When you think of titles that make you nervous to play in the dark, thoughts of zombies and horrific beasts are sure to cross your mind. XSEED Games’ Corpse Party: Books of Shadows relies on neither in hopes to scare the pants off of you in the sequel for Corpse Party: Blood Covered Repeated Fear. But how does Book of Shadows fare at drawing players in to the fates of the unlucky students trapped within Heavenly Host Elementary School? Only one way to know for sure.
Those who have played the first one will definitely have an advantage when it comes to making some sense of the intertwining stories in Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. Players who are new to the series will likely get lost as the story hops from character to character. This shouldn’t discourage newcomers, but it is highly recommended that you look into playing or at least read up on the events of the first title.
Book of Shadows isn’t just a retelling of the events from the first Corpse Party. Some chapters take place before Corpse Party, while others seem to be a glimpse into an alternative universe where the same students experience death in different ways. And the final chapter gives you a peek into what transpires after the events of Corpse Party. What starts with a seemingly harmless ceremony heads south when those who participated are trapped in the Heavenly Host Elementary School. This school was witness to a series of murders. Now the vengeful (and oddly playful) spirits of the murdered child roam the school that technically doesn’t exist anymore in hopes of having fun with the trapped students.
The characters you control all have their own personality. You can see the toll that being trapped in the horrific school with many corpses has on the group. While some have the type of reaction you’d expect, there are some who seem to relish the darkness and malice within the school. It is those students that caught my interest. Their thoughts and actions disgusted me, yet I couldn’t help but find them intriguing.
Unlike the first PSP entry, Book of Shadows is more of a visual novel with some exploration and interactive sections. This approach for the game does work, though it has its flaws. The cut scenes do a great job of creating tension, but this is shattered by a lack of follow-through. It’s hard to feel scared about something chasing you when you know you can spend hours checking the map and getting to the next destination. There are some timed scenes that can result in a wrong end if you take too long. Not to mention the use of a darkness meter that rises whenever you view something frightful. I would have loved for there to have been more timed scenes and for the darkness meter to have had more of a purpose. As it stands, the only time the meter has an effect on the game is during select chapters. Other than that, it alters the screen’s appearance to have a sort of reddish tint to it.
Accessing the menus and maps are easy as tapping the L1 and the Triangle buttons. The other buttons are used to speed up or skip the text. The menus are simple to navigate. When first loading the game up, you can visit the bonus section, which houses all the unlocked images, music tracks, and VA commentaries. To check how many endings you’ve encountered or name tags you’ve picked up, head to the option menu. It seems odd that the ending list and name tags would be listed along with the options to adjust the volume settings. But while you can access the options menu while in-game, you can’t see the bonus menu.
Book of Shadows is divided into eight chapters, one of which is only unlocked if you view every wrong end from the other seven chapters. Or for those who have a save file of Corpse Party: Blood Covered Repeated Fear, all you need is to get the clear end for chapter seven. The number of endings varies among chapters. The longest chapter happens to also be the one with the most endings to view.
If you were expecting English voices to accompany the text, I fear I have some rather disappointing news. Book of Shadows features the original Japanese voice cast and no English voice cast. This means that those who don’t know Japanese will have to read the dialogue boxes. This will probably turn some off from the title, though I think horror fans should definitely try it out. The music that accompanies each room and scene within Book of Shadows really brings forth the emotion tied to the current scene. It’s hauntingly beautiful and just works so well.
Ranging from what appears to be normal events to horrific scenes, the artwork for each cut scene is well drawn. A warning though to the ones who might not be into very graphic depictions of death or violence: a number of the images you come across during the story are gruesome. Corpses of various levels of decay litter the background whenever you choose to examine the room. Some of the images used during the cut scenes in the game are very disturbing. An example would be one of three small child-like ghosts playing with the insides of a high school female.
Completionists will definitely have a field day with discovering each and every student’s name tag along with the soundtracks, images viewed during the course of a chapter, commentary from the voice actors, and an EVP machine that allows you to “create” conversations via the many voice samples within the game. You can expect to put in quite a number of hours, especially if you aim to unlock the final chapter. Unless you plan wisely and take advantage of the save system, you might have to go through each chapter a number of times to get all the ends. Luckily, the ability to fast forward the dialogue is present for those who dread re-reading the lines of text.
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is not for everyone. Those who played Corpse Party: Blood Covered Repeated Fear might find the visual novel approach to the sequel to be an unwelcomed one, and I feel the game could have done better if it had retained the same gameplay style as the first PSP title. However, for those who can look past that, you have a really great horror game. My only real complaint was how the suspense sometimes would get ruined by a lack of timer to rush your choices.
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows
|Platform: PSP, Vita
Genre: Horror, Adventure
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Developer: Team GrisGris, 5pb.
Publisher: XSEED Games
ESRB Rating: M