Few things in life deserve a hysterical response. An incredibly funny joke, perhaps, or running away from a killer. Hysteria Project isn't quite a joke, but nor is it particularly frightening. Despite the histrionics of its title, it's rather a flat experience.
The game, which is the first episode in a series of vignettes, follows your first-person efforts to flee from an anonymous killer. Wearing a dark cloak and wielding a hatchet, this unnamed killer is out to end your life for no apparent reason.
It's something that never gets explained in this introductory instalment, robbing the game of any narrative appeal. Who are you? Why is this killer after you? Where are you? To where are you trying to escape?
You start confined in a nondescript room. Ankles and wrists restrained by duct tape, you're given the first of many choices: scan the room or slip your hands through the tape.
All you need to do is tap the desired option when prompted, the choices appearing on the screen following a break in the video. Select the appropriate action and you evade the killer. Choose unwisely, however, and you fall under his hatchet.
The game consists of a series of these sort of junctions, making Hysteria Project somewhat like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Unfortunately, the choices here mirror the unforgiving ultimatums found in those adolescent stories. Choices are black and white: either escape or die.
It's a far cry from the dynamic storytelling of true variable games like Alternate Endings where choices are never wrong, but only influence the course of events.
Instead, you're forced to replay sequences in order to make the right decision after having met a grisly end. The right choice often isn't clear, though. Frequently you're pushed into taking an action that leads to death. At several points in the game, running in clear view of the killer seems like an insane option, yet, it's the only thing to do if you want to survive.
These opaque choices give Hysteria Project an arbitrary feel, which is compounded by its lack of believability and narrative development. The killer apparently can't move faster than a snail's pace and never notices when you hide behind a stump or mossy rock in clear sight. It's difficult to make the right choice when in real life doing the same thing would be fatal.
Context-sensitive tapping sequences attempt to heighten the interactivity, having you touch icons that appear on the screen in relation to real-time events. Slipping your hands from the duct tape, for example, requires taps of the screen. These icons appear totally at random and are a weak, blatant effort at variation, exposing Hysteria Project's emptiness.
Rather than suspense or terror, the only emotional response is disappointment. Hysteria Project does little more than present a series of ultimatums and minimal gameplay that force upon you the question of whether it's worth buying or not. The choice is yours, so choose wisely.