Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Hidden Gems Volume 4

Although it gained almost universal high praise on its release, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requeim was overlooked by a lot of people. This is because either they'd never heard of it, or they didn't have a Gamecube and they were of the (incorrect) opinion that it's a kids console.

I bought this game back when it was released and completed it three times in quick sucession. There are three different routes through the game depending of which dark god you align yourself with, and when you finally complete all three you are treated to an extended ending sequence.

The game itself finds itself rather awkwardly inserted into the Survival Horror genre alongside Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but it is quite a different beastie to those two. It's much easier to control for one thing, and the story is much better. It tells the tale of Alex Roivas, as she travels to her grandfather's mansion only to find that he has been brutally murdered. She decides to stay at the mansion and explore to try and piece together what might of happened to him, and you are taken through a series of playable flashbacks from throughout the ages covering her family tree.

Each chapter is like a self contained mini game, and you will be in Rome, France, Greece, England and many other places. The monsters your encounter, and the storyline in general, were heavily influenced by the works of Gothic short story writer H P Lovecraft, so expect words such as "chittering" and "gibbous" to be used a lot.

A lot of the frustrations that plague the genre were neatly circumvented by Eternal Darkness, such as the usually cheap difficulty level. Through the course of the game you learn various runes, which can be used to cast spells. As soon as you figure out how to cast the heal spell, and the one to increase you attack power, you should have no difficulty in getting through the game. This mean the game doesn't offer much of a challege, but the atmopshere and the puzzles mean it remains entertaining all the way through.

One other unique gameplay element of note are the Sanity Effects. If you sanit meter should run out (by seeing nasty monsters or getting hit by them), then various strange effects will occur. These include blood dripping down the screen, the game telling you that the console has had a fatal error, and many other unnerving events. Running out of sanity can be quite easily avoided if you stand around and wait for the bar to refill after each enemy encounter, but it's good fun finding all the different effects.

Eternal Darkness crops up fairly regularly in places like Gamestation, and I have seen second hand copies for as low as £7.99. If you don't usually get on with Survival Horror games, it's worth a look because of the slightly different approach it has to genre. If you are a fan, then this may be one of the best games you play this year.

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