Developer: Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Serise X, PC
Reviewed On: PS4 Pro
Release Date: 28/10/2021
Reviewed By: Keith Lavelle
Review Rush was kindly supplied with a review code.
As it is scary month, I had to at least do one horror game before the month was out. So here we are with Project Zero Maiden of Black Water. (Fatal Frame for them over the pond) From the Wii U.
The events of the game take place on the picturesque Mt. Hikami. In the past, it was a place of worship and care. With the resident shrine maidens using their mind-reading abilities to help people move on form their lives. It was also a tourist attraction. The Shine maidens who become too emotional and could no longer perform this rite. And where instead bring sacrificed as an Eternal Flower to keep the evil power of the Black Water at bay. Now Mt. Hikami is now known for the suicides that take place there and the souls of the dead that live on its slopes.
The story of Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, follows three protagonist; Yuri Kozukata, a decent of the shine maidens, who can bring people back from the Shadow World. Ren Hojo, a man who is haunted by the same dream. Mui Hinasaki, who is trying to find her mother the fated Miku Hinasaki.
As stories go, this one is well, both horrifying and moving. There is so much going on within the game. The overture of the who game is dark, dank and oppressive. To say Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is aimed at a mature audience is an understatement.
Water, Water Everywhere
If the title did not give it away, the devs used water in storytelling, mood setting and combat. And in all honesty, it works mostly.
For storytelling and mood, these both go hand in hand. As the evil is the Maiden of Black Water, it has to be a dominant feature. From the sacrifices, getting rid of bodies, suicides and so on. Of course, it is not the only thing out to get you, but it is featured heavily.
As for mood setting, it is used even better. Think about it when it’s dark and there is a constant downpour of rain. It makes everything feel glum and oppressive. As you know, when you are out in it, you are going to get wet. People feel less positive and it just damn right depressing. (it is actually a downpour as I write this). Now mix in some ghosts, suicides, murders, killers and people disappearing. You have a recipe for feeling shit and on edge. It nails that feeling.
God, Damn Items
Along with water, the game has a nerve-racking mechanic for the most mundane aspect in games. Picking up items and opening doors. To pick up an item, hold R2, when started the camera zooms in, the music changes to creepy and the protagonist moves slowly to the item. Not too bad, but randomly a hand will reach out and try to grab you. You will need to let go of R2 before it gets you. If not, it will hurt you until you brake lose. It is simple and works well to keep up the tension. Right?
If you are familiar with Project Zero, you will know there is a ghost capturing camera that will help our protagonist protect themselves and find items. It is the only thing to destroy the ghost. It has a few functions that can turn the tide of battle.
For fighting, there are a few functions that need to be used. These are; the film, there are five different films. These get more powerful and do more damage. The lense, these can add different effects, for instance, more damage, stun or heal. With each protagonist camera having a slightly different function. Also, the viewfinder can rotate for the best picture you can get. In order to get the most damage, you need to have five objects in the viewfinder. These are normally orbs after damaging a ghost. Orbs float around them. To capture them all, the viewfinder needs to be turned to get a picture of them all.
As you dispatch the undead astral projections, you will get points for how well you dispatched them. In a different l horror game it would feel out of place, but it feels right at home. These points are not just to show off to the next ghost and try to scare them away with your camera skill. They are the in game currency, that allows you to buy items and upgrade the camera.
There is also ample opportunity to capture more images throughout the game by taking pictures of ghosts that appear on screen. And seem to try and do a jump scare.
Shadow World Objects
The Camera Obscura is also used to bring items that are lost back to our world. By focusing on an object with a purple hue, and snapping a picture with the viewfinder in the correct place. The objects are tied to the story. It is also used to progress through a level taking pictures of places in at a certain perspective.
This just adds a bit of a puzzle element to the game.
The Cracks Are Letting The Water In
On paper Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water has the makings of great horror title. However, it falls short on several points.
As you go back and forth on Mt. Hikami, the first thing you will notice is how diverse and absolutely stunning it is and all the places you will visit. It really is a beautiful-looking game. However, after visiting the same place a few times, the looks lose their charm. The world gets very repetitive.
Remember the opening of the door and picking up items. This also gets annoying every time you do it. It slows the flow of the game down so much.
My biggest bug bare is combat, it is drawn out even with the camera upgrades. Not only that, when you fight, most of the horror is taken away as most ghost are slow and are easily taken care of.
All these combined make the game feel dragged out. To start with these elements makes the game feel scary but few hours in for me I lost all fear and was in it for the story that great.
Overall Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is a beautiful game, with a great story and atmosphere. But it is ultimately let down by the use of repetition that slows the game down to a snail’s pace. I enjoyed the game overall. Just a few areas bugged me and slowed progess down.
If you are a die-hard fan and missed this the first time around, it worth getting. If this is your first time, wait on a sale.