If you are as old as I am, more than likely you remember the old choose your own adventure novels, and the more recent Gamebook Adventures by Tin Man Games. I do enjoy a number of these games, provided the story is compelling. Let’s throw some major horror elements and some genuinely creepy storytelling into the mix, and you have yourself Corpse Party: Book of Shadows.
I have never played the first Corpse Party game that came out on the PSP a little over a year ago. When told I would be reviewing the new game in the series, I did my homework, though. Book of Shadows is a sequel that takes place during the same time as the first game. In fact, this game has the same characters, same situations and same story, just with a big twist. During the events of the first game, many of the characters in the story are killed in very gruesome ways. Needless to say, it ended on a rather grim note.
In Book of Shadows, the changeup is that some of the characters are aware of some of what is about to happen. This allows them to possibly change the fate and outcomes that of the first game. Think of it much like the movie The Butterfly Effect. The characters are in a time loop from which they may or may not be able to break free.
The story has a handful of high school students performing a ritual that transports them to a decrepit, abandoned and haunted elementary school full of traps and malicious ghosts. Now, they must find each other, escape and try their best not to lose their sanity (or lives) in the process.
Most of the game play revolves around reading descriptions and actions that are going on. When moving around and exploring, the player chooses sectioned areas of the school to travel to. When in an area, the screen goes into a first person investigation mode that plays out much like a point and click adventure game. Players move a cursor around and click on items in the environment. These could be triggers to move the story along, items that can be picked up and used somewhere else or simply open up more back-story. There are also moments in which players are required to make choices.
These decisions may result in a “Wrong End,” which means that the player has failed at changing the unfortunate chain of events and will have to start over from the last save. Luckily, dialog that has been seen before can be skipped to save time. Most time is spent hitting the X button to advance text. That’s not to say the story and the game play are boring. On the contrary, this is a very tense, atmospheric game that kept me invested throughout.
Although exclusively in Japanese, most of the dialog is voiced and feels very genuine. The moody music fits the game perfectly, and the anime scenes are impressively vivid and graphic. Often in first-person exploration mode, there is no music or sound. There’s just a “something is about to jump out” feeling that works well. This game is not for the faint of heart. There are some disturbing images of young adults getting killed in very graphic ways.
This game may not be for everyone, not only because of the gory images and visual novelization game play, but also for the borderline hentai in the beginning. It feels almost out of place from the main game, but I need to address it before people try it out. It never gets graphic, but two girls in a shower with only soap suds covering their privates just really doesn’t fit with what goes on later on in the game.
Book of Shadows is a very interesting game. I do enjoy good visual novels, and for the most part, this game tells a rather compelling tale. Granted, it won’t be for everyone, but if you don’t mind a good amount of gore and some really creepy set pieces, then this game will not disappoint. It may require some research of the first game if you haven’t played it, and after completing the game, there really is no reason to go back to it. But, for $20, you get a scary story with a rather impressive atmosphere.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.