Is it possible for a survival horror game to actually be missing both elements of the genre? With Rule of Rose for the PlayStation 2, that’s exactly what you get (or, more precisely, lack). Rule of Rose is a game that aims to scare the pants off players with moody atmospherics, a creepy aesthetic and a gloomy soundtrack, but in the end, it just bores the pants off you, rather than scaring them off.
Rule of Rose tries suck players into what could be an engrossing story. You play Jennifer, a girl who gets sidetracked on her bus trip one day, and ends up chasing a little boy into an abandoned orphanage. The boy’s given Jennifer a storybook that fills itself out as you progress through the chapters of the game. A cool idea that could’ve used something “more”, maybe more interaction, or randomly creepy pages appearing, but something more. Alas, you get nothing but a printed record of where you’ve been and where you’re going.
So, the story puts you in this creepy orphanage where kids in weird masks keep popping up. (SPOILER ALERT) – Soon enough, Jennifer is captured and awakens aboard what she discovers is a huge airship floating over the countryside. Here’s where all the game’s action (and I use that term loosely) happens. From the moment Jennifer awakens, the game is all about running through rooms, gathering clues and securing specific objects to take back to the Aristocrat Club, a clique that controls the goings on aboard the airship. It becomes repetitive all too quickly, and feels like you’re watching one Scooby Doo episode after another, repeating the same moves and missions. Combat is possible, though wholly avoidable, and it’s best you do just that. The fighting mechanic brings new meaning to the term “basic,” and Jennifer’s not one to go toe to toe with the imps who populate the airship, much less provide a challenge to the bosses, who are wholly unsatisfying as uber-enemies.
There is one cool feature that Rule of Rose brings to the genre – the dog. I kid you not, (SPOILER ALERT) at one point Jennifer saves a dog’s life, and he becomes her companion. From then on, she can “sic” him on objectives, and he’ll lead her through the airship, hot on the trail of her goal. This saves the player from having to mindlessly roam around, opening the same wrong door and wanting to push Jennifer out a window.
If a game could skate by on visuals and sound alone, then Rule of Rose would surely be a winner. The visuals evoke a feeling that you’re watching an old movie print filmed of someone’s alcohol-soaked waking dream, replete with scratches and muddy contrast. The audio fits the game, being sufficiently creepy at all times, but in the early game, it’s so repetitive, you wonder if it ever gets better.
There’s not much to Rule of Rose outside of the aesthetics; it’s a straightforward adventure with plenty of “open door, load room, interact with something, move to next door.” It’s not terrible by any stretch, but it’s not exciting enough for survival/horror fans, and it’s a little too old-fashioned for the adventure fans out there.
- Overall: 6.0
- Let us steal a quote from SNL’s club skit – “Could you please try to be less boring!”