Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse reimagines creepiness | Hands-on preview

by on February 9, 2023

When you have nothing but a camera for protection against untold evil, it leaves you feeling vulnerable, consistently on edge, and woefully unprepared for whatever lurks around the next corner. Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a remaster of the 2008 cult classic horror, and although much of it so far has kept me on edge, the technical issues hold it back on modern platforms. That’s not to say I wasn’t impressed by how it has turned out, but I couldn’t get on board with the speed of movement, hoping some of the improvements I wish Koei Tecmo could have implemented would’ve made my time with the preview a little less exasperating.

After arriving on Rogetsu Island, you must try to recover your lost memories of when you and your friends were children, and how during the famed Rogetsu Festival, some horrific things happened. The hospital you start in is dank and abandoned. The walls are filthy, chairs, boxes, and old equipment are dusty and trashed, and you can almost smell the damp and mould. Starting off as Ruka, you head to the hospital in search of two of your friends, Misaki and Madoka, all three of you part of the five survivors that managed to escape that fatal evening.

The rooms are littered with newspaper clippings and documents that give more details to the story, to the rituals of the festival, and to the deaths of certain characters. Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is undoubtedly creepy, and every new step through the halls leaves you wanting so desperately to just turn around and leave. The problem with those steps, however, is that they are incredibly slow. Much of what you do revolves around backtracking, moving from one room on one floor to another, and it feels like you are walking at a snails pace.

You can ‘run,’ but even then, it’s sluggish. I also found that turning around and getting a good view of your surroundings can be tricky, especially when you’re in an enclosed space. Some of the documents or items you find are on the floor, and I easily missed them. Thankfully, an icon in the bottom right of the screen glows blue if something of interest is close by. You can press the left analogue stick to quick turn, but it’s still a little cumbersome.

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse starts to build the tension by drip-feeding you with apparitions that walk the wings of the hospital. The sound design is fantastic, often hearing a faint scream or cry, an uncomfortable laughter or a creepy melody through the intercom. You’re at the mercy of these ghosts, but thankfully there is one tool that can be used to fend them off. The Camera Obscura is your weapon. While it doesn’t fire bullets, it can still be the difference between life or death, assuming you are able to use it correctly.

By pointing it at a ghost, a circular gauge will fill up. Once full, you can take a photo of the spirit trying to attack you and it’ll do damage. It doesn’t have to be full to hurt them, but for maximum damage, it’s wise to do so. You can find and equip new types of films that’ll do more damage, and by finding blue and red spirit stones, you can upgrade both the camera and its lens for added power, faster reloading of film, and more spirit points when using it. There’re also some add-ons for the camera, allowing you to evade and alarm you when to get a ‘fatal frame,’ the perfect moment where a snap will do the most damage.

Some enemies will be easy to snap than others. They’ll appear down the hallway, giving you time to take their photo, while others will appear from out of the wall or behind you. A red icon at the top of your screen will show you the direction of where they are coming, so you do have some guidance if they aren’t always visible on your screen. Not all ghosts want to harm you, though. When a yellow light appears on the icon previously mentioned, you can take a picture of them for more points as well. These spirit points can be used to buy items at various save points, so it makes sense to take photographs when the opportunity arises.

Ghosts might also lead the way to your next objective. MotLE has the occasional puzzle as well, and some are quite smart. I never really struggled with them, but that’s not to say they’re easy. They provide the right amount of challenge, or at least they did for the three chapters I played for the preview. One of the earlier puzzles had me trying to adjust a power supply with switches all having a numerical value in a cupboard under the stairs, so that the numbered output required needed to add up to thirteen. Later, I had to use my camera on a grandfather clock to reveal a code that would unlock a corridor on the 2nd floor.

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse has been fun so far, but the speed of movement and cumbersome controls made exploring clunky and annoying at times. Despite this, the story has been thoroughly enjoyable so far, and the mechanics of using my camera made it both tense and exciting. Playing as different characters in each of the chapters adds nuanced gameplay, and the puzzles give you enough to do outside of photographing ghosts, and help add an extra layer of gameplay when you’re not on the edge of your seat.

Project Zero: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and Nintendo Switch on March 9th, 2023.