Scares have always been in plentiful supply in the gaming realm. Every few months there's a new title released in order to satisfy the blood lusts of gamers who just love to stain a new pair of pants. But after you've played through all the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games, what's left to scare you into next week? Perhaps looking through the eyes of the undead will float your boat.
I had a lot of time for the original Forbidden Siren. The sight jacking feature - which allowed you to peer through eyes of your enemies - was the icing on top of a deliciously terrifying cake, and the game proved to be a real cult hit. But does this sequel have what it takes to compete with the big boys? Resident Evil 4 obviously rules the roost at this moment in time, raising the bar for all future horror titles to something so high that it hardly seems worth reaching for.
The series continues to wear its Asian colours firmly on its sleeve, and certainly has the air of some of the Asian horror movies that have recently found fame over our side of the world. The tension-filled atmosphere that Forbidden Siren 2 creates is right up there with the very best examples in all avenues of entertainment. The dark night-time setting and the dense fog populating most missions certainly helps keep you sat right at the very edge of your seat, attempting to peer into the murky background and spot the far off Shibito.
The sight jacking feature hovers around with prominence once again. As intriguing a feature as it is - and it certainly does work - it once again proves to be the main bone of contention when it comes to enjoyment. Though peering through the eyes of your enemies - the Shibito - does give an enormous helping hand in avoiding these undead foes, it's all too easy to find yourself disorientated - considering a glance from a wandering Shibito is almost game over, it's far from a perfect gameplay mechanic.
To combat the high difficulty which was apparent to anyone who spent time with the original, there's much more in the way of weaponry available in Forbidden Siren 2. Thankfully the Shibito's accuracy with their weapons has been toned down, so being spotted from distance no longer means instant death, like it did in the original game.
The short-mission-based structure - which helps to gradually uncover the story piece by piece throughout the course of the game - remains, and again, it helps calm the frustrations developed by the high difficulty level. The missions themselves are your traditional get from point A to point B affair, picking up various items along the way, and avoiding the Shibito as much as you can possibly manage.
Unfortunately, if you somehow miss a particular essential item along the way you're looped right back to the beginning of the mission, and forced to proceed along the scary trail all over again to find the offending item - certainly a blatant case of poor puzzle design. Forbidden Siren 2 features more than 50 missions, and on your first play through this makes for quite a time consuming experience. Replayability is next to zero, however, with the prior knowledge of exactly where you have to go and which areas to avoid making it possible to complete the majority of missions within minutes. Equally as unfortunate is the way each is tied together. Although a storyline is revealed over a period of time, the start of each mission rarely gives you even the slightest hint about why you happen to be undertaking each particular task.
Thankfully, the visuals remain at the high standard set by the first game in the series, rivalling the likes of the latter Silent Hill titles. The aforementioned atmosphere is no doubt heightened by the quality of the background textures, and some gloriously detailed characters. The audio has been hugely improved, particularly with the introduction of voice actors than manage to suit each character. If there was one major fault with the first game, it was the ever-present fear of having the tension completely ripped to shreds by a misplaced cockney accent. There's even the option to use the original Japanese voiceovers, complete with English subtitles. One for the purists.
Though the atmosphere helps make for a title that can certainly be enjoyed, its many flaws make me crave for the title that might have been. Had the solid base of the first game been built upon we could have been looking at an essential title for horror fans. What we're left with, however, is one that fails to make the necessary leap forward into greatness. It remains a recommended game, but one that I can't help but be ever so slightly downbeat about.