The year is slowly coming to a close and we’re all wrapped up in our favorite holiday releases by now though there is still time for a few good releases to come out this year. Team GrisGris brings a bloody good show to the PlayStation Portable with their updated re-release of the Japanese horror adventure, Corpse Party. While this frightening tale is a bit outside of the month of spooks, it doesn’t skimp on thrills as you set out to keep your wits about you as you travel through the foreboding halls of Heavenly Host Elementary School.
Like any good Japanese horror film, Corpse Party, is creepy from the get go as you are told the ghost story of a lost soul by a student at Kisaragi Academy. As usual luck would have it you are temporarily set at ease if only for a moment as you get a feel for the friendship that each of the 10 characters has that you will become attached to by the end of this sordid tale. After a seemingly innocent friendship ritual is finished the story takes a turn for the worst. The students and their teacher survive a weird earthquake and slowly realize that they are not in Kansas anymore as they awake in the dark and desolate remains of Heavenly Host Elementary School. A school that was closed demolished after a rash string of murders. To make matters worse Kisaragi Academy is built on the site of Heavenly Host.
Corpse Party has all the right ingredients to create a chilling and heart pounding tale with only a few things that take you out of the immersion. The first ingredient of Corpse Party’s wicked story is the story itself and how it is told on screen across five chapters. Team GrisGris took an old school approach to creating their world by using the RPG Maker program to create a top down horror adventure. The Heavenly Host Elementary School holds many secrets and spirits in a dimension where the school still stands. You’re tasked with making sure that you get the Kisaragi students out of a seemingly desperate situation.
As you navigate the halls you will find the remains of trapped souls that learned the hard way that in this dimension nothing is as it seems. You will spend most of your time figuring out puzzles, gathering items to use, reading and often re-reading items throughout. There are spirits roaming the school that will give you tips to aid you through. Unfortunately like most good horror flicks, there are forces that are less than friendly in Heavenly Host. The presence of various vengeful spirits and the constant appearance of eerie black hair and even a little ghost girl in red makes this adventure a whole lot creepier.
To make matters worse there are a number of “dead” end situations that you will run into that result in game over. The first real danger moment I encountered took several tries and reloads before I figured out the pattern I needed. These moments are the only real situations that take you out of the immersion as it may take you a few tries to get it right and that’s really my only real complaint about Corpse Party but its minor at best for me. There are also treacherous traps that can be triggered with no way out of rooms because your instincts failed you or you looked at things out of order.
Corpse Party’s best moments and joys for me are in its graphics and sound presentation. Instead of newer cutting edge visuals we are presented with sharp retro-style graphics that show the eerie world of Heavenly Host in 16-bit bloody detail. You will often see pixilated scenes of carnage that leaves everything to your imagination as to how they perished. To add to the unnerving scenery they integrated updated visual stills throughout the story showcasing the darker moments as well as character interaction.
One of my favorite things about Corpse Party is the fact that the world changes a little bit as you examine it like notices on the wall will be altered when events are triggered. There are also awesome little details like quick flashes of a ghostly face in cabinet windows and other spooky instance that I won’t give away. I even reloaded the game a few time to make sure Corpse Party’s atmosphere wasn’t making me see things more than once. The visuals no matter what they look like only bring one part of this true horror experience to life.
You can’t have a good horror game without proper audio cues, ambient noise and startling moments. To make things even better Corpse Party has one of the coolest theme music tracks that I’ve ever heard in a horror title. I didn’t know if I should have been energized to take this haunting tale head on or be scared proper at what I might be walking into. There were also moments of solid unease as the music would just drop off in locations with nearly no sound following what-so ever. Team GrisGris also pulled a few horror tricks that you may only catch if you wear ear buds while playing. Right off the bat I noticed that audio would float from one ear to the other during certain moments that unnerved me from the moment I heard it.
Corpse Party takes one final step to sealing its personal victory for me with their choice to put the vocals entirely in Japanese. There are subtitles of course but there is nothing creepier than hearing a disembodied voice in Japanese as many foreign movie buffs may have all ready discovered. It ranks right up there with the sound of laughing little girls…which are also in this title…sigh.
Corpse Party had my interest by its title alone from the very beginning. I have a love for all things horror and Corpse Party without a doubt is a true horror scare and will mess with your mind in the best possible way. As much as I didn’t want to take that next step down that dark hall, I couldn’t help but want to continue and see the characters of Kisaragi Academy escape the nightmarish realm that housed Heavenly Host. Corpse Party’s many positives vastly overshadow the momentary immersion stopping dead ends that I experienced. I actually did some of the mistakes on purpose though to see what would happen if I failed. If you own a PSP at all and love a good horror story then I absolutely recommend getting Corpse Party from the PlayStation Network.