Haunting Ground

Poor Fiona. She wakes up to find herself trapped in a cage with nothing on save for a towel, or is that a curtain or something? And as soon as she finds her way our and gets some decent clothes on, she’s being chased around a huge castle by the less then ordinary tenants who occupy it. Whether it’s because they are obsessed with her or want something she has, all Fiona can do is try to escape the castle with the help of a trusty dog by the name of Hewie.
First off, the graphics in the game are excellent, especially the character designs. A lot of attention has been given to the facial expressions and details of the characters. Fiona and Danielle are also early contenders for video game babes of the year. The character voices are also nicely done, but they can get annoying at times, like the dialogue you get in a B-grade horror movie. (“Let me in your womb!” – Ricardo)
Gameplay wise, Haunting Ground more than borrows elements from Clock Tower series of games. You run around the castle solving puzzles to advance, all the while not knowing where your stalker is, and when you run into them, you have to make a big run for it to escape them and find a hiding place. This is one of the problems I had with the game. Just as it seems your making progress, out pops a stalker and you suddenly have to backtrack and run a very long distance before you finally lose them. So then your left with the task of running all the way back to where you left off, and your lucky if you don’t run into them again on the way back. At least Hewie will growl to warn you when a stalker or danger is near.
Hewie himself also plays a big part in helping to solve the games puzzles. If you find yourself stuck, it helps to try and send Hewie to investigate and he might find something your otherwise might have missed. Some are obvious, but some can be tricky and will take a while to figure out. Hewie can also attack you stalker to slow them down and give you time to put some distance between yourselves and find a place to hide.
And you will definitely need Hewie to slow them down cause these guys chase you REALLY FAST! Even a crippled old man in a wheel chair chases you faster by crawling on his hands than the young psychotic maid you’ll encounter!
Fiona isn't completely helpless though. She throws a mean kick that can do damage to her persuers. There are also these crystal like things you can pick up and use as weapons as you can either it throw at them to stun them or lay them on the ground to be used like landmines. If your being chased and you hit your stalker enough times, you can knock them out temporarily and sometimes pick up handy items from them. Would have been nice if we had the ability to tie them up and keep them out of our hair once we knocked them out though.
Some of the puzzles are so hard to figure out that you could be running around for hour. Here’s a hint that every first time player should know: LIGHT THE LAMPS. I let you figure out the rest for yourself.
Another feature borrowed from Clock Tower is the panic meter. Well, you can’t actually see a panic meter, or even your life meter for that matter, but they are there! As Fiona get more nervous and panicky, you’ll notice the screen color change and get a bit fuzzy. When Fiona gets a full on panic attack, the screen goes all black and white and she starts running like crazy and crashing into things. And you can tell her life is low from the way she walks. She’ll either start breathing heavily and start walking or running more slowly and will need to catch her breath. It will also take her longer to get up if she gets knocked down.
There are some fun bonuses for beating the game too, such as Fiona’s sexy dominatrix outfit! Fiona even has a bizarre frog costume. Hewie also can be switched for German Shepard colours. Beating harder difficulties will unlock different bonuses, and how you beat the game will also determine the kind of ending you get.
Overall, I’ve never played Clock Tower 3 on PS2, but I found Haunting Ground to be one of the best Survival Horror games I’ve played in awhile. Sure the story can be a bit corny in places, and some of the puzzles annoyingly hard, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Whether or not a sequel is in the works remains to be seen, but the possibility is there to tell the story with a different bunch of characters or a some new enemies to stalk Fiona in future games.

Graphics – 9
Sound – 8
Gameplay – 7
Lifespan – 7
Overall – 7


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