!” it goes pretty smoothly. Throughout the game you’ll uncover your traditional plot twists and turns, but sadly the story really isn’t all the interesting because the characters don’t really do anything.
Obscure practically has no learning curve at all, so that kept me in as well. The game plays pretty much the same as every other survival horror game, except now you have a partner to help you do things (and unlike in Silent Hill 2 they never leave your side). In the end, it was the partner feature that kept me hooked on Obscure because my fellow Thunderbolt reviewer, Anthony Karge, and I were able to play the game on co-op mode, which really is something that’s been missing from this genre for a while. I’m honestly surprised it’s taken this long to get here.
With a friend tagging along, it makes Obscure a lot more fun and interesting. Anthony was really good at the combat portion of the game while I like to play the detective, so often Anthony would fend off demon hell-spawn while I hunted for clues. When we got tired of our jobs, he did the fetching and I shot up some foes. When puzzles reared their ugly heads, we combined our memories of where we saw items and were able to solve them without looking for guides. Sure, it wasn’t as scary as it could have been because we were together, but it was enjoyable.
The new design ideas don’t stop right there either. The game makes use of light in order to help with the extermination of your enemies and it works pretty well. Smashing opaque windows to let the little daylight that you’ll see in the game destroys all of the enemies that you face. Later, after the sunsets, you have to rely on flashlights and bullets to take them down. Thankfully, there’s no battery hunting like there was in The Suffering.
Even with all these good ideas, Obscure still misfires. You can only use two characters at a time, so while you’re out exploring with your characters, the other ones just sort of hang out and do nothing, and they don’t even bother to regenerate their health. Really, there’s no sense in playing as any other character unless they die, because they can all do the same things, they just have varying degrees of expertise. One character is the “master of unlocking,” but since everyone can pick locks, there’s no reason to use him.
Secondly, the AI isn’t great. I played the single-player mode for a while, and during my first battle the computer-controlled character just sort of stood there. Granted, they didn’t have a weapon so there wasn’t much of anything they could do, but they just stood there and got attacked. So when I died because I was fighting all by myself, I gained control of an incredibly injured character and promptly died as well. While that might not sound all that bad, once you’re dead in Obscure, you’re dead. There is no going back, so saving often is essential if you want everyone to survive. You won’t care if everyone survives though because they have no personality.
And for a game that emphasizes lights, the game has some shoddy lighting effects and nonexistent shadows. At the same time, the architecture and character models look impressive. Such is the way of Obscure, I guess. The sound fairs the same way: while the voice acting is campy, the orchestrated music in the game is great, with the only exceptions being the out-of-place rock music.
Even still, I managed to work my way through the game and never get bored because the game is six hours long, so it progresses pretty fast. You don’t really have all that much time to get bored with the game mechanics because by the time you’re really fluent with them, the credits roll. And while normally I think this would be a fault, because of the setting and the premise, I think this length is appropriate. It’s designed to take place during one single night. While most nights last longer than six hours, it’s still a set length of time that shouldn’t be adjusted too much.
At the end of the day, Obscure is like good frosting on a slightly stale cake. It’s good and it’s sweet at times, but it’s awfully dry and hollow. There’s really honestly no point to buying this title if you aren’t going to play co-op with a friend, but if you have a pal to play the game with, then this is a steal at its budget price. So if you have friends that are willing to help you through this one, pick it up. Everyone else, use your discretion.
Seven out of ten