Hide And Seek

Common sense should tell you that if a butcher knife-wielding ghoul is rumored to stalk the halls of an abandoned hospital, bringing a bunch of people in after nightfall is precisely the last thing you should do. But hey — if all fictional characters had common sense, we wouldn’t have as many horror movies, or horror games for that matter. In Althi’s I Found You… Mysterious Reportage of Kunihiko Akatsugawa (Out Now, $.99), a self-styled “psychic reporter” follows a student ghost club into such an environment and finds himself responsible for ushering everyone out alive after the lights go out and everyone gets separated. As one might guess from the delicious subtitle, developer Althi has whipped up a not-quite-natural translation — but at least this little game of cat-and-mouse plays simply enough that its short tutorial gets the point across.

The player’s objective is simple enough: in each of six levels, he or she guides Mr. Kunihiko through the hospital’s pitch-dark hallways in search of a key and a locked exit. Also roaming around are his photography partner, various frightened students, and one vengeful ghost that won’t hesitate to take a fatal swipe at any of the above. Finding an exit and unlocking it is only the bare minimum requirement for completing a level; I Found You measures player performance in the number of hapless individuals Mr. Kunihiko has collected when he crosses the finish line.

It’s too bad I Found You doesn’t take advantage of the Game Center or OpenFeint integration it’s so ripe for, but it nevertheless manages a highly interesting sort of action puzzle experience. The AI of the would-be victims and ghost are set so that the ghoul will eventually find and kill all NPCs unless the player intervenes, perhaps by ringing a telephone or daringly crossing the undead’s field of vision. Whether it happens as a result of bravado or complete accident, only a few moves remain to the player once Mr. Kunihiko has the ghost’s attention — so the player needs to keep mental track of where the nearest fire extinguisher or other ghost-stopping trap is. If Mr. Kunihiko or one of his allies falls under the ghost’s knife, the player is treated to a gory little death scene that’s sure to compel him or her to reach for that re-try button.

Besides being the right thing to do, collecting all the would-be victims before exiting a level has other, shall we say, perks. Turns out Mr. Kunihiko isn’t being chivalrous at all by letting others walk ahead of him; he’s asking them to serve as his human shields. In an interesting twist on a videogame staple, the number of collected people doubles as a performance measure and a health bar of sorts. While the first level is simple so the player can learn the ropes, I Found You serves up mazes of increasing complexity and ups the ante in every way: the ghost might play with circuit breakers that control automated doors, or even mischievously pose as one of the friendly NPCs.

All told it’s a brilliant concept, but I Found You trips up a bit in technical execution. Many will be turned off by how sluggishly Mr. Kunihiko gets around, and an update to make him walk smoothly – instead of one herky-jerky step at a time – would be most welcome. Context-sensitive virtual buttons for flipping circuit breakers, hiding in lockers, and other miscellaneous functions are reliable at least. The game’s anime-style character art is delicious but used all too sparingly, and I Found You‘s surprising (or perhaps not-so-surprising) gore is cheesily over the top. As a horror game it fares best when it tries to be subtle; vaguely uncanny, semi-transparent art stills that randomly pop up at the concentrating player are far more unsettling than Mr. Kunihiko’s undead, knife-armed nemesis.

iFanzine Verdict: While it’s not going to do much more for horror veterans than an old B-rated slasher film, I Found You offers something fresh and out of the ordinary to anyone who could go for a maze-heavy puzzle game. A willingness to contend with slow gameplay pace is required though.

[xrr rating=3.5/5]