Set almost two years after the botanical events of the first game, Obscure II opens with our scholarly chums now having embarked to University dorms
The survival horror genre seems to be stuck in something of a rut at present. After the majestic Resident Evil 4, nothing much has come along in the meantime to even attempt the same level of immersive quality, something of an oddity given the cannibalistic nature of the videogame industry. The original release of Obscure filled a nice gap however; a horror game that didn't take itself completely seriously, and also had the nous to set the game on a school campus, making for some nice parallels between the film and videogame world. Horror game sequels often fail to ape the tendencies of the material to which they so lovingly form a tribute however, but Obscure II definitely takes a step in the right direction.
One of the many non-scary enemies
Graphical quality is average at very best
Set almost two years after the botanical events of the first game, Obscure II opens with our scholarly chums now having embarked to University dorms, and living the standard hedonistic lifestyle of an American college student. Wandering around the halls, the protagonists soon come across a group of friends that encourage them to drink some special 'tea', made from a plant that had been mysteriously springing up around campus in the prior two weeks. One short trip into a drug-infused and nightmare-like dream state later, our friends are back in reality, and discovering that all is not well...
Suffice to say, as a horror game sequel it's a pretty obvious guess as to what's gone wrong, and there are no prizes for plot thickness to be handed out here. As your friends get picked off one by one in the real world, it's down to you to sort it all out through a combination of fairly basic combat and puzzle solving. Whilst the atmosphere attempts at a few scares along the way, Obscure II manages to be less of an out-and-out horror game, and more of an action-adventure with a few shocks thrown in for good measure.
The story is told through fairly short and self-contained chapters, each containing various puzzle and combat objectives which rely on the individual skills of separate characters to work through. For example, on environment might contain a mixture of heavy objects and seemingly unreachable platforms, all of which can be manipulated with specific individual skills. Change to one character to move the objects under the platform, and then swap out to the secondary player to utilise some acrobatic manoeuvres to navigate yourself up and over. Swapping between protagonists is done by simply hitting a button, and a large part of Obscure II's gameplay revolves around this mechanic, for better or worse.
The addition of a second playable character in each stage brings us to another unique feature, co-op play. Also included in the original game back in 2004, Obscure II allows for another human player to take control of the secondary character in any environment, at any point in the game. Working through the puzzles with a friend can become a very satisfying experience, and overall the co-op element works extremely well. It's shame that the developer didn't include any form of network support in this regard, but if you have a friend handy, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this as the best way of playing through the content on offer.
Unfortunately, Obscure II's solidity of game design tends to fall by the wayside to some glaring technical glitches and generally low production values, making it look like a game from 2005 rather than 2007 at times. Texturing on the PC version is particularly weak, seemingly rushed as an upgrade from the PS2 version, and the overall artistic design leaves a lot to be desired. Control is at times fairly clunky, and even playing with a 360 controller on the PC doesn't allow everything to be mapped correctly to the analogue sticks. This is definitely a game that benefits from pad support, so to see an inability map basic functions such as camera control correctly is somewhat mystifying.
There are some spooky sections to play through
Weaponry is fairly weak throughout
Overall though, Obscure II packs in just about enough charm to make it worth looking into as a budget purchase, providing you can find it at the right price. It's an almost knowingly bad and referential tribute to some of the great horror movie sequels, and however average the play mechanics and art direction are, on some basic level it still manages to fill a nice gap. Whether or not that will be enough for a purchase is largely down to your love of horror games, but there are certainly a lot worse examples out there to choose from.
Top Game Moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
Narrowly avoiding death in combat, then swiftly making it to a save point.