Horror Games Special Feature – Rule of Rose

With Halloween just around the corner, we felt it was time to delve into some of the horror classics of gaming!
In the nights leading up to All Hallows Eve, we’re going to do a short feature of some of the more notable horror games that have been released. This isn’t a list of the best or even our favourites.
Just some Horror games which have stood out to us, for one reason or another.

The next game on our list, and one which we will always hold in high regard, is Rule of Rose.
And one of the reasons this game is so noteworthy is the fact that it is almost impossible to get your hands on it.

Rule of Rose was released late in the PS2’s life cycle, in 2006, just before the PS3 came out. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s because it was banned in the UK, along with American slang and sunshine.
Unlike games like, say, Manhunt or Grand Theft Auto however, this had nothing to do with violence. In a rare turn of events, it was the sexual implications and the psychological effect the game had on players that caused it to be shrouded in such controversy.

This is a time period when the survival horror genre was being labelled as fairly stagnant. Tried and tested gameplay was rarely tampered with, and this is Rule of Rose’s biggest weakness. There was a lot of exploring large areas for small keys, and the less said about the dire combat, the better.
But while a bit of a slog, this is a game that made you endure the punishment for the macabre tale of childhood brutality. Where else could you find a game where the villains were insecure and ignorant little girls, put in an unexpected position of power?

Protagonist Jennifer takes on one deranged child after another, in an attempt to piece together her broken past. Every girl has her own rich and twisted personality, dividing their story segments up nicely (with the sadly dumpy Amanda being a phenomenal highlight).
This isn’t to say the game is easily accessible. A lot of players might have been put off by the complex narrative, which more often than not relied on symbolism and suggestion rather than exposition to tell its story. But for those who like a bit of a challenge, who don’t want to be spoon-fed a typical hero vs. monsters story, there is a lot here to love.

The reason this game is worthy of mention is because there is a distinctive shift towards intense psychological experiences in horror… but it went unnoticed because it didn’t move away from the typical survival horror gameplay format. This was a Resident Evil/Silent Hill clone, which wanted to be so much more.
Nowadays, we can see how gameplay reflects this approach to psychological horror. Just look at Amnesia. But this game goes to show that some developers were out to break new ground even earlier still.

They just weren’t successful.

Best moment:
There are a lot of twisted and gruesome moments in Rule of Rose. And while a certain scene involving Amanda and a doll is really strong contender, we have to go for the controversial Insect Bag scene as the most memorable moment.

Deeply unsettling, not recommended for viewing if you have a strong phobia of insects.

Where is the franchise now?
Small games that get banned are rarely so lucky to get a sequel. And while a remake with modern mechanics would be unreal, it’s unlikely to ever happen.
If it’s the sort of game you’re interested in however, there was a very similar game released the previous year called Haunting Ground.

A less ambitious story, it still had better production values and far superior game mechanics. Both games gave you a dog as a companion. Which, when you think about it, isn’t a good thing, if you like dogs.


Written by Stephen Hill

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