Team GrisGris have a story to tell.
There have been a fair few Japanese games being localised and coming over to PSN in recent weeks, mostly from publisher Xseed Games. Whether they are developed for the Vita or the PSP, there is no denying that Sony’s latest handheld is in desperate need of some new games, so all are more than welcome.
But, and I think it is fair to say this, videogame tastes are generally quite different here in the UK to those in Japan, and some games will be much more successful than others. Take, for example, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows from developer Team GrisGris and publisher Xseed Games – it is a little bit different from what I, and most others I would assume, consider to be a game. It is in fact a visual novel, an interactive story if you like, although the interactions are minimal, taking a back seat to weaving an interesting yarn.
That being said, the story is not necessarily one that will be of interest to the UK gaming masses. The visual novel genre is rather niche at its best, and the story in Book of Shadows makes it even more particular. First up, the game is a sequel of sorts and will certainly be of more interest to those that have played the original Corpse Party. Secondly, the story involves school children stuck in a demonic school, plenty of imaginative ways to die, and a shared bubble bath. Let’s face it, the prospective audience for this game is going to be small.
As with many stories of this type, it seems that a group of school children have innocently transported themselves to the Heavenly Host Elementary School, an inter-dimensional school that is home to all manner of nasties, by performing a ritual. The story then follows the different characters attempts to escape, or simply survive, the situation.
Things jump backwards and forwards in the story, and the developers have actually done a great job of encouraging an investment into the characters. They have also managed to create a real sense of atmosphere, partly through the story and partly through the impressive sound and static picture visuals. In many ways, Book of Shadows is like a Manga, and fans of reading them will likely find this game interesting.
And reading is a large part of playing Book of Shadows, with tons and tons of text to work through as the story progresses. This is perhaps the thing that will put gamers off the most, the sheer amount of reading involved. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that a gamer cannot enjoy a good read, but rather that if they want to enjoy some reading, they can grab a book.
The gameplay itself takes the form of fairly simple point and click actions, with basic puzzles that involve finding items or triggering events through a location. Exploring the school is done from a first-person perspective and the player will find themselves moving from one creepy area to the next, then scanning the area for items of interest, which thankfully glow. As already explained, the interaction is fairly minimal. Players will find themselves making simple decisions that will eitehr progress the story, or bring about their untimely demise. There are plenty of save slots in the game, and the player can “fast forward” through the text if they find themselves replaying sections after a mistake.
But it is these mistakes that are one of the most interesting aspects of the game. The developers have gone to a lot of trouble to deliver some truly gruesome endings for the characters, and discovering them is half of the fun. I cannot emphasize enough how horrific this game can be in places, certainly not a game for the more sensitive gamer.
I have already mentioned that the audio is quite impressive, although the frequent screams and moans would suggest that headphones be used, especially if playing the game in public. Visually, there is not much to say. The static screens are all well made and look good, but the exploration side of the game, although detailed, still looks dated (which is perhaps not surprising as the game is developed for PSP rather than Vita).
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a strange beast. It is quite difficult to score as so much of the game will depend entirely on the tastes of the gamer. The story can be enjoyable, but players will first have to come to terms with the minimal gameplay, which will be difficult for most gamers. If you are a fan of visual novels, Manga, or simply want a good scare without too much interaction, then Book of Shadows may be worth the asking price. It is good at what it does, but is just a bit too niche for wide appeal.