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Project Zero 2: Seven years old, but still terrifying

Tecmo's horror classic returns from the dead

Of all the changes - some subtle, some some huge - made to this Wii version of Project Zero 2, it's Ghost Hand that strikes us as being the most unfair. Not unfair in a 'it ruins the game' way; unfair as in 'the developers were clearly medieval torturers in another life'. Ghost Hand, for the record, is a massive jerk.

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Ghost Hand shows up randomly whenever you're about to grab a shiny object, an action that involves waify protagonist Mio gingerly extending her arm. If he/she/it gets you, you lose a big chunk of health, and drop whatever beverage you were holding. Naturally, there's a trick to avoiding it - which we won't spoil because we, too, are jerks - but the message is clear. Nothing is sacred. Nowhere is safe. Not even the previously simple act of picking up an item.

But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. The Project Zero games have never offered a reprieve from the intense psychological warfare that goes on between you and their many spectral inhabitants. Hell, even Resident Evil had its safe rooms. Silent Hill had the relatively harmless 'normal' version of the foggy American town. Project Zero, on the other hand, features ghosts that can frickin' float through walls.

If you're not familiar with Tecmo's terrifying series, it's mostly traditional survival horror, but with a twist. The games revolve around a series of haunted houses - or an entire haunted village in the case of this second entry. As half of a set of twins, also known as Mio, you have to traverse a lost Japanese town, solve a fairly opaque ritual-based mystery, and - if at all possible - save your creepy identical sister and go home. Aiding you in this seemingly impossible task is the mystical Camera Obscura, an old-timey device that magically appears whenever jailbait needs defending from the spirit world.

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KODAK MOMENTS

If the games were simply 'Resi with ghosts' they'd be scary, but cheesily and manageably so. Unfortunately, the spirit camera kind of screws that possibility up. The genius who came up with the Camera Obscura deserves a pat on the back - preferably from someone holding an unsheathed knife. The ancient, magic viewfinder is the only tool capable of banishing ghosts for good, but as you use it, the game switches to a claustrophobic first-person view, slowing movement to a tense crawl and severing your peripheral vision for good measure.

The act of putting the spirit camera to your eye is a simple one, but it's Project Zero's defining hook. Many of the games' scariest moments spring from peeking through the viewfinder to do battle with a spectre, only to suddenly find it all up in your grill. Chuck in the spooks' ability to teleport and sneak-attack from behind, and you're left with some of the most frightening enemies ever committed to videogame.

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