Fatal Frame review
Seeing things other people don't see


The plot of this game is simple enough. Miku, a college girl, goes to Himuro mansion seeking her missing brother, who, in turn, was searching for the novelist Junsei Takamine and his two colleagues, all three of whom disappeared. Takamine had heard some of the legends associated with the mansion and had thought they would make good material for a book. Unfortunately, neither he or his colleagues lived long enough to write it.

The plot is fascinating, as you and Miku seek to solve the mystery behind the disappearances. The various clues and notebook scraps you pick up, and the way Miku links these together almost make this as much as a detective story as a horror story. You do need a modicum of intelligence to solve the mystery, but the plot is so involving you are dragged forward almost against your will.

Miku is only a young college girl and has only a camera at her disposal. With skill and care you can get through the entire game without getting hit, adding a touch of realism. There are no shops to stock up on healing items or more film, so you must plan your actions with care. The game will always make sure you have film - if you run out completely you can pick up some of the most basic, weakest type from any save camera - but it is far better to plan in advance what sort of film you wish to use, especially since it is available in various strengths and amounts throughout the game.

Without using a guide you will have almost no clue as to when a ghost or spirit will show up. This makes walking through the mansion particularly nervewracking. Some spirits will only appear for a few seconds, and you do not have to do anything about them. You can however, take photos anyway, earning points to upgrade your camera based on the quality of the shot. Other ghosts are more hostile and must be defeated. You can damage them by taking photos, and there are various ways to ensure you do more damage, such as 'zero shots', which usually occur just before you are attacked. Most fights can either be played out by randomly taking as many shots as you can until the ghost is defeated, or by taking the best quality and most damaging shots you can. The latter strategy is far more nervewracking and tricky, but it does result in far more points per shot (you can get over four thousand with this method, while the most I've ever managed to obtain by snapping as fast as possible was barely in the two hundreds mark) and less film used (two or three shots as opposed to six or seven).

This game is very spooky - a few times I've kept my boyfriend awake all night after playing it, keeping an eye out for various ghosts. The screensaver, which consists of bloody hand prints filling the screen is terrifying the first time you see it, and the feeling that something is going to jump out at you at any moment will have you screaming at the slightest sound.

The graphics are pretty good for the PS2. The game is visually pleasing, and very effective. Although the screen is kept in darkness for much of the game, what you can see only adds to the pleasure of playing. The cut scenes are fantastic too. Not amazing, but definitely not disappointing.

Many games suffer when the mystery is finally revealed, the answer not being as interesting as what many people were imagining, but this game gets it spot on. The ending is amazing.

In summary, if you like a good mystery, enjoyed Koudelka or even just plain want to be scared, definitely get this game.

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