Rule of Rose
Originally written on October 31st, 2006
Survival horror is a genre of gaming that always brings the most interesting- albeit bizarre and twisted- story lines to the forefront. Developer Punchline and publisher Atlus are holding nothing back with their latest, the enigmatically titled, Rule of Rose. The game follows the story of a woman named Jennifer who is riding the bus one night. A small child on the bus asks her to read him a story and then quite abruptly hops off, disappearing into the night. Jennifer being more curious than she should be, she goes after the boy, quickly realizing she is where she is not wanted.
As she starts to search for the boy, she stumbles across a dilapidated orphanage and hears whimpers from a dog within. As Jennifer enters the orphanage, she follows the child through the hallways as she catches glimpses of him zipping around corners or catching a peek of his feet as he darts up the stairs. As she finally catches up to him she starts to realize there is something definitely messed up going on and finds herself at odds with a gang of children that occupy the seemingly abandoned building. When she comes to, she finds herself on an airship with the children from the orphanage who call themselves the Aristocrats.
The game starts to take off from there as Jennifer finds that she must do what the other children say as she is the newest member of their club. Each chapter finds Jennifer running tasks for the children, while at the same time also giving small bits of info at a time why she is there and what exactly is going on with the other children. Soon after the game begins in earnest you find yourself a companion in the form of a dog named Brown. Once you rescue him, Brown will constantly be at your side and will help you solve most of the puzzles in the game.
When you find certain items lying around, you can command Brown to “find” and he will then start off on a trek to track down something that has to do with it. Sometimes it will be another part of the object or sometimes the owner of the item. Much like following the child through the orphanage, you will spend an incredible amount of time following Brown throughout each chapter. Although not all puzzles are solved by Browns super sniffer, the majority of them will be.
With Brown at your side, dealing with the “normal” children in the game is nothing more than walking up and talking to them. They are constantly around having conversations with each other or simply standing around in hallways watching what you are doing. As twisted as these kids appear to be, there are other “children” found throughout the game that are disfigured and will attack you at first sight. These children wear many guises and appear out of nowhere. Some drop from the ceilings, some pop out of boxes and some out from of under tables.
When they do pop out to try and attack you, the first few times will make you jump but after the tenth or so time, you’ll find you won’t break stride running past them. Sometimes there will be groups of them that make running past them difficult and they will jump on you and give you a not-so-nice bear hug to attack you. You’re not totally helpless to their attacks however. You can find weapons that are scattered about that you can hack and slash at the warped and twisted kiddies with. Although you can attack them, it is a chore to do so. Jennifer apparently isn’t one for aggression and it shows through her fighting style. Hitting an enemy is much more difficult than it should be when face to face, where strikes seemingly pass right through enemies.
For certain bosses, such as the incredibly disturbing and perverse “Mermaid Princess”- a teenage girl who hangs from the ceiling by her tied feet, flailing her arms at you, and vomitting on the floor- the combat configurations are just too atrocious for you to have any real precise control over Jennifer and her attacks. Unfortunately Brown doesn’t do much better during confrontations. The most he will do when enemies show up is either distract them, allowing you to give them a swat from behind or stand there and bark at them. One would think that a dog would bite or attack considering what was done to him earlier in the game by the children, but unfortunately, he doesn’t.
If you can get past the wretched fighting mechanics, the rest of the game is an interesting and intensely disturbing ride. As you investigate around your surroundings everything from cut scenes to opening doors can be skin crawling experience. The music that is constantly playing will switch up from low and quiet ambiance to high and fast pitched violin screeches as you uncover blood splattered walls and quivering bloody sacks. Voices will whisper to you, floors will creak and kids will chatter to each other as you pass by doors.
The graphics are made to look as though the game is taking place in an older era by at times providing grainy and scratchy visuals along with the tiny inventory system and story books are made to look like they were drawn by a 5 year old with a pack of crayons. There are many things about Rule of Rose to keep you jumping and with a save system that is equally creepy and sparse throughout most of the game, you will find yourself choosing your actions carefully.
Rule of Rose is a unique game that definitely delivers the chills from beginning to end and although the stories from chapter to chapter can feel a little detached, you will find yourself continually anticipating what will happen next. The creep factor is incredibly high, all while hitting the right spots for your spooking needs. It is a game that needs to be experienced, but only by those that can take the disturbing imagery.
|Title: Rule of Rose
Release Date: September 12th, 2006
Platforms Available: PlayStation 2
Platformed Reviewed: PlayStation 2
Game purchased for review