My wife used to teach college history to freshmen students, and she learned that if there's one thing college freshmen do very badly and very often, it's cheat. She would regularly read a paper from a student she knew damned well was incapable of stringing four words together coherently, and the paper would be brilliant. These stupid college kids were apparently unaware that the internet could be used for more than Facebook and porn, because my wife would almost always find their papers published somewhere online, and then the student would get a big fat zero and a free trip to the dean's office.
I always kind of thought that would be cool, to find some cheating lowlife and expose them as a fraud, but didn't figure I would ever get the chance. Then I received a review copy of a game called Haunted Village, and after a quick visit to BGG (thanks, T.K., whoever you are), discovered that it is a carbon copy of a free Print-and-Play game called Fatal Frame. It's not similar to that game. It IS that game. It's not a coincidence. It's blatant.
Unfortunately, it's not as though the guy who made Fatal Frame can do much about it. For one thing, the free version is based on a big-name video game, and even uses licensed art. Kind of tough to start screaming about copyright infringement when your game is already infringing (though in all fairness, the print-and-play game is free).
The second problem, and the one that makes any legal action almost completely impossible, is that the publishers of Haunted Village are in Russia. Yeah, good luck with that lawsuit. Sure, they stole your entire game, swapped out the art and pretended they came up with it (even going so far as to credit a Russian guy as the designer), but I'm just not sure where you'll find an attorney willing to work on contingency for an international lawsuit that's probably worth a little less than a mortgage payment. It's about as ethical as the Chinese people who pirate DVDs, but there's really no legal way to stop them.
There's supposed to be a review in here somewhere, and while I haven't played Fatal Frame, I have played Haunted Village, so I guess I should tell you about it. I enjoyed the game, before I knew it was a blatant rip-off, and now that I do know, I'm going to go download the original and have it printed at Kinkos. Then I'm going to be disappointed that I couldn't have lost Haunted Village in my house fire.
The idea is that you're entering a village full of ghosts (thus the unoriginal title of the copycat game). You have to beat the boss monster hiding in the old church, but to do that, you have to claim a certain number of ghosts. In the original game, you do this by capturing them with your magic camera. In the fraudulent edition, they get rid of the camera and you just collect ghosts. How you do that is unclear, because the people who remade the game were unoriginal bastards who couldn't come up with a plausible way for that to make sense.
You wander from location to location, finding horribly screwed-up monsters and battling them. Some things you can find will help, like holy water and crucifix, and sometimes, other players will totally hose you. It's fun and fast, and pretty easy to follow, once you get the hang of it. Once you collect enough ghost souls, you can rush the church and fight the big bad guy, who is called 'the boss' in Fatal Frame and, because they are so creative, the plagiarists called him 'the boss.'
Fatal Frame (and by extension, Haunted Village) could have wound up like one of those dull European games where everyone is doing their own thing and nobody is getting kidney punches, but instead, the designer (Fourhman, not Igor the Russian) added some great ways to interact with the other people at the table. Actions can steal weapons from opponents or move them to unfortunate locations. You can play ghosts on them to slow them down or steal their cards. And when the game is winding up, and everyone is rushing to the church to be the first one to smoke test the Big Bad, it can get downright cutthroat. And that makes it awesome.
This isn't a particularly complicated game, honestly, but we all had a very good time playing it. I really wish the creator of Fatal Frame had made it without the copyrighted stuff, so that he could sell it to a publisher who was not operating out of the back of a shop where they also made fake IDs to sell to Libyan terrorists, but I do have to thank Haunted Village for bringing Fatal Frame to my attention. Even though Fatal Frame is a free game, it's more attractive than Haunted Village, whose artists would not be able to find a job in the United States unless they were willing to draw comic book porn. Fortunately, they are also in Russia, and can probably use their talents to make counterfeit labels to sew onto fake Levis.
So, in my final assessment, do not buy Haunted Village, because it is a horrible rip-off and makes no attempt whatsoever to credit the original source. Instead, go download Fatal Frame, because it's a very fun game - though in all fairness, it will take quite a bit more work to play it. But at least you won't feel like you have to shower afterward.
A fun ghost hunt
Lots of interacting with your fellow ghostbusters
Cool game that tells a story while you're playing it (especially if you're playing Fatal Frame instead)
Flat-out stolen (Haunted Village, not Fatal Frame)
Not a lot of planning or long-term strategy
For God's sake, don't give money to fur-hatted Siberian assholes. Instead, check out this very cool game at the source:
Important note: I did email both the creator of the game and the Russian game thieves. I have verified the contents of this review, though of course the unoriginal foreign bastards said the original guy knew all about it. He did know all about it - after the game was printed and sold. And Fourhman isn't credited anywhere, because the Russians were apparently just hoping he would never find out. Sorry to blow your cover, cheaters. Now go see the dean.