Review by HewieAlbino

Reviewed: 12/23/05

Running and Hiding is all in a day's work for Haunting Ground Players

Capcom's latest survival-horror game. It is very similar to Clock Tower 3, also a Capcom game. You control 18 year old Fiona Belli, the sole survivor of a horrible car crash. Upon waking up, she finds herself locked up in a castle dungeon and she is not alone. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the castle seem to have plans with her, and none are of good intentions.

Length

The game is long enough to be enjoyed and understood throughly while remaining short enough so as not to make if frustrating and dull. It really depends on how you play it.

Story

Basically, you are controlling Fiona and your objective is to escape the castle. Sounds simple? WRONG! The castle inhabitants, including a deformed gardener, psychotic maid and sadistic curator seem to have different ideas for Fiona. But fear not... for man's best friend becomes a girl's best weapon!

Graphics

Top notch i would say. The environmental detail is excellent and the characters are painstakingly animated. The panic indicator is well thought out as well. Now instead of a simple meter at the corner of the screen as in CT3, the whole screen is your panic meter. As Fiona gets frightened more, the screen starts to shift towards monochrome. If you panic, the entire screen would be black and white and slow-motion will ensue, making it harder to control Fiona and giving a sense of realism as you are pulling out your hair trying to escape from a stalker.
The cutscenes are extremely well rendered as well. The game hardly has any FMVs in it but the scenes are still beautiful, emphasising alot of Fiona's state of mind and finer details of the game.

Music

Another rare gem in a video game. The ambience music gives you a sense of forebonding and uneasiness as you explore. While some like Hewie's theme, would make you feel safe and protected. Also, each stalker has his or her own unique chase music. Whenever the ambience mutes itself, keep your ears peeled and your fingers ready for a stalker could just be behind that door.
O_O
If the chase music sounds, it is best to get your pretty little butt out of there fast!

Controls

The controls are pretty simple to use and it takes only a minute or less to learn how to command Hewie properly.

Gameplay

You play as Fiona Belli. You get chased by lunatics all around the castle. You must hide under beds and couches to escape. You must solve puzzles to escape. You get a dog!!
The entire gameplay is not just about ducking under tables or scratching your head over puzzles. In fact, the game itelf is centered around a girl and her dog. After rescuing the White Alsation dog from being strangled to death with a wire, an instant bond is formed between Fiona and Hewie. The dog is your best weapon and mental supporter throughout the whole game. But like all dogs, he won't listen to every one of Fiona's orders at first. As you proceed through the game, Hewie's trust in Fiona would increase as you praise him more and feed him treats, making him easier and less frustrating to order around and hence a far more effective anti-stalker mutt.
Fiona's kicks do little damage to a stalker. But besides Hewie, what other weapons are there? You get to brew up alchemic concoctions like explosives stones and electrfying powder to throw at your enemy, stunning them for a while and giving you time to duck and cover.

Backtracking?

There is almost no backtracking throughout this entire game. Though you have to content yourself with a small section of the castle when being chased, keep in mind that each stalker has a different part of the castle which they roam, giving you a new area to explore.

Replayability

There are altogether 4 different endings you can get and some of them can only be seen on a second playthrough. Also, there are several cutscenes you can unlock after you beat the game a first time. And just like the endings, some scenes are only available of a second play.
The unlockables in the game boosts its replayability. Different outfits, production images, ranks and models are just screaming to be revealed. But it takes several gameplays before you can truly complete the game.

We've seen the good. Now the bad?

Although the game seemed well polished and wrapped up, there will always be flaws. For example, Fiona's 'magical' ability to walk through Hewie is startling at first but you soon get used to it. Some puzzles can be extremely tedious and requires going back and forth and a lot of trail and error to get it right. Commanding Hewie might be stressful at times. It gets really nail biting when Fiona's on the flooring screaming 'Help!' at the top of her lungs but Hewie is simply running around not doing anything. The voice acting is not bad, though at times the words will not necessarily fit the mouth movement. And speaking of sound, Fiona's voice may sound like she's speaking with a sore throat at times while Hewie's bark sounds... unreal.

Overall

Story- 9/10 two friends from two different species with a common goal. Escape alive!
Gameplay- 9/10 the trust building is unique and interesting
Controls- 7/10 changing directions and aiming for a kick is not really easy at times and it is hell when panic ensues
Music - 9/10 silence=danger remember that and it might save your life
Graphics- 8/10 the characters look a bit choppy and some area of the game seemed blur, or it could just be my tv screen

Overall 8/10 earned marks for its unique storyline and gameplay. Lost marks because of annoying camera angles and some other minor flaws.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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