Survival horror games with women in the lead role usually portray their protagonists as ass-kicking, leather-wearing, gun/sword-fighting survivors. But Haunting Ground isn't your usual survival horror title, so erase the supergirl notion in your head before you get utterly disappointed.
Haunting Ground's heroine is Fiona Belli, an 18 year old girl who is the sole survivor of a car accident which claims both her parents' lives. After the accident, Fiona wakes up inside a cage in what seems to be a butcher's basement. Despite the disturbing setting, adolescent boys should find the early part of the game especially appealing as Fiona runs around the house clad only with a white silk cloth. And even when she does find clothes, what she puts on seems to be a bastardised Viking outfit with the shortest of skirts. Even Fiona says the get-up "feels little tight in the chest area."
Fiona has extremely limited fighting skills and has the lowest of stamina, forcing you to rely on your wit (and a loyal white dog named Hewie you come across early in Haunting Ground) to solve the mysteries of the castle and get out alive. All Fiona can really do is push, hide, kick lamely on things and run. Running, however, is not one of her best skills, as too much running will drain her stamina. The more her stamina decreases, the more she panics, and the more she panics, the more prone she is to stumbling over at critical moments.
Most of the danger Fiona faces comes from oversized brute Debilitas, who seems to think she's the life-size version of his rag doll. Debilitas is the castle's gardener -- who looks like the hunchback of Notre Dame on steroids-- and becomes Fiona's relentless pursuer in the game. Fiona is obviously no match for the lumbering brute, forcing players to find hiding spots every time Debilitas comes stalking. The game provides several places to hide in each section, and while Debilitas may end up finding you if you hide in the same spot too many times, we managed to elude him by hiding in one spot three times. There are also more creative ways of stopping Debilitas that occur in certain spots during Haunting Ground, such as pushing him off balconies or pushing a bookcase on top of him.
Your loyal dog Hewie is pretty much Fiona's lifesaver all throughout the game. Hewie can be told to fetch things, warn of incoming danger or traps, attack enemies (including Debilitas) and more. The dog, however, requires praises, knick knacks and sometimes scolding if he doesn't follow your commands. The right analog stick is used to manage your interactions with Hewie.
While Haunting Ground does look appropriately dark and creepy, hearing is as important a sense as vision to utilise in this game, as the music and sound effects change in relation to the closeness of the threat. Players will be well served not to ignore the dog's barking, for example, as Hewie can hear noises more acutely than Fiona.
Haunting Ground is an innovative survival horror game that ditches the sword fighting/gun shooting style in favour of a more thoughtful game approach. If you're ready for a change from Resident Evil, then take on Fiona and her loyal dog's cause.
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