Mass media advertising would have us believe that the only way to get real scares from a videogame is to play in front of a huge, high-def TV screen, gripped by eerie sounds oozing from your black, matte, pricey surround-sound speaker system.1 This portable game, with its rare breed of DS first-person-shooting survival horror, will creep you out in broad daylight with only one headphone in, let alone with full sound, late at night.
The music is perfectly terrifying, your heartbeat a constant rhythm section. Of course you can alter this if you wish, tweaking the options to create the experience that unsettles you the most. The flickering torch that lights up fresh trails and spatters of blood disappears when you have to pick up your gun, leaving you alone in the dark, waiting for enemies to come closer before you can dispatch them. Beasts burst out of locked doors, fly out of nowhere and attack you from all sides, and they will make you tense and jumpy. At least at first.
Fear of repetition
You see, instead of having checkpoints to go back to in the event of death, the game is split into different chapters, and a death mid-chapter means starting it all over again. In the spirit of survival horror, this isn't a problem as such,2 although it does have the unfortunate side effect that replaying whole chapters means you already know where the scares are, and therefore no longer feel their effects in the same way. With no real plot to drive you on,3 this is quite frustrating.
Undead things appear in the same place each time, and as zombies are triggered by proximity, they'll rarely catch you out twice. Health and bullets are positioned at points so predictable and convenient as to take the edge off a bit, and the familiar twists of the corridors get repetitive fast.
Overall, however, the experience is a satisfyingly old-school one - be your best, and you will survive. Certainly, there's certainly nothing else quite like this on DS. With half-glimpsed monsters dragging living bodies along the floor, the shrieks and groans creeping under your skin, the heard-but-not-seen sobs of hidden children, the brilliantly atmospheric soundtrack - it's great to know that people are taking the DS seriously, and treating it so well.
Genuinely atmospheric and unnervingly scary - a grown up treat for your DS. Shame about the odd tedious chapter retread, but what did you expect from a hospital full of zombies?