Project Zero 5: The Black Haired Shrine Maiden Reviews

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water review

When my friends and I used to play the old Project Zero games (known as Fatal Frame in the US) way back in the early 2000s, we had one rule: the lights must always be off. If we had to take a bathroom break or go to the kitchen to giggle over our frayed nerves, a lamp was allowed, but once you had the controller in your hand, you had to fully commit. Sat in darkness, we'd scare ourselves silly under the glow of the old CRT monitor. It was our ritual when playing a series all about rituals. How ironic that in Project Zero's newest incarnation, the Wii U exclusive Maiden of Black Water, the lights are on, but no-one seems to be home. It's a mess.

Maiden of Black Water's main protagonist is Yuri, a doe-eyed teenager who, as far as her limited facial animations will allow us to ascertain, seems to be a bit sad about something. She has the ability to see 'traces' of missing things, including people, and is staying with another woman with the same ability, who has taken her on as an apprentice of sorts in her antique shop/paranormal detective agency. They live close to a spooky mountain surrounded by a spooky forest where people tend to go to kill themselves at sunset, and what follows is 10-12 hours of a half-baked plot involving virginal sacrifices and scorned women and increasingly spurious reasons for Yuri and a bunch of equally patient-faced adolescent women (and one grown man) to go up the mountain at sunset despite knowing full-well what's waiting for them up there; jagged, glitchy ghosts that look like they've been fully recycled from the PlayStation 2 originals.

The game's 13 chapters, or 'drops,' follow a similar pattern. Someone has wandered off into the mountain, and the current playable character (there are three) must go and retrieve them, sometimes accompanied by a companion whose only discernible role seems to be to mumble, dead-panned, some exposition every 20 minutes or so. You'll meet ghosts, you'll take photos of them, and then you'll run back down the mountain the way you came until the chapter abruptly ends with a text box that fills you in on the rest of the story.

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