Rising from the grave comes the horror-adventure game. Cower as you learn that sometimes interacting with innocuous things will net an instant game over, while passing over others will yield the same penalty! Scream in horror at the game’s twenty-nine endings, but only five of them end on a positive note! Team GrisGris’s goal is to create a horrifying experience for the player through their storytelling, but they ended up with something just as sinister through the gameplay. Looking past the adventure-style gameplay, GrisGris does deliver a chilling and grizzly experience. Sure, Halloween was a couple of months ago, but there is that Andy Williams Christmas song that talks about telling scary ghost stories, so close enough, right?
Corpse Party follows a group of high school students as they find themselves trapped inside the haunted remains of Heavenly Host Elementary School, where a series of gruesome murders occurred 30 years prior. Solving the mystery of Heavenly Host doesn’t begin to unravel until midway through the game. Most of the protagonists’ time is spent just trying to stay alive and sane. In another genre, I might have seen that as negative, but here, it helps drive the oppressive, brutal, and relentless environment the students find themselves in.
Corpse Party also takes a, what I like to call, Stephen King approach, in which no main character is inherently safe. Since not every bad/alternate ending makes itself apparent immediately, this leads to quite a few reloads. Fortunately, each chapter allows multiple save files, allowing players to save before and after major decisions are made. Something I enjoy about these unfortunate students is that they stand in contrast to the take-charge, eternally-brave protagonists I’ve seen in many horror titles. When the going gets tough, expect to see someone huddled on the floor and crying inconsolably. Why shouldn’t they? Anything or anyone could kill them at any minute. Not only do the spirits that inhabit Heavenly Host want the students dead, but the living have their own role to play in this horror show.
Almost all of the horror legwork is done by the animation stills, Foley work, and voice-acting, since there is only so much terror the game studio can evoke using top-down sprite work. While the stills do help paint a picture, I do have to give it up to the audio for really hammering home the numerous and gruesome deaths depicted throughout Corpse Party. Again, this is not a game you should boot up during a nice family reunion. To get the full effect of the audio, I recommend wearing headphones for the entire experience.
A short way into the game, you learn that the characters are separated from each other by both space and time. Isolation has always been a classic horror trope, but jumping around different moments adds a bit of mystery and intrigue to the playthrough. As your trip through the haunted school continues throughout different points in time, you learn, and sometimes trigger, some of the actions that lead up to that hole in the floor, or that section of rotting meat in the hallway.
Players who have not grown up during the adventure gaming era may find Corpse Party’s gameplay horrifying in its own right. Team GrisGris broke up the story into seven chapters, which helps neuter some of the adventure-genre’s most diabolical characteristic; making an innocent mistake, only to punish the player with a game over further along in the game. Even picking up items or triggering events in a different order can send players down the wrong path. There may be a thirty minute or so gap between cause and effect, so players will definitely need to make use of those multiple save files. Separate chapters also allow completionists to more easily hunt for every school tag, ending, and death in the game.
Like adventure games in the days of old, you’ll be coming across a lot of items to be used in later puzzles. However, the most you will have one time are two or three. Furthermore, players won’t need to worry about trying every item on every other item. Most prompts will boil down to, “use item” or “don’t use item”. Only at the very end will you need to be choosy about item management. Adventuring purists may find these decisions to be betraying the spirit of the genre, but Corpse Party still has plenty of teeth, especially for the younger generations of gamers.
Corpse Party is a game that caters to two groups of people: Horror fans and adventure game fans. If you don’t feel like you are in either one of those camps, you may want to skip over this title. You may also want to skip over this title if you are the slightest bit squeamish. If you can get past the old-fashioned adventure game tactics, you’ll see that Corpse Party does deliver a gruesome tale.
Review: Corpse Party