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And just when you think it can’t get worse, it does, with the introduction of two new playable characters: your female assistant, Miku and a male writer, Kei. Both have additional capabilities – Miku can fit in smaller spaces and develops a handy slow-down power, Kei can use brute force to remove barriers the other can not – but both also have their weaknesses. Miku is a) frail and b) no use with the camera at long range. Kei, meanwhile, is initially defenceless against the ghosts and must find a safe place to use his special hide move when they appear. Hiding, defenceless, while the ghosts try to seek you out did not, needless to say, settle my nerves one bit.
What keeps you going is the fascinating story and structure. You want to get further in the story, you want to finally lay the mystery to rest. In addition, there’s a real sense that The Tormented completes the Project Zero story. Miku was the heroine of the first game, and her lost brother Mafuyu has his part to play here as well. Kei, meanwhile, is the uncle of Mio and Maya from Crimson Butterfly, pulling that strand of the story in to boot.
However, there are some things that might tempt you occasionally to give up. Firstly, the difficulty level seems higher than part two – unless you have the good sense to play through on Easy first time around – with the game throwing in the more annoying shifting and teleporting ghosts very early on in the proceedings, and demanding some camera skills right from the off. As the aiming and targeting system has always been hard work, with your character taking far too long to turn, this is hardly the easiest thing in the world. Secondly, there is more of a sense of repetition, with certain areas of the house losing their terror once you’ve seen them with each character several times – though occasionally the game might use this to throw you off balance all over again. And why throw in random ghosts once the game passes its halfway stage? It’s hard enough getting back to a save point after an encounter, without some wandering spirit killing you off before you get there.
And it’s these factors that make me add that The Tormented isn’t the best introduction to the series – for that I’d forget part one and go straight to Crimson Butterfly. In fact, overall it’s not quite as brilliant, varied or deeply memorable a game as its predecessor. However, there’s something about its sombre tone and concentrated dread that makes it an absolute must for anyone who enjoyed that game. If you haven’t and consider yourself a horror fan, stop reading now and get shopping – both games deserve some of your precious time.
A fantastic, genuinely scary horror game, and a worth sequel to the mighty Crimson Butterfly. If it loses out with some over-tricky or repetitive gameplay, it triumphs in terms of brooding atmosphere.