And at its best, this is an extremely compelling game. The survival-horror meets stealth action makes for one of the tensest games of hide and seek imaginable. Your fragile heroine switches off the torch and ducks behind a counter, sightjacks into the mind of a patrolling shibuto, and all you can do is watch nervously as its vision sweeps your location. Or your feeble clairvoyant, armed only with a tatty umbrella, cowers in the bathroom of a small apartment then sightjacks between the viewpoints of several shibuto scouring the rooms and corridors, hoping that the next door they approach won’t be the one in front of her. At this point, the game delivers that gut-knotting, lip-biting experience that should be at the core of any decent horror game – and it delivers it in spades. And when that red flash kicks and the view abruptly shifts to tell you that your presence has been noted, there’s a genuine rush of fear; there’s a good chance your number may be up.
What’s more, there’s no doubting the atmosphere. The visuals can look slightly basic at times, without the same rich detail in the settings that characterised Resident Evil 4 or Project Zero 3, but the characters are superbly rendered and animated, with realistic features and excellent facial animation that conveys a surprising amount of emotion during cut-scenes.
Like Silent Hill, the game transforms mundane locations – the apartment block, the fairground – into authentic nightmare landscapes, filled with the stench of decay. The lighting and weather effects are also surprisingly potent, and the low-key score and sound effects also help establish the gloomy mood. And at least this time you have the option of Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, which means you can avoid the still rather stilted English renderings.
Yet Forbidden Siren 2 can also fall strangely flat. Too many missions feel like dull variations on the theme of ‘get to point X, grab object Y, then leave by exit Z’ and while the clearly set out sub-objectives mean you don’t spend too much time wandering around, they also take much of the element of exploration from the game. Yet they’re necessary, because some objectives seem wilfully obscure.