Review by Misfit119

Reviewed: 07/25/07

After playing this game I will never, ever, own a dog. Ever!

Normally, I’m not the sort of gamer who is given to praising games solely based on graphics, sound or some other purely aesthetic part of the game. However, when that’s all a game really has going for it it’s usually best to give credit where credit is due and to cut your losses at that. This is the case with Haunting Ground. The storyline is fairly convoluted, uses lots of terms that will make not a lick of sense and the dog sucks. As a matter of fact I can sum up the game in the most commonly used term that I employed while playing this game… “F’in dog!” That right there is the entire game in a nutshell.

The storyline of Haunting Ground follows our busty heroine Fiona who awakens buck nekkid in a cell in the basement of a creepy mansion. Escaping from the dog cage (?!) she finds herself in, she uses a sheet to preserve her dignity and she begins exploring. Shortly she meets a creepy woman who claims to be a maid and has laid out gothic-esque clothes for Fiona to change into. From this creepy introduction, we will encounter the mentally challenged monster Debilitas, the groundskeeper Riccardo and a weird guy who is stalking Fiona via letters, Lorenzo. All of these people have some interest in the poor girl and with an outfit like that, who can blame them?

Joking aside the game essentially boils down to an enemy of the hour sort of game with our dear Fiona having to flee for her life from one particular enemy through each section of the game. But the interesting part is evading capture. Fiona has a really pathetic little kick or shoulder shove maneuver that she can pull off, neither of which is really useful. This leaves you to either hide, use items to fight the enemies or, the method the game assumes you will use most, your dog Hewie can fight the enemies for you. The problem is that none of these three methods actually work too well.

Sure you can hide from an enemy, but only if they are far enough away from you that you can slip into the hiding place. Also you can’t use the same hiding place too often or the enemies will catch on and get to you regardless. The major problem is that most of the hiding places are fairly hard to notice especially when you are in the process of running for your life. The game does tell you when Fiona is near a hiding place and an enemy is chasing you, but since it gives you no indicator of a hiding place normally, its very hard to plan out how to run for your life when the enemies are pursuing you. You usually just end up running around aimlessly until you either lose the enemy or you find a hiding spot on your own.

The items actually work pretty well all things considered, but they are fairly limited so they aren’t a long-term solution. You can stun them with thrown explosives or even set mines of a sort that will do damage to them. While it can be hard to aim these properly that is part of the skill involved in using them. I found them to be an interesting way to handle the enemies although a bit frustrating. Hewie, the dog companion you get, is nowhere near as useful as these items.

While its nice that Hewie has a mind of his own and will act as he chooses at times, it doesn’t make dealing with him very much fun. When you tell him to attack an enemy that has you backed into a corner and he instead chooses to run in circles or just bark at the enemy… well its really freaking annoying to die because your only weapon won’t fight. It’s like having a gun jam in Resident Evil 4, it just shouldn’t happen. It is kind of interesting that you can increase his loyalty to you, which makes him listen more, but it doesn’t really help out when you really need him, which is soon after you get him. I found him to be entirely useless during the beginning of the game and I died far too many times for me to be interested in making buddies with the mutt. If he can stand there growling while I’m getting my face bashed in, he’s no friend of mine.

What the game lacks in actual gameplay, it makes up for in graphics. This game looks absolutely phenomenal. Fiona’s movements all look great, the dog looks incredible, the scenery is gorgeous and all the enemies are suitably freaky looking. Add in the unique… bounce in Fiona’s step, as in her boobs jiggle enough to attract any Dead or Alive fan, and you can see how incredibly well animated this game is. In the cutscenes it looks even better, with you able to even see the details on Fiona’s pores. The opening cutscene really is a treat to watch and is indicative of the quality of the games graphics.

The sound would be competent, if not praiseworthy, were it not for the boss theme songs. The music and sound are really nice most of the time, with the ambient music being mostly something in the background that you barely even notice. It’s a nice, but subtle effect to the sounds. I will admit to being totally sick of hearing Fiona’s “Go Hewie” that she says every time you order that damn dog to do something. What really kills the music is that every time an enemy is aware of you, it begins blaring whatever that enemy’s unique musical theme is. Some, like Daniella’s, are so obnoxious that I wanted nothing more than to mute the TV whenever I heard it.

It’s really sad to say, since I looked forward to this game for a really long time, but Haunting Ground has absolutely nothing going for it beyond the graphics and sound. The game is a bore fraught with frustration and a totally incompetent companion. If the game were built a bit better for fighting and less reliance on your dog, it would have been an equal to the Clock Tower series of games. As it stands, this game tries to stand in a place all of its own and it fails miserably.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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