I was obsessed with the Fatal Frame franchise during the PS2 era, and while the games have aged rather terribly, they still have a certain charm that makes them unique and enjoyable to this day. Unfortunately, the new Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water disappoints on every imaginable level. It’s an ugly, unplayable borefest that can’t get the most fundamental gameplay elements, like walking, right. Worst of all, it’s not scary whatsoever.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water takes a nosedive from the moment you see the opening credits. For a game released in 2015, Maiden of Black Water looks atrocious. Even though the character models are somewhat passable, the environments are dull, enclosed spaces that lack creativity and imagination. I know the WiiU isn’t exactly the strongest piece of tech out there, but Maiden of Black Water is nauseatingly hideous, and worst of all, it runs terribly. The frame rate can barely keep up with characters walking through half-empty environments, and the camera work (turning the camera, not your photo camera) and walking animations make "exploration" (and I'm using the term very loosely here) aggravating.
Ugliness aside, Maiden of Black Water’s biggest crime is its narrative and overall boredom. The story takes place on the fictional Hikami Mountain, which is known for its suicides. You play as three different protagonists, each with different goals and personalities. There’s the stereotypical emo author, Ren Hojo, researching material for his new book, a young girl, Yuri Kozukata, who has the ability to bring the dead over from the shadow world, and Miu Hinasaki, the daughter of Miku from past Fatal Frame titles. All characters are anime stereotypes who deliver some of the most bland dialogue I’ve had to endure in a long time. They're shallow and uninteresting, and as much as I want to fit them in the "it's so bad that it's good" category, that's just not the case here.
"It’s an ugly, unplayable borefest that can’t get the most fundamental gameplay elements, like walking, right. Worst of all, it’s not scary whatsoever."
There are no interesting surprises in Maiden of Black Water, and there is no sense of danger. You even have a home base, so to speak, so any sense of tension or danger is completely nullified by your characters always returning to this safe haven. When you’re out and about, the ghost encounters are hilarious at best, and embarrassingly cheesy at worst. Maybe the scares would have worked two decades ago, but in a post Amnesia and Outlast world, they’re just laughingly bad.
The photo camera gameplay is certainly better than in the original games, but it still feels clumsy and awkward. The picture taking is too arcade like. It’s as if you’re stuck in some low-budget amusement park flashing lights at cardboard cutouts to score points. At no point did I enjoy myself, and the best part of each gaming session was finally returning to my home base and turning the game off.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is a catastrophic disaster. The gameplay is horrid, the narrative embarrassing, but most disappointingly, the game isn’t scary or atmospheric. It’s an ugly mess that doesn’t deserve the Fatal Frame name, and may very well be one of the worst WiiU titles I’ve played to date.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: WiiU