There's something to be said for playing through a brand new game without understanding what the f**k is going on for the most part. That something is "Eh?". Psychological survival horror games have that effect, but that's because they're the product of the sort of special 'planning meetings' down the local which turn into debauched sessions featuring - in no particular order - eastern European spirits, that barmaid your mate wouldn't touch with yours, a minor psychotic episode after someone suggested snorting 100 percent proof absinthe, tablets banned from use in veterinary medicine and a long night stuffed inside a small, dark and damp space which could be either a police cell or a skip.
Obscure Japanese action adventure games get much the same response, especially when impatient games journos decide they can't wait for the English language version and ship the completely impenetrable ones in direct from Japan instead. It adds a bit of excitement to proceedings when you accidentally fumble a life-saving move out of the blue (or, in Folklore's case, psychedelic purple) or stumble across a sphincter-loosening boss without warning - despite a stream of Japanese text filling up the screen warning you about impending death.
But when you're playing something as fun as Folklore you brave all that and persevere, until you reach that magical point where you don't need any help because you know how the game works. Then the language barrier ceases to exist and the quality of the gameplay shines through bright and clear. Bit of a contrast to developer Game Republic's last game for PS3, Genji. That one looked lovely and everything, but hardly held your attention for long. Folklore on the other hand, just gets better the more you play it, although you might not think so after the first five minutes.
The game opens with the sort of cheese-o-rific melodrama last seen in Dallas; troubled young lady Ellen nearly catches her death when she dives off the fishing boat taking her to the small Irish village of - clever, this - Lemrick when its captain decides to turn back. There she hopes to figure out exactly how her dead mum managed to send her a letter despite being, y'know, dead, before embarking on a totally surreal adventure through seven netherworlds. It's a stunning looking introduction, but one or two onlookers in our games room were a little worried that Game Republic had spunked all of the game's budget on it. They needn't have worried. The rest of the game has had as much care and attention put into it.
The town acts as a hub for her and the game's other playable character, Keats, a writer for some trashy occulty mag or other, and it's very easy on the eye. Set on the coast, it could be straight out of that daft 'family drama' Ballykissangel, complete with quaint fishermen's cottages and a country boozer. Lovely. But by night things take a turn for the weird. Appropriately enough, the seemingly mundane pub becomes the focus of the madness, being full of an array of colourful, if slightly disturbing, living dead.
This is no depraved survival horror though. You saunter around Lemrick taking in the sea air, admiring the view of the ocean, stopping to shoot the breeze with townsfolk every now and then. They provide you with the information you'll need to push on with your trek through the worlds of the undead, and investigating the village offers some welcome respite from lamping weird and wonderful monsters.
Ah, monster bashing. It's hard to think of another game with so many monsters to battle. And it's not just the quantity, it's the quality: there are over 100 creatures to tonk, and each one poses its own challenge. Just after entering a new world, you'll face the lowlier foes, the foot soldier types which don't pose too much of a challenge and which can be taken care of easily with the abilities you gain as you go.