Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/Corpse_Party/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
With so much gore and violence in movies and video games today it's no surprise many of us are desensitized to it all. You can only see so many beheadings, mutilations, and torture before you look at the screen and declare it all "meh". Many of the games published today don't phase us at all, and it's easy to look past the over-abundance of zombies found in current horror titles.
You can imagine my surprise when a little known PSP horror puzzler called Corpse Party -- published by XSEED and developed by Team GrisGris -- really went the distance to gross me out. Here is a relatively unknown game seemingly coming from nowhere with so many WTF moments I couldn't wait to put it down, only to pick it right back up again. I couldn't get enough of the sick and twisted story which led me to realize it is games like this which drove me to play video games in the first place.
As it turns out the Corpse Party series has been in Japan since 1996, originally appearing as a PC game on the PC-9801. It was followed up with a remake for Windows PCs, and a PSP release last year in Japan.
XSEED didn't want to pass up the opportunity to sick out gamers in the U.S. and quietly released the PSP version last week on the PSN.
Even though it's taken quite a while to reach the States, the game has been so popular on the PSP in Japan it spawned a sequel and manga adaptions of both titles.
A group of teens at Kisaragi High School decide to stay late and tell spooky ghost stories; one of them speaks of an old legend concerning the ground their school is built on. According to the tales, there used to be a school named Heavenly Host Elementary which was home to unspeakable horrors. With so many deaths on campus it eventually had to be closed down and later demolished.
Before leaving for the evening they perform a sacred friendship ritual which will allow them to stay friends forever. Immediately after the ritual is performed they are caught in a massive earthquake which opens up not only the floor, but a portal in time. The final destination happens to be the dimension which houses the ruins of the long lost elementary school.
The friends are separated into groups; in each chapter you control a different one and attempt to escape the ghastly school by searching for clues and solving minor puzzles.
Corpse Party is more or less a visual graphic novel with a lot of text to wade through. As such, it relies heavily on delivering shocking content by introducing topics or situations you would feel uncomfortable hearing or seeing under normal circumstances. The dialog between the students themselves can border on being downright creepy: at one point a female character discusses smearing ointment on her "pooper", which definitely came out of left field, and yet it fit Corpse Party's disturbing atmosphere perfectly.
Turning up the volume on your PSP really helps to add ambiance to the game. Put in your ear phones though and you're treated to a rich selection of haunting noises which will make the hairs stand up on your neck. Ghosts will whisper things in your ears, and you'll find unidentified body parts "squish" when stepped upon. Turn off the lights and play in the dark for the ultimate creep out.
The characters are fully voiced in Japanese, which will please many fans of imported games. I don't understand Japanese, so I will have to assume the subtitles match the dialog. No big loss either way.
The music is an excellent reminder of days gone by, as it has a tinny sound more familiar to older 16-bit games. I found it to not only be catchy, but lend to the setting of the game -- as it should. It reminded me of something you might find in the old Castlevania games.
As far as visual graphics go, Corpse Party does show its age a bit here. Scenes are amplified with 2D anime style drawings, while the majority of gameplay uses 16-bit graphics. The characters sometimes look like lumps of pixels with very little to discern one from the other.
Old school RPG fans are going to enjoy squinting their eyes just right to determine what character they're playing, while modern gamers will live simply for the drawings. Whatever your tastes, the visuals help to establish a school filled with horrors.
I can't say too much about the various endings without dropping massive spoilers, but suffice it to say they can be very disturbing. It doesn't stop there, though, as you will find school ID tags amongst the corpses which describes the horrors they've succumbed to.
Each chapter has several wrong endings and only one right ending. With roughly 30 in tow (excluding some hidden chapters), you are kept busy trying to get through them all. The main story itself isn't overly long, but the abundance of endings will keep you going back to experience some frightening and even disgusting ends to some of your favorite characters.
The major annoyance with Corpse Party is the frame rate. Moving across the screen quickly causes a sensation similar to a motion aftereffect illusion when you stop. While it may not bother some people, those with sensitive eyes like myself may experience a slight discomfort.
Additionally, there's no way to skip past scenes you've already played through. It's inevitable you will end up replaying portions of the game since you can't move to the next chapter without finding the correct ending. Once you die -- usually a very disturbing death -- you have no choice but to attempt the portion of the chapter all over again, hopefully avoiding any wrong endings this time around. Unfortunately it can be a slow painful process with the lack of a skip feature.
An otherwise aged game, Corpse Party really shines with a couple coats of polish. While it's not entirely perfect, fans of the horror genre will find it a treat to experience. In a time where many games lack innovation, it's refreshing to see something a bit outside of the box that leans heavily on its fantastic story telling -- no matter how disturbing it may be.
Some gamers won't be ready for such a heavily text based adventure, but those who have calluses already worked up on their thumbs won't mind a bit. Even if you're not big into the horror genre, it wouldn't hurt to try it out and take note, because this is what true story telling should be.
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