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Certainly, the structure is at fault as well; it makes for a fascinating puzzle, but – combined with the brutality with which Forbidden Siren 2 dispenses with its cast – makes it hard to empathise with the characters. I remember being more scared playing Project Zero 3 or Silent Hill 2 for the simple reason that I’d had more time to engage with the protagonists, and because I had more idea who I was, where I had been and what I was trying to accomplish. The problem with a narrative that you slot together, piece by piece, is that you don’t really know what’s going on until you’re putting the last pieces into place. Basically, you have to put time into Forbidden Siren 2 before you really get much out of it.
And during that time you will find plenty to annoy you. Using the first-person sniper view to aim is a necessity in the more action-focused missions, so why does the game pop you out of it every time you’re hurt? Also, why can’t you do something to make the murderous shibuto less of a menace. After all, if I was constantly hunted by an axe-wielding zombie who came back for more five minutes after being gunned down, I wouldn’t be above a) hacking vital appendages off or b) at least throwing away the axe.
That said, after the first four or so hours, the game exudes a weird charm that keeps you locked in despite its frustrations. As the pieces of the jigsaw start falling into place, you begin to take each clue with a certain degree of satisfaction; to admire the way in which events chain together and new potential outcomes come into being. Last year’s Fahrenheit did similar things in a more organic, less forced way, but that was a fairly short, intense experience that went a bit wild towards the end. This is a more cerebral adventure, and it’s one you could easily puzzle over for weeks. Make no mistake, this is a love it or hate it horror game – and still not up the standards of the best of Silent Hill or Project Zero – but if you love intelligent, otherworldly scares, it’s one you really ought to try.
A unique, genuinely scary Japanese horror experience, but one that still takes a real time investment to get into. You’ll either grow to love it or hate it, but it’s hard to imagine an in-between response.