In the early 1990’s, full-motion-video (FMV) games were all the rage. This was a time before 3D graphics really took off, when hiring a hammy actor to yell into the camera seemed poised to become the future of gaming. Hysteria Project for the iPhone feels like a crazed throwback to that era, but it implements a dull, meager style of gameplay that lacks any intensity or interest.
You start the game bound in a cabin in the woods. Who abducted you is not initially revealed, and *spoiler alert* it never is. All you know is that some chump with an axe wants to finish you off, but this shoddy setup never gets very far. Instead of letting you truly interact with the filmed environments, Hysteria Project simply runs a short video clip, and then simply asks for your input, “Choose Your Own Adventure” style.
Once you escape from the cabin by struggling out of your loose duct tape cuffs, you set out into the woods. Most of the game is spent running past trees, with your character panicky and out of breath. Some very light puzzle solving, like tapping the screen to negotiate around tripwires, or choosing a branching path to the left or right, might build a second of suspense. But generally, it’s trial-and-error, and not very scary.
The one or two startling moments in Hysteria Project are not worth paying full price, or even investing the hour or so to play the full game. Dramatic music does heighten these rare moments of tension, but the game rarely gives you a sense of which decisions to make, so part of the limited fear factor is due to stumbling across random dead-ends.
While FMV games on the iPhone could be a lot of fun (and we hope they do make a comeback), Hysteria Project does not highlight that potential at all. With nameless, faceless characters, an uninteresting environment, poor video-based gameplay and a clichÃ©d concept, there’s not much to recommend about Hysteria Project.