Corpse Party: Book of Shadows Review
See PixlBit's Review Policies
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.