Gaming Age


Rule Of Rose
By Atlus
PlayStation 2 (US Version)

Rule Of Rose

I can honestly say I haven't played a game like Rule Of Rose in a long time. "Played" being the operative word, since there is very little playing going on here. Rule Of Rose is more of a semi-interactive storybook than anything else, and everything that it does right in storytelling and atmosphere is completely nullified by boring and horribly broken gameplay.

I guess Rule Of Rose is technically a survival horror game. It's heavy on the survival but light on the horror. It's somewhere between really creepy and "what the hell"-weird. After a seriously mind-tripping opening movie, our unlucky girl, Jennifer, departs a bus and heads for an orphanage. While the setting is real world England circa 1930, there's an air of supernatural about this place. I wild story ensues with creepy fairly tales, a Lord of the Flies like child run orphanage, and goat-headed imps framing the passageways.

Seriously, this is one twisted plot line and really the only reason to consider playing through the game. To aid in the telling of this non sequitur adventure, the presentation is top notch. The award winning CG cinemas are out of this world. The music is so moody and intense that it alone makes your heart race. Elegant, yet abrasive cello and string music is the perfect fit for this early 20th century piece. The graphics are beautiful for the PS2. There's a grain filter in place that adds to the atmosphere, and it can be configured in the options menu. The only drawback to the visuals is the terrible attack animations and redundant environments, duly noted that those are two huge areas.

Rule Of Rose

I've always found kids to be scarier than adults when it comes to horror and suspense movies. Rule Of Rose is no exception. These kids are downright unnerving. They run around in the halls like wraiths, all the while laughing or crying. Paired with the music, it didn't take much to make me jump early on in the game. I was disappointed that the level of suspense never rose above that for the rest of the game though.

About an hour in, I realized they missed something in the game. They forgot the "game" part. Maybe they forgot to hire a game designer, I don't know. It all boils down to searching endless hallways and rooms for clues to open the next part of the story, not terribly far off from genre standards, I know. What little fighting there is to be done, is so tremendously broken that it should have been left out all together. Luckily, even though there are impish enemies throughout the hallways, you are really only forced to fight in a few places. There are a few locked rooms where you have to fight to exit the room, and there are a few sub-boss and boss fights that you'll have to bite your hand to get through.

Weapons can be found and equipped, things like knives, pipes, and shovels. Attacking is done by holding the R1 button and pressing X. Lining up your attacks is a feat unto itself, and judging distance is just as rotten a chore. Attacks are slow, and the animation is a joke. Hit detection is less than passable. Enemies have many invincible frames of animation, and Jennifer can often get struck while recovering from a previous hit while you have no control over her. Really, anything and everything that could be wrong with the combat, is.

I'm on the fence with the other major game mechanic. You find a companion early on in the game, a dog named Brown, and his job is to help you find clues in the game. Select something from your inventory for him to sniff, and he'll try to find an object related to it. On the one hand, it's a total guessing game at times as to which object to use, and when using Brown, the game kind of plays itself. On the other hand, since Brown does all the searching for you, it does make navigation of the maze-like floors quicker and easier. A couple of times I had issues with Brown's path planning, where we would end up at an impassible obstacle or door. Unfortunately, the game can't be played without Brown. The clue locations will not be exposed to Jennifer to pick up unless Brown finds them. That reminds me, even picking up items is poorly implemented. You have to be standing completely still and be in the perfect spot to pick something up. I can't tell you how many times I stood frustrated right on top of the object I wanted only to have all my button presses completely ignored.

If scores really matter, this is a tough one to grade. The wonderful atmosphere and story make you want to progress through the game to find out what the hell is going on, but as a video game, there are no worthy merits to mention. Since we are not a literary or theatrical resource, then I am only qualified to say that this is not a very good game.

Travis Dwyer

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