Developer – Team Grisgris, 5pb.
Publisher – JP: 5pb. Soft NA/EU: Xseed Games
Platforms – PSP
Length – 10-30 Hours
Rating – R18
Corpse Party was the best horror game I had played in a long time. The excellent storytelling, characters and atmosphere all worked together to create a truly memorable experience. Book of Shadows is more of a fandisk than a sequel, with only two of the eight chapters carrying on from the first instalment (and from two different endings at that). Introducing different gameplay, characters and settings, this second game isn’t quite as good as the first, though Corpse Party fans will probably still enjoy it.
This time around you’ll be introduced to a whole bunch of new characters as well as those from the first game. If you managed to unlock the bonus chapters the first time around then you may recognise these newcomers, but if you didn’t they’ll come out of nowhere. I’d say that the ratio of new characters’ chapters to old is about 50:50, though the events featuring familiar characters were always more interesting. Because there’s more than one tale the game as a whole is harder to get into but the quality of the storytelling remains and won’t let you down. In fact, the endings this time around are even more gory and horrific than the original (which is a plus if you’re into that kind of thing).
Book of Shadows introduces a more point-and-click style of gameplay, with players selecting from a map which room they would like to visit and then being presented with a room to explore with a cursor. While this allows for a better visualisation of each area it gives a feeling of being disconnected from what’s going on, as you can’t physically move around each room like you could in the first game. Overall the new style feels like you have less control over what you’re doing and is less engaging. Plus, having to load each and every background graphic as you travel down a hall can become tedious very quickly (there’s a fast travel button…but I didn’t discover it till half way through the game, mostly because it’s never pointed out). More annoying, however, is that by the end of the game the gameplay sequences degenerate into “repeatedly check each room until a new event occurs” fests, leaving you wondering whether you missed something after each circuit (hint: you haven’t; what you’re looking for is probably in the hallway that never has anything in it except for this one single time).
The CGs and character sprite are just as gorgeous as ever (in a creepy, horrific kind of way), but the difference in Book of Shadows is that you have equally well-done backgrounds to look at while you’re wandering the halls (over and over again). Many of them are repeatedly used, but it certainly looks better than the pixelated settings of the first game. I can’t remember whether the music has also been recycled (I note that I didn’t really mention it in my Corpse Party review), but it’s excellent in every way. Whether you’re cautiously creeping down an empty hall or frantically scrambling away from your approaching death, the background music will get you in the right mood, and it’s catchy too. There are also even more gory sounds to make you cringe and shudder, though the not-so-good ones from the first game also tag along and bring friends with them. There’s also more of the eerie, but amazing surround-sound recording, so wear those earphones (or headphones!) when you play!
Oddly enough, my favourite part of Book of Shadows is found in the extras section. After each chapter is completed you unlock interviews with that chapter’s voice actors, which are really rather interesting and not something I’ve ever encountered before in a game. I really enjoyed hearing (or reading, I guess, since the interviews are in Japanese) about how the actors reacted to the scripts and what happened to their character and how much they were looking forward to participating in future Corpse Party games. I really wish things like that showed up more often.
Summary – Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is not as good as the original. The sub-par gameplay and lack of immersion due to the chapter format hold it back from achieving the high quality I expected after playing the first game. However, recurring characters, awesome audio and a good story will keep things interesting for existing fans, so it’s still worth playing.
Plot – 8/10
Characters – 7/10
Audio/Visual – 9.5/10
Gameplay – 5/10
OVERALL SCORE: 7/10 – Enjoyable