Review by LemonPenguin

Reviewed: 02/02/11

The chase is on!

LemonPenguin's Haunting Ground/Demento Review
(The chase is on!)

Introduction
Haunting Ground (or Demento in Europe and Japan) is one my favorite survival horror games. Now let me tell you why. First of all, it's a very unique game. But, like most unique games, it isn't for everyone. Haunting Ground is a survival horror which was developed and publish by Capcom in 2005, for Sony's PlayStation 2. It's about an 18-year old girl named Fiona who wakes up in a strange castle and pairs up with a white German Shepherd to escape the castle.

Story
18-year old Fiona Belli awakes in a small dog cage after surviving a car accident. Dressed in only a blanket she sneaks out and makes her way towards a huge castle. Once inside, she's greeted by a creepy maid named Danielle who gives her Victorian-styled clothes to wear. Things just get weirder from then on. After being chased by the childish, albeit humongous groundskeeper who just wants to squeeze her a little (more like crush her to death), Fiona finds a white German Shepherd painfully tied to a tree. She sets him free and remembers his name from a collar she found earlier: Hewie. Fiona and Hewie team up to escape the castle and it's strange inhabitants. It seems that everyone except Debilitas once something...from inside of her. And they will stop at nothing to get it. It's up to the player to help Fiona and Hewie through the castle, escape the pursuers and survive. Along the way they meet a dangerous and mentally disabled groundskeeper, a creepy and unstable maid, a creepy hooded stalker and a mysterious old man who appears to be helping them, or is he? I give Haunting Ground's story a 9/10. It's very original and the story is very well developed throughout the game with plenty of cinematics and even a small plot twist that will make you want to escape the castle even more.

Music
The music in Haunting Ground/Demento was composed by Seiko Kobuchi from the Resident Evil series and she did an incredible job with it. Each pursuer possesses their own chase music and each stage of the game has different background music for when you're not being chased. Not only that, but everyone gets their own boss music. The background music is pretty creepy and will really keep you on edge, and the chase music really gives you a sense of danger. There's also a really heartwarming theme for Hewie. I give Haunting Ground's music a 9/10 for how well it blends in with the atmosphere and for how really well done it is.

Graphics
Haunting Ground's graphics are really good. The characters are really realistic and it's not even uncanny valley realistic like in Clock Tower 3. The characters are really well done and the backgrounds and areas are well textured and constructed. The design is fairly Gothic (then again, it is a castle) and pretty chilling at the same time. I give Haunting Ground's graphics a 10/10 because of how well done they are.

Gameplay
Haunting Ground's gameplay is very original. To start off, it's very similar to Clock Tower 3's gameplay. In case you've never played or even heard of Clock Tower 3, I'll tell you how it works. You and Hewie walk around the level looking for items and such to complete puzzle and work your way to the next area. All you have to do is find an item or two, do a little backtracking, get some keys and carry on. Simple right? Not really. While you're exploring, certain cinematics, actions you perform or simply after a certain amount of time passes, your pursuer will begin chasing you. While being chased you cannot examine objects or use items. All you can do is choose to either run and hide or fight. Fiona isn't very athletic so she's fairly weak and all she can do is kick and do some form of tackle. However, Hewie is a dog. Dogs have teeth. Using the right analog stick you can command Hewie to sit, search, come to you and, of course, attack. Hewie's main attacks consists of biting the enemy. He can also learn new moves like dodging. You can also charge his attack for extra power. However, the pursuers will not only attack Fiona but also attack Hewie. As Hewie gets hurt he becomes slow and feeble. You can replenish his health using certain food items. If Hewie gets hit too many times, he'll collapse temporarily. Or, if you're on Hard Mode, he'll die and you'll get a Game Over. Hewie also has an invisible friendship meter. You can make him like you more by praising him when he's good and feeding him treats. However, if you hit him or scold him too much, he'll like you less. The more Hewie likes you, the more he'll listen to you. If he doesn't like you, he'll just run around and ignore you and even attack you if you get him really angry. Now for Fiona. Fiona, unlike most video game characters, get scared. Like in Clock Tower 3, you have a Panic Meter, and if you're Panic Meter reaches max, you'll go into Panic Mode. There isn't actually a gauge for the Panic Meter in Haunting Ground. The Panic Meter is the screen. As Fiona gets scared, the colors begin to fade from the screen, the screen begins to pulse and Fiona begins to stumble a bit while running. While in Panic Mode, Fiona will move uncontrollably and will trip all of the place. You'll know when you reach Panic Mode because the screen goes negative for about a second and Fiona lets out a shrill scream. The screen turns almost completely black and white and it becomes a lot harder to control Fiona. Also, the only command you can give Hewie while in Panic Mode is "help" and you better hope you've been nice to him or he's not going to help you. Now here's the catch: While in Panic Mode, you can fall over. This is your weakest position. Once fallen, you can't get up until Panic Mode is over. The screen becomes nearly completely black and white and pulses. All you can do is mash buttons and try to crawl away as your pursuer comes in for the kill. Eventually though, Fiona will get up and Panic Mode will end. So how do you die? First of all, Fiona does have health of some sort, but her health doesn't actually run out. If Fiona gets hurt or if she runs for long periods of time, her stamina runs out and she becomes much slower and weaker. You can replenish your stamina by using certain items or by drinking water at the sinks scattered throughout the game. Anything that kills Fiona will be a one hit kill. No second chances. Your pursuers can attack Fiona and take away her stamina and cause her to panic. They can also use their "finishing moves" of sort which can kill you. Basically either you get hurt and panicked, or you die. For example: Debilitas, the game's first pursuer can either punch Fiona, or he can grab her and put her in a death grip which will kill her if she doesn't get out soon enough. It seems easy enough as long as you stay away, but your pursuers are pretty fast and Panic Mode makes you extremely vulnerable. If fallen while in Panic Mode, your pursuer can easily come in for the kill. Now onto hiding. If you don't want to fight, there's plenty of places in the game to hide. However, don't hide in the same place too many items or your pursuers will find you easier. There's also several traps in the game that can kill you, so be careful of that too. I give Haunting Ground's gameplay a 10/10 for how original and fun it is.

Replayability
Haunting Ground will only take you about 10 hours or less to beat the first time. But, it has A LOT of replayability. To start off, there's 4 different endings to get. Not only that, but there are 11 different play-types to get. What play-type you get depends on your statistics at the end of the game such as your play time, how many items you found, your dog level, your Panic Mode count etc. And, to top things off, both Fiona and Hewie have multiple costumes that can be unlocked which can boost their attack, stamina etc. Then there's also Hard Mode which can is unlocked after beating the game. In Hard Mode the pursuers are faster and stronger and Hewie can actually die, resulting in a Game Over. Also, there are more medallions and less items. Medallions can be used to create alchemical items and equipment to help help you through the game. I give Haunting Ground's replayability a 10/10 because it's one of the most replayable games I've ever played.

Overall
I suggest you try to rent Haunting Ground before you buy it. It's not for everyone, but if you like survival horror you should definitely check it out. It's not "Silent Hill scary", but it does keep you on edge. If ever given the chance to buy it, definitely do. It's a great game and is definitely underrated in my opinion. I give Haunting Ground a 10/10. It's a great survival horror game and whether you're a fan of the genre or not, you should really check it out.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Haunting Ground (US, 05/10/05)

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