Corpse Party: Book of Shadows Review – A Different Type of Horror
It’s hard to recommend XSEED Games’ Corpse Party: Book of Shadows to anyone but the most devout fans of the franchise. It’s one of the scariest games available on the PSP or the PS Vita, however if you’ve not played the original game, then Book of Shadows will confuse you to no end. Not only does the game contain eight disjointed stories, it doesn’t have a straightforward beginning, middle, or end. Oh and it concludes in a way that left me with my jaw on the floor thinking “What the f*** just happened here?”
On the other hand if you’ve played the original Corpse Party, then by all means get Book of Shadows. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows consists of a series of lengthy vignettes that explore and expand the original game’s lore, characteres, and world. The core gameplay may have been different, but it still captivated me with it’s constant, pervasive, sense of dread, deep characters, and leave-it-to-your-imagination deaths. Since I played the original I knew what was coming, but oh boy did the buildup (and a few surprises) grab me by the throat and never let go.
Check out our full Corpse Party: Book of Shadows review after the break.
Unlike the original game, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a cross between a point-and-click adventure and a choose-your-own-adventure novel. It’s less of a game and more of an interactive experience; there are parts in the story where you’ll be able to move from room to room, looking for clues and items that move the story forward. At certain points, you’ll be able to take control of your character and make decisions. Each decision you make or things you say can either move the story forward or take you to an oftentimes grisly and sadistic wrong end.
If you’ve played Corpse Party, then you’ll know that some of the game’s protagonists perished in Heavenly Host Elementary. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows reintroduces the original cast and expands on some of the side characters you met the first time. Just like Kosuhun Takami did with his classic manga Battle Royale, Book of Shadows lets you re-live character backstories, further humanizing each one. Curiously, some vignettes actually take place in an alternate reality where characters who survived originally can perish and ones who perished may survive the ordeal. Thankfully, Book of Shadows’ writing is top-notch; expertly-written dialogue and narrative brought each character to life, and made the scares more effective.
As for gameplay, well there’s not much found here. About five or six of the eight vignettes allow you take control of your character in first-person perspective in “Search Mode.” Here you’re free to examine and interact with objects, talk to people, and pick up important items. However, those unfamiliar with the adventure genre may oftentimes find themselves endlessly moving through corridors because they’ve not clicked on a hard-to-find key item. Most of the time you’re either pressing the x button to move the conversation or the story forward.
New to the franchise is “The Darkening,” which is a meter that tracks your characters morale and mental state. The higher the Darkening meter climbs, the more distortions, and creepy effects show up on your screen. Unfortunately, this adds very little to the game or the atmosphere as you can avoid increasing it by not clicking on the cadre of corpses you’ll run into. When I heard about the feature, I had hoped that it would be akin to the insanity effects in Silicon Knights’ Eternal Darkness, and was truly disappointed that the Darkening really didn’t add much to the experience.
Like the first game, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows’ most effective scares aren’t from images or events, it’s from the excellent use of sound design, narration, and the choice to leave the scares to the player’s imagination. I have never been creeped out staring at a black screen (with accompanying text, audio, and narration) until I played Book of Shadows. If you thought the first game was incredibly brutal, you haven’t seen anything yet. The game can be downright sadistic to its characters; some are beheaded, others disemboweled; seriously, if famed Japanese director Takashi Miike ever made a high-school ghost horror film, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows would be it.
One thing that I loved in Book of Shadows is that it let you experience the story from the psychotic Kizami and Morishige’s points of view. In Corpse Party, you’ll encounter them after they’ve lost their minds; Book of Shadows explores the events that drove them to become scary psychopaths. It’s quite interesting to learn each of their backstories and how their scarred pasts affect drive them negatively in Heavenly Host.
AUDIO – Corpse Party: Book of Shadows’ audio design rises above the entire package. The game uses 3D binaural audio to give conversations and narrations more depth. It also makes each of the sadistic death scenes all the more effective. Like I said earlier, many of these deaths are shown with just a black or a red screen, yet it’s the sounds of suffering that truly scared me. Unfortunately, some characters voices (specifically Seiko, Naho, and Sayaka) are so overly cute that they annoyed the hell out of me throughout their chapters.
GRAPHICS – Except for the opening FMV, all of the game’s graphics come in the form of static images. The art style isn’t anything you’ve never seen before so nothing special there. Also, many of the point-and-click locations look the same and needed more variety. By the end of the third story, I felt like I had seen all the locations the game had to offer. Book of Shadows does use colour and a few graphical effects that help bring you closer to each scare. From time to time, it does show some pretty grotesque scenes so make sure you’re not easily disgusted or else this may be too much for you.
+ 3D Binaural Audio that enhances the experience
+ Expands the Corpse Party universe and characters
+ Great writing with effective dialogue and narrative.
+ Downright creepy and oftentimes scary
+ Experiencing the story from a psycho’s perspective
– Most vignettes make no sense if you haven’t played Corpse Party
– Point-and-click annoyances
– Some overly cute – hence annoying – voice overs
– Not much gameplay to be found
Here’s the thing, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is not a game you should purchase if you’re new to the franchise. It’s not a proper sequel, but more of a collection of side-stories that flesh out the characters and events of the original game. It’s got great stories and spectacular audio design; however, if you’re looking for a traditional scary “game” then Book of Shadows won’t appeal to you.
Again, I can only recommend Corpse Party: Book of Shadows to those who’ve played the first game and are looking to experience more of Corpse Party’s unique brand of horror-on-the-go.