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Gaming Review

'Project Zero 2: Wii Edition' review (Wii): Survival horror scariness

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Released on Friday, Jun 29 2012

'Project Zero 2: Wii Edition' screenshot

© Nintendo


Release Date: June 28 (Europe only)
Platforms available on: Wii
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Survival horror

Project Zero 2 comes from a lineage of games that take survival horror to terrifying new limits; and the franchise certainly doesn't disappoint on Nintendo's Wii console. The game, a remake of 2003's disturbing Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly, creates a creepy and all-pervading atmosphere that weighs heavy over its entire duration.

At times, Project Zero 2 verges on an ordeal, as hour after hour is spent tiptoeing around spooky locales, waiting for the next well-placed shock. The action is always strictly linear, but the game excels as a brave, mature and truly immersive adventure that breathes some life into Nintendo's ageing platform.

Project Zero 2's story is a brutal and intense tale of death, spirituality and sacrifice, all revolving around twin sisters, Mio and Mayu - dressed, rather inevitably, in skimpy schoolgirl uniforms (anyone else find this trend just rather weird?). While out exploring, the sisters stumble upon the mist-shrouded All God's Village, where damned souls haunt every nook and cranny.

'Project Zero 2: Wii Edition' screenshot
Playing as Mio, you become quickly aware that Mayu has fallen under the village's spell, and is leading her sister deeper and deeper into this hellish world. At first overwhelmed by the evil, Mio's fortunes change when she finds the Camera Obscura, an ancient device that can take pictures of the spirits and exorcise their malevolence from the village.

Even before the spirits make their entrance, All God's Village is a pretty terrifying place. The rising mist shrouds the view, creating an unearthly fog around the dilapidated and horror-filled cabins and dimly lit pathways, always leading somewhere ill. This sense of atmosphere is aided by the switch from the original game's static camera to over-the-shoulder, giving a narrow view and claustrophobic feeling.

As with all good survival horror games, Project Zero 2 excels by constantly keeping your heart in your mouth. It is that feeling that something is about to happen, whether peeking through a creaking door, or nervously glancing back down a dark corridor. It is seeing that blood trail on the floor and knowing in your gut that you simply have to follow it.

But as the great suspense-master Alfred Hitchcock once said - if you tell the audience that there is a bomb under a table, and it will go off in 15 minutes, then that bomb simply must go off. In the same essence, Project Zero 2 must eventually confront its player with what lurks in the dark.

Wandering around the spooky village you encounter some spirits that are spoiling for a fight. Armed with just the camera, you have to snap these spectres on a special ghost-sensitive film, and so suck the death out of them, so to speak.



Activating the system switches the action to first-person view, and you then aim with the Wiimote and lock on with Nunchuck's Z button. You charge up the shot, and the longer the reticule is charged, the more powerful the damage. There are collectable lens available to upgrade the camera, and bonuses are awarded for snapping two or more ghosts at once.

The combat is given extra challenge by the fact that the ghosts twitch about in unpredictable and rather terrifying ways, meaning it is tricky to maintain your camera shot. Should the spirits manage to grab Mio, then you have to slash around furiously until they rescind their grip.

Alongside the combat, Project Zero 2 also features plenty of object collection, but don't expect this to be any less scary. Just as you are about to reach for something, a ghostly hand often bursts out to grab the little girl, giving even the calmest players a rather surprising jolt.

There really are some impressive scares in Project Zero 2, such as one sequence in which you are left surrounded by dead bodies, and then have to flee at Mio's excruciatingly slow pace away from an evil spirit. In another section, you play an old projector and the Wii's disc drive spins in time with the motion. Simple, yet brilliant.

Project Zero
Made exclusively for the Wii edition is Haunted House, a challenge mode that tests the player's wits and fortitude to survive shocks. This is basically a series of on-rails missions that task the player to survive from the start of the sequence to its white knuckle ending.

For example, one mode challenges you to collect items while being chased by some rather strange, Ring-like spirit. You turn around periodically to stop the evil in its tracks, but allow it to get too close and it is time to change your underwear. Whilst not as engaging as the main story, the Haunted House modes are at least an extra bit of spooky gameplay.

As Resident Evil continues to follow the Michael Bay school of thought on tension and Silent Hill struggles to finds its identity, Project Zero is really among the premier survival horror game franchises.

The game achieves this feat not by ladling on the shocks, or amping up the gore, but by stripping things back; delicately balancing the pacing so that when the bomb does go off, it is like fingers down a blackboard. Mayu, we are going to need a bigger boat....

What remains a bit of a mystery is why Nintendo has chosen to release Project Zero 2 on the Wii now, and why it has opted for a launch in Europe and Japan, but not the US. The Wii is currently in its death throes, with the multi-million selling console to be replaced by the Wii U later in the year: so why bother rebooting an old IP?

But it is possible that Nintendo, which co-owns the Project Zero/Fatal Frame series IP with Tecmo, may be looking to give the franchise one last, morale-boosting hurrah before relaunching it entirely on the Wii U. On the strength of this version, that would be a terrifying prospect... in a good way.

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