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Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water review

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £50
inc VAT

The GamePad is a perfect match for the Camera Obscura, but Maiden of Black Water's half-baked horror struggles to get the blood racing


Available formats: Wii U

The locals of Mt. Hikami are good at precisely two things: wandering up spooky mountains and offing themselves at sunset, and coming up with creepy location names to traumatise the neighbourhood psychics who come to solve their sinister fates.

The Womb Cavern (yes, really), was by far my favourite piece of set naming from Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, but it makes you wonder why anyone with half a brain cell would keep trudging down there unaccompanied, in the middle of the night no less, to find their dead-eyed friends and missing companions. Yet, the cast of Maiden of the Black Water just can’t help themselves, as time and again you must descend to the watery horrors below with not one but all three of its main protagonists. Leave them to the ghosts, I say. The underworld can have them.

Better known as the Fatal Frame series in Japan, Project Zero: Maiden of the Black Water is the latest camera-snapping survival horror game from Koei Tecmo. Armed with nothing but your Camera Obscura, the only way you can defend yourself against Mt Hikami’s ghostly apparitions is to capture them on film, exposing their groaning souls with a flash of your lens until they’re little more than a searing gasp of misty ectoplasm.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water screenshot TV & GamePad^ The TV displays your camera’s viewfinder, but you can only discover a ghost’s weak spots by looking at the screen on the Game Pad.

In a way, it’s the perfect game for the Wii U, as the GamePad’s second screen is the ideal stand-in for your in-game camera. With a simple tap of X, the GamePad’s screen becomes a gateway to the spirit world, revealing the ghostly weak points that remain invisible on the TV. The gyroscopes offer a convincing sense of presence, too, as they shift and teleport round you, although you can always use the second analogue stick to aim the camera if you prefer.

You’ll probably end up using a combination of both, as there were a few moments where the gyroscopes got confused, forcing me to look down to the ground to get the right angle. Thankfully, this was quickly remedied by exiting and re-entering camera mode once again, but it’s still a bit irritating when it happens. It’s a shame it’s not quite technically sound, but considering the copious number of healing items lying around on the floor, it’s not really a huge deal if you do happen to incur a bit of damage while you re-adjust yourself.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water screenshot01^ Not exactly the most appropriate ghost-busting ensemble, but it gets even sillier whn Yuri’s caught in the rain, as it’s not only gratuitously see-through, but for some reason it also makes her more vulnerable to ghost attacks

Admittedly, the surplus of herbs and holy water does detract from the game’s tension, as there’s never any real threat of failure, especially when the actual ghost-busting process nearly always involves the same tactics every single time. Likewise, the idea of following different protagonists around a single location inevitably means facing up to the horror of backtracking, which drains the game’s suspense even further. It’s scary walking round a haunted shrine the first time round, but less so when you know the exact floor plan off by heart.

However, that’s not to say Maiden of Black Water is entirely devoid of atmosphere, as the dark and foreboding score works overtime to wrack up the tension wherever possible, prompting an intake of breath during every slow, deliberate door opening sequence and every time you hold down ZR to reach out and grab an item. As fans of the series will know, reaching for items is a bit of a risky business in Project Zero, as, very occasionally, a ghostly hand will try and grab you instead. Let go of ZR quick enough and you’ll avoid it, but those who hold on too long will have their health sapped. It’s a bit of a cheap thrill, not to mention rather goofy given the ghost hand’s rather cartoonish appearance, but its rare appearance is still enough to make you jump.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water screenshot02^ Ghosts are constantly recycled in Maiden of Black Water, but maybe all they’re after is a nice, spirit-draining hug

Yet, for all its talk of death and suicide, the story doesn’t really deal with these themes in a particularly thoughtful or intelligent way. The deadpan English cast don’t exactly help matters either, as their dry delivery is about as lively as a wooden casket. The Japanese actors are more emotive, but the limited facial expressions in each cutscene only hamstring them further.  

View Maiden of the Black Water as a purely schlockly, almost pantomime kind of horror game, though, in the same vein as films like Scream and Final Destination, and it fits that role perfectly. It may not be particularly chilling or insightful in the same way Frictional Games’ SOMA is, for example, but this is a horror game that everyone can enjoy and have a good laugh with. You kind of have to, really, when you’re being asked to wade through Womb Caverns and the like.  

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water screenshot^ The smudgy ghosts might not scream next-gen graphics, but the torch light looks stunning

The only real problem is the price of entry, as you’ll have to stump up £50 for the Limited Edition version, as regular discs seem to have vanished as quickly as some of Project Zero’s more friendly apparitions. That’s a lot to ask when the game isn’t absolutely top-grade fright night material, leaving Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water feeling more like a wet blanket than a stone-cold Halloween essential.  

Available formatsWii U
Buying Information
Price including VAT£50

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