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Corpse Party: Book of Shadows Review

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On 02/20/2013 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus

All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.

People who enjoyed Corpse Party and don't mind retreading familiar ground.

Much like the sequel to Evil Dead, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows opens up to a very familiar scene. In fact, it’s basically the same start to the previous game. Unlike that second Evil Dead, the characters in this story are vaguely aware that they’ve been in this situation before, but not soon enough to seal their collective fates once again. Yep, it’s back to the cursed and deadly Heavenly Host Elementary school. If you're into Japanese culture, you'll notice a lot of plot devices involving déjà vu. This whole game feels like one massive case of déjà vu, and I’m just not feeling it this time around.

Book of Shadows sets out with the possibility of saving certain characters from their grisly fates that occurred in the original. Most of these characters had small parts in the first Corpse Party, but this time they get more time in the spotlight. That’s an interesting premise, but it doesn’t change the fact that this game is set in the same location and follows the same basic timeline. Anyone that played the first Corpse Party will have a good idea as to what events are about to unfold. Book of Shadows plays with expectations occasionally, but that feeling of being stuck in a rerun never really goes away.

What also doesn’t go away is the disappointment in the gameplay. The first Corpse Party was basically a visual novel, but there was something special about controlling the characters through the school, even if it resembled an old RPG. This game however is set in first person. The map is obviously the same as it was before, but navigating is a simple matter of choosing a location to travel to and watching the screens change. Many of the areas look identical, and each screen change has just enough loading to be annoying. More interactivity is one thing I wanted from the first Corpse Party but unfortunately, Book of Shadows takes things in the opposite direction.

There’s still a focus on hunting for items and solving simple puzzles. This time, it’s a simple matter of hunting for points of interest by moving a cursor around the static screens. There’s no animation to speak of, and I was really missing the crude 16-bit sprites from the last game. As characters witness some of the disturbing sights and events of Heavenly Host, their Darkness percentage goes up. Having higher Darkness is key to moving the plot forward, but having too much will lead to a Wrong End—basically a game over screen. It’s similar in structure to the first game, but losing the direct control of characters really slows down the proceedings.

At its core of course, Book of Shadows is a visual novel. In fact, it’s far more of a visual novel than the previous game was. I don’t mind that aspect at all; it’s well written and the voice actors once again turn in great performances, overacting in the way that only Japanese vocal artists can. It’s a bit frustrating that all of the character art from the last game is recycled, as are much of the more dramatic scenes. Since the game is played in first person, the character art for the protagonist in each chapter is not seen, and there are way more instances of having nothing on the screen except for text. Book of Shadows shows even less than the last game, and many of the new things shown are decidedly fan servicey. There were multiple occasions where I thought the game was heading into “ero game” territory, making for an awkward experience tonally. Some of the chapters are flashbacks, and spend far too long on Japanese high school life before getting back to the horror. I don’t mind establishing character motivations, but Book of Shadows can spend so long away from the scary parts that the pacing feels thrown off.

Thankfully, the sound design is once again some of the best around. The music is fantastic, and I’m happy to have an honest to goodness sound test in the options. Considering how little Book of Shadows actually shows to the player, it’s nice to know that the blood curdling sound effects once again set the stage for plenty of imagined terror. I can’t stress enough how important it is to play this game with headphones. Hearing the menacing voice of a homicidal ghost girl moving from the left to the right is simply chilling, and those gruesome deaths are all the more stomach churning when the screams are right inside your own head.

I don’t really know who Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is for. It’s so similar to the first game that it feels more like a remix than a new game. At the same time, however, the story assumes that the player already knows the story of the first game. Things aren’t explained, and it’s taken for granted that you’ve been here before and understand what’s going on. It’s still enjoyable to seek out the new content, and I was almost as creeped out as I was the first time, but I hope that Heavenly Host grabs a whole new set of victims next time.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




02/23/2013 at 08:04 PM

This is a shame. I'm playing through Corpse Party 1 and enjoying it, with headphones on! This is another bad review for what otherwise would have been a great new niche franchise of horror rpg. Oh well! I will relish the time I spend with CP1.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

02/23/2013 at 09:21 PM

I wouldn't say it's a bad game by any stretch, and I hope the review didn't read as such. It's just an odd game, considering it retreads so much with no explaination for new players. But I know my review is on the low end, so depending on how much you love Corpse Party 1, it might be worth checking out later.

And good on you using the headphones. That sound design is amazing.


02/24/2013 at 01:19 AM

The sound. I was creeped out by the voices. The sound design is really great. I'll eventually move on to the sequel.


02/25/2013 at 01:50 PM

I still have to play the first Corspe Party. (Which looked very good) I'm actually making my own game using RPGMaker VX ace. It has some horroe elements but it's mostly an rpg!

Normally I'd dive right into this one but as you already mentioned, it assumes I have played the first game. (Which I have yet to do)


02/25/2013 at 06:59 PM

I want to make my own game too. Is it too difficult with RPGMaker? How is your development experience? Good luck with your game.


02/25/2013 at 11:34 PM

I completely agree with your review. I liked both Corpse Party games but I liked the fact as you stated in the first one how you could actually controle your character instead of just moving screen to screen in first person view. It gave it more of a horror feel to me, especially in the chase scenes. I do wonder though if they are planning on brining over the 3rd installment of Corpse Party for the PSP. I even heard about Corpse Party 2, which is going to be on the PC and has a completely new cast of characters and story line.

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