Platforms: 3DS (Reviewed on n3DS)
Publisher: XSEED Games
Corpse Party is a Japanese adventure-horror game that has been around for two decades now, and just recently had an updated port for the 3DS, that was released on October 25, 2016. The game's origin as a successful RPG Maker game are easily seen in its design, but don't let that turn you off to the game's quality: Corpse Party spun off into a franchise because the quality of the original far exceeded the typical RPG Maker fare.
The set up is simple but effective.
The story begins with some high school students getting together to tell scary stories after their class' cultural festival. When the teacher finally sends them home, they realize it's the last time they'll see their friend Ayumi in class, and are prompted to perform a charm ritual to insure they'll all stay friends forever. Touching stuff, isn't it?
The ritual, known as Sachiko Ever After, requires the participants to all grab on to a paper doll, representing Sachiko, then ask her spirit for aid. The phrase must be said exactly once for each person involved in the ritual. No more, no less. Then, the participants must pull the doll apart and each keep the piece they received. If done right, the ritual brings eternal friendship. If done wrong, well…just do it right the first time, okay?
Of course, something goes wrong, something always goes wrong! Why? Exactly where did the ritual go wrong? Was it an honest mistake, or was one of the group not taking it seriously, damning all of them to wander the twisted hell-scape of Heavenly Host Elementary School? These are valid questions, that come into play as the characters begin to feel the stress of their situation.
The atmosphere is stifling.
Corpse Party features little in the way of actual scares. Instead, Team GrisGris has focused on a slow burn style of horror that relies on unsettling imagery and descriptions of objects in the area. The ghostly realm of the Heavenly Host shares a lot in common with Silent Hill. The dilapidated building is filled with grime, rust, and fluids of questionable origin. The dead linger about and human meat can be found festering and splattered against the wall in a grisly display of violence and decay.
The sound work is top tier too. This is one of the few games on the 3DS where a headset should be mandatory. People often think of music when sound is mentioned, but here its the voice acting and foley work that stands out the most. Strong visuals and great music can take a game's atmosphere to great heights, but good sound effects can make it feel real.
The snipping of the most ominous scissors since Clock Tower, the sound of meat and gore slamming into the wall and splattering, the laughter and death cries of children, and the sound of…chewing? It's delightfully tortuous.
Human imagination is the stuff of nightmares.
Corpse Party's graphics are fine for what they are, updated sprites, but they are limited in what they can convey. To make up for the lack of visual detail, the descriptions for everything provide a wellspring of information that paints the Heavenly Host setting in unsettling detail. The visuals created by the mind's eye can be pretty impressive,
Players are left to use their imaginations to flesh out the bouts of horrific child/teen murder, which makes everything a hundred times worse than having a more explicit showing. Some deaths get detailed art, as seen above, but for the most part the gruesome bits are implied, described in text, and painted by the imagination: I'll never forget the image of a child having scissors driven into her eye, or the sound of those scissors scraping against the back of her skull, even if those sights and sounds were never presented by Corpse Party itself.
Corpse party is not scary in the same sense as Dead Space or Amnesia. it's disturbing in a manner similar to Silent Hill 2, as Corpse Party creates an uncomfortable world of its own, full of psychological distress. The visuals are acceptable, the execution is great, and the use of sound is godly. The only real negatives are the scavenger hunt for some intractables and obtuse death flags. While they can become a pain, at least there are dozens of different outcomes to “reward” players for experimenting.