When it was first announced, people were fast to imagine what sorts of genres would best suit the Wii’s crazy new controller. The obvious contenders were shooters, sports games, party titles, anything
involving swords – games that could use the Wii Remote in fairly obvious ways to mimic relevant actions. Cut to 2012, as the Wii’s lifespan nears its end, and the genres the system actually ended up exceling at aren’t the ones we expected. It has played host to most of this generation’s best JRPGs and platformers, and uncovered a great truth about the survival-horror genre – these games tend to work better without all the HD sheen and bells and whistles that have inadvertently stopped most contemporary horror games from actually being scary.
Project Zero 2, originally released in 2003 for last-gen systems, has often been heralded as one of the scariest games ever made. This might be overstating things slightly – the scares are often quite predictable and overt, and occasionally a little silly - but it’s very bloody creepy most of the time. The plot is classically obtuse, but essentially two young sisters wander into a mysterious haunted village, the toilet water hits the fan, and soon enough you’re defeating ghosts left right and centre with the game’s unique camera-based combat system.
With the wealth of budget priced HD re-release bundles available on the other systems, it’s a little insulting to be charged ~$80 for a reworked version of a nine year old game, but Tecmo Koei has worked hard for your money. The camera now hovers around your shoulder, Resident Evil 4 style, the graphics have been cleaned up quite a bit, and there’s a whole new control scheme. These first two changes are very much welcome, giving the game a look and feel that remains extremely true to the series’ roots, while still bringing it in line with the handful of innovations and positive changes that the genre has seen over the last few years. The speaker on the Wii Remote is put to excellent, creepy use too – in fact the game has brilliant sound design throughout.
The controls, however, are a bit of a pain. The aforementioned camera-based combat makes use of the Wii Remote in ways that are hard to come to grips with, and some of the controls are mapped a little awkwardly. There’s no option to use a Classic Controller, and, cruelly, playing with the lights on (which you might want to do if you’re skittish) seems to effect the sensitivity of the Wii remote’s aim.
The combat system is certainly interesting. It’s based around swapping between different film stocks and lining up perfect photos of your ghostly enemies as they approach to knock them back and eventually exorcise them. It’s finicky as hell, which will either be irritating or welcome depending on what you want out of a horror game, but it’s also a surprisingly deep system. There’s a meta-challenge running throughout the game that involves snapping ghosts that pop up here and there, which makes for a surprisingly entertaining distraction.
The Haunted House mode, unique to the Wii release, is a little too transparent and cute to work as a proper horror segment, although it can also be viewed as an interesting reimagining of the Project Zero model as a social experience. Essentially, it gives you a number of on-rails challenges, involving running away from a ghost ripped straight out of The Ring while collecting items, taking specific photographs, and – in the mode’s most inspired diversion – simply walking through creepy environments slowly while the game tracks just how much you jump and shake as it hurls scares at you. It’s no fun at all when you’re alone, but there’s certainly scope to bring it out as a test of bravery among friends.
Project Zero 2 is a classic survival-horror effort. For the last few years fans of the genre have more or less had to take what they can get, and while many seasoned players will have already experienced the game in its earlier form, it’s still one of the better straight-up horror efforts available right now. It has held up well, and manages to challenge your mind and dexterity without resorting to the ridiculous obtuseness or brutal check-pointing that other horror games do. Plus if you’ve held onto your Wii this long, you might not get many more chances to play something new on it.