Version Reviewed: 1.0
Graphics / Sound [rating:4.5/5]
Lasting Appeal [rating:1.5/5]
Hysteria is, by far, the most random game that I have on my iPhone. I've been playing it for a while now and have decided that it is a game with an identity crisis. Sometimes the game wants to be a movie, sometimes it wants to be a click-fest, and sometimes it wants to be one of those books that make you determine your own fate (you know, the ones that have you turn to page 164 if you want to take a specific action in a situation... ok, maybe I was the only one that read those books).
The Hysteria Project is the iPhones first real foray into horror gaming. The game starts by putting you in what appears to be a cutscene of a man tied up in a shed. There is no back story or anything about why this man is in a shed, but there is a very real sense of urgency. Quickly, you find out that it is not a cutscene, but that the game was actually filmed, and that you are playing the film. The flow of the game takes you from the shed (where you start), to a run into the forest to get away from a mysterious axe murderer who definitely wants you dead. Throughout the chase, you are presented with choices... some make you choose between turning left or right and some make you decide if you want to perform tasks such as finding hiding places. Most of the choices (or at least most of the ones that I picked) let you continue on into the chase, but some lead you to an immediate demise at the hands of the killer followed by a text description of how exactly the killer got you.
The graphics in Hysteria are extremely similar to the Blair Witch Project. Fully expect to see the shaky blurrycam effect used in BWP, but with no end. There is rarely a scene in the game that is not rapidly shaking, so if motion sickness is a problem for you, don't pick this one up. Everything is shot extremely well, from the forest to the people, but there are some flaws that show up in the death scenes. Typically when you die in the game, it is at the hands of the axe killer, but there is one scene in the trees that really got to me. The trees in this scene are booby-trapped with explosives, and when you hit them they explode. Sounds cool, but the explosion seems a bit like it was made by a high school student learning the ropes in animation class. The sound, much like the majority of the game, is of high quality. There is, for all I can tell, an original horror themed score consisting of a slightly repetitive scary song and a few really well made cut scene sounds. There isn't much to stand against it, but The Hysteria Project has some of the best sound the iPhone has to offer.
Other than the "choose your path" style gameplay that is standard in the game, the rest of the gameplay consists of tapping the screen to perform different actions, Sometimes you tap to maneuver through the forest, sometimes you tap to move quietly through the jungle, and sometime the tapping is just used to run the hell away. The gameplay is pretty limited, but the game is about the interactive cinematic experience, not the way it plays.
The Hysteria Project really does a great job at keeping the action intense. There is always a driving sense of urgency, even at the beginning of the game when the axe murderer has yet to be revealed. You just know that, at all times, the axe murderer is right behind you and ready to strike. Speaking of the axe murderers proximity to you during the game, some of the cut scenes where the killer is chasing you are quite tense. It definitely helps to have headphones and a dark room, but some of the ominous, killer-is-going-to-kill-you-now scenes are insane no matter where you are. My complaint is that, even with the game as short as it is, the game gets slightly repetitive. For a good hour, all you are doing is running. Occasionally you get a cut scene (they all make no sense!), but the vast majority of the game is just your character running. It gets old, quickly... which leads me to...
As original as the experience is, Hysteria is a once through type game. The whole adventure through the woods is over in less than 2 hours, and with most of the game in one location, there is really nothing that catches your eye by the end. By about minute 45 I was ready to put the game down and play some more Flight Control, which is the iPhone version of crack. After the game is over, there is really no point in going back through because the game is relatively option-less... you either go down the correct path or you die. Once its beaten, its done.
Hysteria Project Promo Video
As a whole, the game is quite entertaining for a short period of time. In feel, the game is like a portable version of the live footage game Phantasmagoria, but without the 550 page script and the excessive violence (among other things). Hysteria is a short, sweet adventure that only costs $1.99. If you are at all a fan of the old cinematic video game genre or just like horror games in general, pick this one up, but for the rest of you, it may not be worth sacrificing four taco bell tacos.