Project Zero, not to be confused with the excellent SAS film 'Operation Zero' of the 1980s, is the 'European' version of the Japanese Fatal Frame, and another contender to the horror genre on the PS2. Horror seems to be making grounds in the console market, and Project Zero is an interesting offering.
You're a young girl, Miku, searching for your brother after his mysterious disappearance. Like most horror games, it's a quest, and the exploratory nature means that the surprises can be racked up, waiting for you to stumble across them. The action/adventure opens in a stereotypical haunted house and you're armed with ... a camera. Strange, and it makes sense from the original title of the Japanese game. The camera is nothing like the wizardry you'll find elsewhere on pocket-lint.co.uk, but an antique camera. Sounds like ropey grounds for a console game...
However it's a different and refreshing approach, and using the camera to hunt ghosts is a positive step away from slaying them with lead or lasers. Again, the manifestation of horror is in the atmosphere, and Project Zero has bags of it. Sight and sound take top priority here, and both are magnificent. The effects, in my opinion, are better at creating the atmospheric tension than Silent Hill, although the same devices are used. Project Zero can make you feel quite uncomfortable as your PlayStation2 pumps evil through the TV. From the opening of the game, there is some real scare potential. Like all games, whether this is fun or not is up to the individual player.
Control of the character is fairly straightforward, but making your way around isn't a very smooth operation. The atmospheric cluttering of game environment means there is (simply put) a whole load of junk sitting around that you walk into. Then there is control of the camera. Basically the idea is that you use the camera to capture the ghosts, or drain their energy. When you come across something spooky, you whip out the camera, look through the viewfinder and snap a picture of whatever ghost you happen to see. The ghosts are many and varied - man in corridor, child trapped behind the wall, and so on. Appearance of a ghost can be quite a shock and they look great - more Moaning Myrtle than Casper.
The game is a blend of classic horror devices and Japanese mythology, which is interesting for a 'Western' gamer, although the Japanese roots are still prominent. Project Zero faces serious competition for the console horror crown but it's original, scary and playable. Again, like all horror games, if you like the genre, you'll like Project Zero - if you don't, then look elsewhere.