If you consider yourself a survival horror connoisseur, but have never played a Siren title, then you need some schooling.
This is the most terrifying and gripping franchise I have ever played, more so than Silent Hill, Amnesia or Fatal Frame.
What I suggest you do – if you have a PS3 and are an intrepid underwear-spoiler – is pay for and download Siren: Blood Curse.
It will only cost you about R200 by this stage, a meagre price to pay for a priceless education in nerve-jangling unease.
Originally released over an extended period of time in episodic downloadable bites, Siren: Blood Curse can now be slaughtered in one go instead of waiting with baited breath for your next nightmare to arrive.
Siren: Blood Curse is the slightly westernized remake of the original Siren, my favourite survival horror classic of all time.
As the third title in the series, it retells the original madness, replacing most of the Japanese protagonists with American ones.
The basic premise tells of a mysterious village deep in the sticks of rural Japan called Hanuda.
Shrouded in foreboding enigma, an unsuspecting American TV crew ventures into the isolated scenery, only to find themselves stepping into a place no longer within the realms of human understanding.
For you see, like Silent Hill, Hanuda has become cursed and transformed into a little piece of hell, its residents warped into murderous hellions called ‘Shibito’, blood leaking from their eyes.
The water has also turned to blood and the sky a smoky miasma.
Whilst Shibito can be beaten into temporary submission, they are in essence immortal and will stand once more after temporarily pulling themselves together to continue sniffing you out.
They aren’t always skulking after you, however; often, they will be preoccupied pulling weeds or writing who-knows-what in journals.
It is now up to you to lead various characters through murky, befouled stages in pursuit of escape and sanity.
You play as nonthreatening characters such as a high school teenage boy, a silly paranormal documentary maker and even his preparatory school daughter.
Whilst mature protagonists can pick up objects such as spades and pipes to clobber the cackling Shibito around, the pre-teen lass has obviously zero defensive capability and will simply get on her knees if approached by a friendly villager.
Unlike the original Siren, which had its timeline chopped up and thrown to and fro for the player to make sense of after substantial progress had been made, Siren: Blood Curse generally follows a concurrent timeline.
This reimagining of Siren is also a lot more combat-heavy than the original, allowing players to pick things up in the environment you generally wouldn’t bludgeon someone with, unless everyone around you had turned into Shibitos.
Whilst survival horror hipsters (if such a thing even exists) may find this dilution a travesty, it all being in the name of being haplessly hammered to death against a wall you flattened yourself on in the hopes some manic Jap wouldn’t spot you, this does make the game a lot more accessible.
Another scraping off the original’s excruciating difficulty is the guiding objective text in the top-left corner of the screen.
This means a mountainous decrease in the amount of time you spend groping around in the dark in search of painstaking productivity.
The original had you setting up some of the most creative and unthinkable traps and distractions which meant momentary eluding the blood-drenched sentries.
Rack your brains no more, the gaming industry loves putting helping hands in games now instead of ones twisting your arm.
The original would not allow you to play a good amount of stages unless you completed some unfathomable, random secondary objective which set the foundations for the events in a now unlocked level.
This is now gone too, so what we now have is a far more linear and straight-forward experience, which whilst robbing the franchise of some of its iconic, frantic bush-whacking investigation and twisted sense of direction, does allow for a more catering sense of pacing.
Stealth plays a big part in the game and definitely breeds most of the terror.
Creeping around almost completely pitch-black, dilapidated buildings and unfriendly forests, all populated with roaming afflicted pursuers is the kind of perturbation you can’t handle more than twenty minutes of per sitting.
I’d describe the terror in this game as having a heavy weight on your chest. You’re almost holding your breath as you crawl past a slobbering denizen with its back momentarily turned to you.
A badly aimed flashlight or noisy misstep will result in the bipedal abominable putridity noticing you and chasing you down for a frightful spot of skull smashing shrieking.
Just the heavily edited drawl of the Shibito, constantly nattering away insanely coupled with the warped, traditional soundtrack is enough to give you the heebie-jeebies.
Whilst on the easy difficulty you can in fact clobber your way through most adversity, the hard mode requires calculated passage through each stage.
This is largely achieved through each character’s newly discovered psychic ability, known as ‘sight-jacking’.
By pressing L2, your character will enter a meditative state which allows the entering of any Shibito’s brain, giving bloodshot voyeurism of their senses.
Sight-jacking is essential in noting a Shibito’s behaviour and patrolling patterns so as to better plan your path.
Whilst sight-jacking, half the screen will show the Shibito’s view and the other half will remain as yours.
Give Siren Blood Curse a try.
You might like it, you might not, but your eyes will undoubtedly be rolling to the back of your head with the terror.
This is some of the most exhilarated shuddering you will ever go through that doesn’t involve actually being chased through the woods.
Siren is an obscure treasure most survival horror fans haven’t heard of, or if they have will never play, and it’s a damn shame. Or not, me being a survival horror hipster after all.