Corpse Party: Book of Shadows Review - IGN
Share.And you thought your high school experience was bad.By Scott Butterworth
If you’re looking for a video game review, you’ve come to the wrong place. Yes, this is IGN’s review of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, but calling Corpse Party a videogame would be… a bit of a stretch. In actuality, it’s more akin to an interactive graphic novel or the digital equivalent of a choose-your-own-adventure book.
The gameplay consists mainly of static images that players must scan with a cursor in search of objects that can be examined more closely, potentially triggering the next story event or otherwise moving the plot along. Players can also move between rooms by selecting locations on an overhead map, and of course, there’s also the occasional binary decision: hide in the closet or under a desk? Pull the rusty lever or leave it alone? Just select the appropriate on-screen text and hope for the best (which, in this case, is a swift death rather than something more gruesome and protracted).
The bulk of the experience, however, really is just story -- hours upon hours of subtitled narration accompanied by static background illustrations, similarly rendered character portraits, and a veritable symphony of wailing, panting, and moaning. I know my description may sound a little dismissive, but honestly, I just want you guys to understand what you’re getting yourselves into here. If you come in expecting combat or animation or an on-screen avatar you can actually control, you’re going to be confused and disappointed. But if you expect something more like a classic adventure game and brace yourselves for a healthy dose of reading… well, you might still be confused, but you’ll certainly be less disappointed.
With all that in mind, let’s discuss Book of Shadows for what it actually is . For starters, it’s neither a sequel nor a prequel but rather an extension of the first game that ties up loose ends, fleshes out backstories, and even re-imagines certain events. You know, events like questionable underage bubble baths and the sinister execution of innumerable terrified teenagers.
There’s plenty of new material here to distinguish Book of Shadows from its predecessor, but most of that material will be way easier to appreciate when armed with an in-depth knowledge of the first game. So here, at least, is a cursory introduction: a gang of unwitting high schoolers perform a ritual in the name of friendship and kinda sorta transport themselves to an evil elementary school that exists somewhere outside our plane of reality. Known as Heavenly Host, the school is haunted by a disturbing little girl and a variety of other “malevolent spirits,” and no one seems to know how to escape. Atrocities ensue.
This time around, each of the eight unlockable chapters tells a different standalone tale that focuses on just one or two individuals trapped within Heavenly Host (there are a couple of notable exceptions, but I’ll let you discover those for yourselves). Though they all share many similarities -- searching for lost friends, especially -- premises range from a student trying
to prevent her girlfriend’s inevitable suicide to a gifted young paranormalist chasing her foolhardy mentor into the abyss. And needless to say, they’re all sanguine as hell. Vivid descriptions of mutilation are interrupted only by the unsettling laughter of children, the sounds of limbs being torn from a body echo over a black screen, and the blood-spattered walls of a basement dungeon serve as grim reminder of what’s come before and what will inevitably come again.
Assuming you’ve got the stomach for it, though, Book of Shadows does manage a few flashes of brilliance. Several of the central characters feel bland and indistinct (not to mention exhaustingly polite), but those that stand out -- like the enigmatic and genuinely creepy Morishige -- help make the entire experience more involving. Plus, even if not all chapters were created equal, simply shifting perspectives every few hours helps to renew the tension, and the chapters are just long enough for you to get to know and become invested in each new set of characters. Best of all, though, is seeing the various stories start to intersect in subtle ways as you get further into the game. The stain on the wall during the first chapter? Yeah, just wait. It’s bad.
This tickling session has gone so wrong.
To the game’s credit, the format actually helps to up the intensity as well, despite what I may have said earlier. See, in a book or a movie, there simply won’t be empty space -- the next event unfolds as soon as you flip the page or pull your hands away from your eyes. In Book of Shadows, however, players control the flow of events by selecting rooms and scanning for objects. As such, you never quite know when the next major moment will happen or where it will come from, and the anticipation amplifies the already bleak, unnerving atmosphere. Combined with the masterful audio treatment and adequate visuals, it’s an excellent setup for a horror story.
And yet, the game never really got under my skin. I wasn’t jumpy around my roommates nor was I awakened by nightmares. The plain truth is, the writing in Book of Shadows just isn’t that strong, which is a pretty big problem as the game really is its writing. Its detached, objective descriptions often lack immediacy and urgency, as does the plodding pace of the text. As a result, moments that should grab us by the throat just kind of slap us around a bit. It’s disappointing. There’s also the issue of distracting word choices that totally kill the immersion --seriously, what kind of teenager uses the phrase “a bevy of negative emotions,” especially in a life or death situation? The single biggest problem, however, is that it just drones on for far too long. For every exhilarating payoff there are pages upon pages of insipid build up that completely decimate any momentum that might have been developing. Thank god the game allows us to save at any time and fast forward through text screens.