Back in my younger days, I was a huge fan of the PROJECT ZERO games, playing the first couple through multiple times on PlayStation. Well, I’m about to hopefully scratch that super spooky itch once again with the release of PROJECT ZERO: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse on the Xbox.
This is a remake of a 2008 Wii game, which must have been a nightmare to play via motion controls as it isn’t the friendliest game on the controller, at risk of minor spoilers! Coming from KOEI TECMO, has the horror translated well from fifteen years ago, or should it have stayed in the past? Let’s head off to Rogetsu Isle and find out…
The story found in PROJECT ZERO: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a very interesting one. Rogetsu Isle is an island off the coast of Japan that holds a festival called the Rogetsu Kagaru every ten years. The festival used to be only for inhabitants of the island, but after a decision was made to turn it into a tourist attraction, something seemed to go wrong. During the last festival, five girls went missing, eventually found and rescued by a detective, but lost of all their memories. Now, two of the five girls are dead, and the remaining survivors – Ruka, Misaki and Madoka – have gone back to the island in an attempt to find their lost memories and see if they can get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding their pasts. What could possibly go wrong?
This is a classic kind of survival horror game, with the emphasis on the survival part of that title. We are tasked with exploring the facilities on the island, which have been abandoned for nearly ten years, the place left crawling with spirits that are not too pleased to see us.
But how does one fight something that is already dead? Well, luckily, we have a couple of options in order to fight the wraiths off. When playing as the girls, we have access to a special camera, the Camera Obscura, and this has the power to damage spirits if they are caught in the viewfinder and then have their photo taken. When playing as the detective, who has also returned to the island to try and find Ruka, we have access to a special torch that can be charged up with the power of moonlight – the resulting light blast can also damage the unfriendly ghosts, so all is gravy. In fact, the flashlight is a much better weapon than the camera, as the girls can barely move when they have the camera raised, whereas the detective can skip about like a gazelle in comparison.
When using the camera, the longer you can keep the ghost in the viewfinder the more the camera charges, and the more damage the resulting photo will do. The camera can also have different film – more damaging film – installed, but these are in short supply. The basic film is infinite, which is nice, but it does take a while to get ready for the next shot, so for goodness sake you don’t want to miss. The camera is also very upgradable, with extra modules and lenses able to be found, equipped, and upgraded. You see, as we explore, we can find various things, including red and blue spirit stones that are key to making the camera stronger (and the flashlight as well). The blue stones build the camera’s functions, such as damage output and charge rate, while the red stones make the lenses that you find stronger. Keeping on top of this is the key to survival.
In addition to the unfriendly ghosts are other spirits to photograph as well, and these guys are usually found just playing out their daily lives. Snapping these spirits adds them to the collection, and also scores points, which can be spent at the save points to buy health potions and also to unlock all the DLC costumes that are included. So, if you ever fancied hunting ghosts in a swimsuit, now you can!
It feels as good a time as any to get involved with the presentation of PROJECT ZERO: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and in terms of atmosphere, the whole feel is absolutely terrifying. This is a game that is capable of drawing you in massively, all before delivering a jump scare. In fact, I haven’t jumped this much since playing Five Nights at Freddy’s.
The graphics are pretty good, if a little muddy in places, and while the protagonists look great, and the ghosts are suitably spooky, the rest of the backdrops seem a little dull, in a weird kind of way. The sound is awesome though, very spooky indeed, and the Japanese voiceovers with subtitles add to the atmosphere. All in all, PROJECT ZERO: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse works very well both visually and aurally; the sounds in the ghost battles, in particular, certainly get the tension ramping up.
Now, the thing that I alluded to at the top of the review, and the elephant in the room, are the controls. The moving controls are fairly usable, but the speed of the protagonists makes even wandering about a chore. There is a run button, but even when pursued by ghosts, those that we control don’t seem to be capable of more than a gentle jog, and so it does take an age to keep going backwards and forwards to find the items to open the way forward.
The combat, in a way, is even worse. The movement is almost treacle-like, making it very hard to get any distance from the ghosts. And distance is your friend, as you need to keep them in the viewfinder long enough to charge up the photo. Considering they not only come through the air at you, but also through walls, it all makes things a little interesting. The combat does get better with practice, but whilst the little child ghosts are never anything but a pain, multiple ghosts that attack at once really test things. These complaints only really apply to the girls who use the camera, as the combat with the flashlight is a lot easier.
PROJECT ZERO : Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a very scary, very compelling game that, even with a couple of control niggles, is still more than worth a play. The atmosphere that is summoned up is great, as are the ghosts and the story, but an overhaul of the controls would have been welcome. But don’t let that put you off playing, PROJECT ZERO: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is the spookiest experience you’ll have in a long time.
PROJECT ZERO: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is on the Xbox Store
- Great atmosphere
- Good story
- Scary every time you open a door
- Clunky movement
- Combat takes some time to get used to
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - KOEI TECMO
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 9 March 2023
- Launch price from - £39.99