Review: Corpse Party: Book of Shadows (PSP/PSV)

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Title: Corpse Party: Book of Shadows
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.1 GB)
Release Date: January 15, 2013 (US) / January 23, 2013 (EU)
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Team GrisGris
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US) / €14.99 (EU)
ESRB Rating: M / PEGI 16
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is exclusive to PlayStation Portable. It is compatible with PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows Is essentially a follow up to Corpse Party: Blood Covered which was released on the PSP in 2011. It certainly makes for a richer experience if you’ve played the original game, but Book of Shadows stands well enough on its own.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 304 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
When you start up, the game asks if you want to search for previous save data. Any save from the original game will count towards various unlocks. It’s essentially a point and click affair with tons of exposition, not that that’s a bad thing, just something to be aware of from the start.

It was a good half hour to forty minutes of watching the back story play out in a series of images and dialogue and personally, I found it fascinating. Like any good horror story, it’s all in the setup and Book of Shadows works hard to establish the characters, settings and motivations allowing you to make somewhat informed choices later on in the game, even if you haven’t played the original.

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The opening credits set the tone with a pleasant Japanese song playing over a series of vignettes depicting each of the main characters laughing and playing in their school uniforms intercut with their gruesome death scenes. That’s really the key here, they’re all going to die and you have to know that going in. They all died in the first game but this one asks, what if? Can fate be changed, and what are the consequences?

It’s the end of the semester and nine kids who stayed behind to help clean up after the school festival are asked to participate in a weird friendship ritual with a Teacher’s Assistant who’s transferring to a new school. You’re given hints leading up to this that the kids appear to be caught in some kind of time loop, vaguely aware (some stronger than others) of what fates will soon befall them. At the height of the ritual everyone is thrown into an alternate dimension of sorts and into the past, albeit at slightly different times. Their school was built over the ruins of another school where a series of horrible murders occurred (since the Japanese don’t have ancient Indian burial grounds to fall back on) and this is where the kids end up.

As a point and click style adventure, the game does tend to fall into some of the traps of that genre in that there are a limited number of things to click on and you’ll find them by just scrolling the cursor around. You’ll also hit a wall at times where nothing is happening and you’re unsure how to proceed until you learn that clicking on every available icon in a level will then trigger the next event. It can be frustrating at times, but no overly so.

It sounds crazy, of course, but it works. The atmosphere is sufficiently creepy and, again, like any good horror, there are a number of great surprises that’ll make you jump. There are seven chapters to play through each as a different character giving you the chance to see what, if anything you can do to save them.

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Visuals:
The game plays much like a motion comic with a number of static scenes and some brief movement here and there. It actually suits the style of the game quite well as it can add to the tension and really up the scare factor when things happen.

Even though the overall number of screens is somewhat limited, there’s quite a bit of detail in each of the scenes. You’ll see the same places with minor (or sometimes major) changes depending on the character you’re playing as they all arrive in the same place at different times.

Audio:
All the dialogue in the game is in Japanese with English subtitles and you have no option to switch, so if you don’t speak Japanese or hate reading subtitles, you’re not going to like this game.

I highly recommend playing this game with headphones on because the sound is designed to creep you out like you wouldn’t believe. Using binaural 3D audio effects, you hear whispers and screams coming at you from all directions. Sounds coming from just over your shoulder can be truly terrifying. Seriously, if you want the full experience, play this game alone in the dark with headphones on.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
A wonderful horror experience for the PSP and PS Vita, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows starts off slow, but gradually sinks its hooks into you and doesn’t let go.

It’s definitely not a game for everybody, given the content, subtitles and actual gameplay but if you’re okay with all of that, there’s a pretty wild experience to be had here.

Grade:
8.5

* Since this is a PSP game, there was no option to take screenshots, however, playing through the game unlocked a number of extras including screens from the game, some of which are used in this review.

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