Review by Bkstunt_31
At least you have somewhere to hide!
Haunting Ground is a horror game for you Playstation 2 from the makers of Mega Man and Resident Evil: CAPCOM. In it, you'll have to solve many different puzzles while outwitting your pursuers. Here's what you can expect from Haunting Ground:
Haunting Ground starts off rather vague. You take on the role of Fiona, a girl who finds herself naked and trapped in a steel cage in some rather disgusting surroundings. After clothing herself as best as she can, she learns that she is more or less being held hostage in a castle. She also recalls being in a car accident with her parents and being taken to this place by a stranger. All of this doesn't mean anything, though, as there is currently a giant of a man chasing her, and she must hide to escape.
The story eventually unfolds as you play through the game, and most things fit together nicely. However, the way that Fiona came to the castle, or why rather, is left unexplored, which makes th whole thing a nice coincidence. Also, throughout the game there are numerous references to alchemy, and these are nice touches, but it would have been nice to see a little more back-story to what they were messing with. Other than that, the story is about average. I did like how endings are affected in the story through what you do in the game, be we won't go into that here.
Game play: 7/10
The game play is rather simple, really. Haunting Ground is basically a weaponless Resident Evil, in where your main goal is to evade your pursuer's while trying to figure out the castle's puzzles. The biggest enjoyment in the game comes when Fiona discovers an unlikely partner: a white German Shepard named Hewie who is also being tormented in the castle. You can than give commands to Hewie, which help in finding key items and keeping your pursuer's at bay. You will than need to run away and find one of several pre-designated places for Fiona to hide in. When you aren't running from a pursuer, you will have to solve several puzzles scattered throughout the castle in order to progress the story (Hide and seek does get boring after awhile).
The game play is pretty simple, but does come up short in various areas. For example, Hewie doesn't always do what you ask or need of him, and Fiona can be difficult to control sometimes. There are also some issues with the regularity of hiding spots for Fiona, and how often your pursuer's find you, which can make the game frustrating at times. There is also a slot-machine mini-game which is basically broken and unplayable. Overall, though, the game play is fairly average.
The graphics in Haunting Ground are pretty good, all of the character designs and animations are well done and flow smoothly. The environments are also well done; I liked how each area flowed into the next, with several locked doors that you'll have to find keys to. The 3D objects were also designed well, with quite a few disturbing objects scattered throughout the game, as you would expect. Character detection was rather overlooked as the characters will occasionally be able to move their limbs through the 3D objects. The lip-syncing could have been done a bit better and the real horror segments of the game were toned down (They could have added in quite a few cool death scenes!), but overall everything looks good enough to enjoy the game.
Music and sound effects: 9/10
I really enjoyed the music in Haunting Ground , even though there are only 20-some odd tracks in the game and several of them have identical themes running through them, they still managed to really set the mood. For the most part, there is a calming background sound when you explore an area, but once you are caught or found by a pursuer, one of several off-beat, sick-sounding tracks will play. These are mainly comprised of some weird sounding sound-effects combined with dramatic string pieces which will get your pulse racing. The voice acting in the game (including Hewie!) was quite good as well; many of the actors conveyed a perfect sense of sounding insane, although they really needed to turn up the volume as you can hardly hear Fiona at all.
I was actually impressed with the re-playability in Haunting Ground . There are three different ending to discover as well as multiple unique game over screens to find (now if only they showed the good stuff!). There are also several unique, game-changing items to acquire. Once you beat the game, you can play on a harder difficulty as well as use several different new outfits. You can also view any movie you've seen and listen to the game's soundtrack, as well as some early concept art. There is even a bonus mini-game where you control Hewie instead of Fiona!
Overall, Haunting Ground is an enjoyable survival-horror game with an unique partnership between human and dog. You should be able to find if for rather cheap at your local game store as well, so if you can I would recommend picking it up. Remember, this is not an action title, but rather a "run-away!" title. Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Haunting Ground (US, 05/10/05)
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