Hysteria Project

from Bulkypix, originally released 7th April, 2009

It's survival horror in the woods as you try to escape a hatchet-wielding madman.


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Hysteria Project Review

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 clichéd concept, there’s not much to recommend about Hysteria Project.

Hysteria Project Hands-On

We got our hands on an advance build of Hysteria Project, the new first-person survival horror game from French developer Bulkypix–and it kind of scared the crap out of us! Mission accomplished, guys. We’ve got gameplay details and impressions within… go ahead and click, it won’t hurt a bit…

Hysteria Project is a kind of “Choose Your Own Adventure” game built entirely out of spliced bits of footage, taken in shaky Cinema Verite style with a hand-held camcorder. The shots are all from the hero’s perspective, complete with hallucinations, flashbacks, slow blinks, and blackouts (he’s badly wounded). This weirdness is combined with a seriously spooky soundtrack that involves lots of labored breathing, deep groans and grumbles, punctuated by sudden shrieking. Bulkypix knows how to produce an effective horror atmosphere, that is for sure.

The story-telling is simple and completely non-verbal (more to ease the localization process than for dramatic effect, we think). You wake up in a cabin bound hand and foot with duct tape, half dead, scared out of your mind, and apparently dosed with some kind of drug. Your captor is a sinister, hatchet-wielding, hooded figure. You get your chance to escape when he leaves you alone in the cabin for a moment.

Once you exit the cabin, you find that you’re lost in the middle of nowhere, out in the woods. The hatchet man is tracking you down–he’s there stalking towards you practically every time you glance over your shoulder–and if he catches you, he’ll kill you.

After every ten seconds of footage or so, you’re taken to a menu to make a quick decision: should you go left or right at this fork in the path? Will you try to hide, or just run as fast as you can? Most of these choices are timed, and if you don’t make a selection in time, or pick the wrong action, it’s curtains. Luckily, you can restart from the same sequence without penalty.

There are also some neat interactive sequences that force you to pay careful attention to your surroundings at all times. For instance, you encounter a booby trap at one point, and if you don’t touch the screen in the right spots fast enough, you’ll get blown to smithereens. In addition, the game has many light puzzle elements, such as subtle visual cues that tell you which way to go.

Hysteria Project isn’t a long game. It only took us about half an hour to make it through. But it was definitely a very cool 30 minutes, and it got us primed for the next chapter in the series; this is really just the introduction. Bulkpix’s mode of interactive storytelling is very unique, and very effective. Now that they’ve proven it’s possible, we expect it to be heavily emulated in the future.

We will be posting our own Hysteria Project video later tonight or tomorrow. For the time being, have a look at Bulkypix’s trailer.

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, the author used to work at Vivendi Games Mobile. So did the principals of Bulkypix.

Hysteria Project First Look

While bumming around YouTube recently, we ran into a couple of truly bizarre (but effective!) trailers for a new iPhone game called Hysteria Project, currently under development by French gamehouse BulkyPix.

Cryptic, aren’t they? We had to know more, so we got in touch with project lead Vincent Dondaine to try to glean some more details. He told us that the game’s story is confidential until the end of next week, but he did reveal a few tantalizing scraps about the gameplay:

“In fact it’s a Dragon’s Lair-like game but in a totally different visual style. You will have short video sequences and at the end of each a choice. The videos are really like in the teaser. The hero will be the player… It will be an episodic game.”

Dondaine also told us that the game will be released sometime in February.

For those that aren’t familiar, Dragon’s Lair was a fully animated third-person adventure that was quite unlike anything else in arcades when it came out in 1983. It would play a short snippet of the cartoon, require the player to make a snap decision, and then display the (frequently hilarious) result.

BulkyPix was founded by veterans of Vivendi Games Mobile’s Paris studio after its dissolution in late 2008 during the Activision Blizzard merger. The BulkyPix team worked on well-regarded iPhone games like Crash Nitro Kart 3D and Virtual Villagers for VGM, so we are looking forward to seeing what they come up with independently.

Disclosure: Steve used to work for VGM’s Centerscore studio in California.

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