By Crystal Colwell / January 25th, 2013
|Title: Corpse Party: Book of Shadows
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Team GrisGris
Console: PSP/Vita (PSN)
Release Date: 1-15-13
Genre: Adventure, Horror
Rating: M for Mature by ESRB
Not for the faint of heart. That is the best way I can describe the Corpse Party series. As a person who embraces her dark side and her need to understand how some terrible events come to unfold, I was instantly drawn in. Those of you who read my Corpse Party review already know that this is a game I was in absolute love with. These games are rated M for good reason, and they do not apologize for being what they are. They are dark, they are deep, and they make you ask some pretty uncomfortable questions.
In Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, you take control once again of the characters we know so well from Corpse Party. In the first game you play as a group of students who have been lead astray by a seemingly harmless ritual that is designed to cement your friendship. In Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, you end up in the same situation, but with a twist. This go around, you find yourself in a time loop. Events that have already transpired are beginning again. While some characters start to become aware of this, others are sure that this is their first experience with anything of the sort. The realization comes on slowly for some but rather quickly for others. One character comes to the realization while the ritual is being brought up for what should be the first time. He tries to talk you out of performing the ritual but is unsuccessful. It is then that you realize you’re in for yet another ghastly adventure.
Since you will have either already played through Corpse Party or you will want the story to remain unspoiled, I will focus on the game play elements and changes rather than rehashing the story. I should note here that without playing the first game, Book of Shadows will leave you confused and asking more questions than necessary. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is meant to go along with Corpse Party. It is not meant to be played on its own. While it’s certainly your right to do so, it’s not something that I would advise.
While the game starts off directly after Corpse Party, it will soon become clear that you’re headed back into the same hellish nightmare you already lived through. You get to see how some of the characters are doing after the whole debacle as well as being introduced to a variety of additional details regarding each character and their relationships. In my play through of the game, I enjoyed getting additional information and felt as if I was able to connect to the characters on an even deeper level. I feel like I could better understand some of the original choices of each character and I even got a sense that I might know what different choices each character will make in this, the second loop of being stuck in this hellish school.
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows offers wrong endings that all come about due to choices you as the player have been making. When this happens, you restart the chapter and make changes to your previous choices. Sometimes making a wrong choice will lead to a wrong ending that you’re actually glad you saw. It might not be the correct way to progress a story but it does give you another view on how things could have gone. I enjoyed seeing how some of the cutesier, nice characters could have reacted to certain situations. It certainly makes you look at them differently even when you get back to the correct story path and get to see how things really turn out.
The game, while similar to Corpse Party, has some vast differences that set it apart. Once the opening sequences are finished and you begin the game play, you start to see some of these differences. For one, you are now playing the game from a first person view with point-and-click gameplay. You now have a map and a searchable screen. Using this system is very easy. You access the map by clicking the left trigger. You then use the d-pad or the analog stick to navigate the map and click on which room you would like to explore.Once you enter a room you will have full view of your surroundings. You see things from a first person perspective which gives you a unique feeling that your in the room and not just looking at your character walk through a room. To look left and right you move the d pad and unveil all of the horrors that await you in each room, hall way and stair case.
Some areas may not be accessible at all times, but you will know when this happens as the room will be shown in gray. When you are in a room and need to look around, things work very much like the point-and-click adventure games of the past. You will want to look around, even if just to see what sorts of monstrous things can be found in each room, as well as looking for things to trigger story events and allow you to progress. One of the things about this game as opposed to the first one is you will find yourself wondering around a bit more. The path you need to be on might not always be as clear and you will be double checking rooms to see if you missed something.
Visually, the game is stunning. I say stunning because it manages to make even the grisliest of scenes look good. It showcases each playable and non-playable area, each in a very suiting way. The overall style of the game is a bit darker. You can see the blood stains clearer as you’re looking at them from a first person perspective instead of in a top-down style. This allows for you to get a clearer picture of everything and not quite so much is left to the imagination. The visual aspects are something that Corpse Party and Corpse Party: Book of Shadows excel at. Both games are able to put you into the creepy and demented environment. Book of Shadows makes the player feel as if they are stuck in these places with the characters. You feel as if you’re really there in this dreaded world, trying to find your way out. They embrace the darkness in a way few other games have been able to. They go for the scary, the twisted, and the just plain creepy and they pull it off with a beauty that cannot be described and should really be seen firsthand.
The music in the game serves to best bring out the ghoulish nature of the game and it will have you holding your breath without realizing it. Some macabre scene will be unfolding, cue the music and you get totally engrossed. You will find your body moving in response to the rhythmic sounds and, in my case, get a slight chuckle out of how deeply involved you were with the sound effects and music of this game.
It’s also necessary to keep an eye on your status, which is referred to as the darkening. Essentially this is meant to keep track of just how crazy you are going. You’re stuck in a cruel and unforgiving environment which is littered with dead bodies and, for those who remember the first loop, memories of what has already transpired. Add this to the fact that you’re slowly finding out just how crazy and cruel your fellow humans can be and you start to get a small glimpse into how important the music and sound effects are. Each choice that you make will effect your darkening be it for the good or the bad. Your darkening can be tracked by clicking the triangle button and accessing a menu. It will be found on the main screen. As the level of darkening rises you will begin to see things. The choices you make will be affected by your darkness level as well. And when you hit 100% darkening, its game over.
Offering up the ability to save from the menu at almost any given time was a nice addition to the game. Simply hit triangle to pull up the menu and select save. This is especially helpful when outside forces demand your attention or your battery is running low. It is also helpful for those times you just need a break to gather yourself before immersing back into the story.
Other additions to the game include things like a full text archive. If you lose your place during the game play and miss out on some dialog, you can pull up the menu, access the text archive and re-read anything you may have missed. Some things you may not miss but you feel the need to read again, just to be sure that was really what you just encountered. The ghastliness of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is not kept to just the visuals and the music. The dialogue, which is offered in Japanese with English text, will serve to weird you out in many ways. While this may sound like a negative part of the game, this reviewer sees it as one of Corpse Party and Corpse Party: Book of Shadows’ greatest accomplishments. When you have managed to weird me out, make me uncomfortable in any way, or just give me the chills, you have accomplished something. Way to go XSEED Games for your brilliant localization work on both titles that have managed to engross me so fully.
Overall, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows managed to add to an already incredible game. It took Corpse Party and magnified it. It opened the world up, let us in on each character a bit more and showed us that sometimes things are not quite what they seem to be. I went on a journey with these characters in Corpse Party and playing Corpse Party: Book of Shadows allowed me to go once again on a journey with them, all the while learning about new events and demented twisted actions. If you enjoy heavily story driven games that put you into a nightmare of a world and take full advantage of the creep factor, then these games are for you! You may find yourself looking at those around you in a new light, wondering from time to time who would be the best person to be stuck with in this type of situation. Perhaps you will think about who you would chose to sell out, offer up as a reward to appease whatever Gods have damned you to this fate and get yourself back to a reality in which gruesome images and characters that are so heavily twisted you’re genuinely worried about and not trusting of anyone don’t exist
Whether or not you get analytical throughout the games like I did, or you just take them at face value and have a blast playing them, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a game that comes highly recommended from this reviewer for all who enjoy this style of game and genre.
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows was played on the PlayStation Vita and provided by the awesome people at XSEED Games.
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