Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water (WiiU Review)

Project Zero Maiden of Black WaterMaiden of Black Water is the latest instalment in Koei-Tecmo’s horror game series Fatal Frame. In this atmospheric title you try to solve three mysteries while encountering ghosts on Mt. Hikami, armed only with the Camera Obscura which deals damage to spirits. Maiden of Black Water has been designed specifically to be played with the Wii U control pad, let’s see how well it fared…

Gameplay: 4½/5 – I will have to admit that the controls work incredibly well on the Wii U. You have the option of actually moving the game pad physically as you would do with the camera or just use the analogue stick. However, you still have to tilt the gamepad side-ways to take tall profile images and I felt that the controls worked really well. I only have two gripes with the controls. One is that while holding the gamepad upright, walking around is a little tricky, but with some practice (and trust me, you will get it) the controls begin to feel natural. One other minor problem is that you occasionally have to fight ghosts in very claustrophobic environments but this doesn’t prevent you from winning. I do wish Yuri and Miu would run faster but rushing through the game you won’t be able to take in the ambience, which is why I’m not going to count this as a minus.

Graphics: 4/5 – The graphics are quite beautiful and bleak which is an interesting combination. Each location has a lot of detail and the ghosts look incredibly disturbing (and some disturbingly hot). I particularly like the water effects which were clearly a big focus of the game as getting soaked actually makes ghosts attack you more. There are a few minor graphic bugs that are annoying such as Hisoka’s hair which seems to always defy gravity. The other issue is something I feel torn about and it’s that you revisit locations quite a bit as the game goes on. On a positive note, you’re always able to explore more and more of the environments each time to improve your Score and Rating for each level – but I perhaps felt that the opening parts of Mt. Hikami were revisited almost too many times.

Animation: 5/5 – I really can’t complain about anything. The normal cutscenes have been done with a lot of care and produced wonderfully. Equally, the glimpses of the ghosts’ deaths look absolutely disturbing and many in-game animations work effectively to give you the heeby-jeebies. There’s honestly nothing negative I can say about the cutscenes.

Music: 3/5 – Quite possibly the weakest aspect of the game. This is largely because the sound-design of the game is otherwise so heavily focused on creepy and disturbing sounds that the music honestly sort of drowns into the background. The individual themes are pretty good in and of themselves, but none really stick with you. However, I can’t say anything bad about the music for this same reason. Whenever the music is present, it fills the scene well.

Sound: 5/5 – The voice-acting has been done excellently and I have absolutely no complaints (there is also an option to play with the Japanese voice-over). What really makes the audio design are all the disturbing sounds, moans and other audio effects that really put you ill-at-ease. The game does an absolutely fantastic job with the audio department, so much so that, as I already mentioned, it sort of drowns out the musical section of the audio.

Plot: 3½/5 – A lot of the game’s story is told through writings and books which the characters read and while it is interesting, I’ve never been a big fan of this style of story-telling in survival horror titles. As for the main plot, I think Yuri gets by far the best treatment and sees the most action but Hojo’s run-ins with the Ghost Brides and the little girl are also very interesting. I hate that Rui sort of drops out from being a central character and Miu was honestly not that interesting to begin with. However, the alternate endings are quite interesting and there is a lot of cool and dark elements to the story. In the end, the story’s problem is that it’s a bit unfocused being split between three protagonists.

Difficulty: Varies (mostly easy) – There are three difficulty settings, one of which is unlocked upon beating the story-mode. Generally speaking, the game is very forgiving with items littered all across the stage and even on normal difficulty, you can evade ghosts rather easily. The challenge is if you choose to explore levels wholly since you’ll run into danger a lot more often as a result and also if you unwisely squander all your useful items. The final few chapters do get quite grueling (both in length and challenge) but I don’t feel the game ever cheats with its difficulty.

Replay value: 4/5 – The game is quite a lot of fun and you can keep replaying chapters to improve your scores. The gameplay feels novel and exciting. The game is honestly a lot more replayable than some other survival horror titles I’ve encountered. I really dig the atmosphere and the feel of the game.

Score: 83%Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water is a really cool, chilling and dark game filled with mystery and dark elements but also with surprisingly attractive women. Its story is a bit hit or miss and there are minor complaints I have in regards to certain game mechanics but these are all very nitpicky. This is a really unique title for the WiiU and I highly recommend it for fans of survival horror titles.