Rule of Rose - hands-on

Of course, the real question with any horror game is whether it's scary, and to be honest, we're not entirely sure at this point. The surreal, unexplained setup is pretty creepy, but the monsters we've met so far are predictable, grabby little creatures with eyeless ghost-faces or unsettling animal heads. And while Jennifer is a squeamish, flinching weakling, she does a pretty good job of killing them with the puny weapons the game provides.

But while the sharp graphics and Silent Hill -style grain filter do a great job creating a spooky atmosphere, the game hasn't hit us with too many scares so far. What it has done, however, is disturb the hell out of us with its leering cabal of little girls. Their intentions aren't really clear, but after enduring their abuse and being desperately pawed at by a hyperventilating, vicious-looking fat girl, we're pretty sure they're unwholesome.

Then there's all the gratuitous animal cruelty to consider, as well as a few gruesome murders and a hulking guy in an overcoat who pops up occasionally to mumble nonsense. Rule of Rose might play like standard horror fare, but we get the distinct feeling there's something really nasty lurking just beneath its surface, like maggots under a rock. And when the game hits in mid-September, we'll find out exactly what that is.