If you are an aged individual like me, you might remember a series of books called “Choose Your Own Adventure.” These books featured branching paths that readers could follow by flipping to the pages indicated at the end of each section. Each of these books feature one “right” end and a lot of “wrong” ends. I loved them, especially when they featured licensed properties like Star Trek and Zork (which is pretty much a digital Choose Your Own Adventure anyway).
Corpse Party takes this concept and marries it with some very interesting storytelling and a 16-bit flavor. The game begins innocently enough, with a group of students gathered together in the school, telling a ghost story. Before they part ways, since one of the students is moving away, they create a paper doll that each can take a piece of for good luck. With that, the students are mysteriously transported to the ruins of a school long-since buried and forgotten.
The decrepit building was host to a series of kidnappings and, it seems, that many students since the school’s closing in the 70s have been transported there only to meet grisly ends. In each of the game’s five chapters you’ll take control of different students as they struggle to survive. XSeed, who brought this game over to North America, has made no secret that you will likely see a number of the game’s “Wrong Ends,” grisly depictions of main characters dying horrible deaths. These manage to provide truly creepy moments despite the 16-bit graphics and freeze-frame cutscenes.
What makes the game even creepier are the well-placed jump scares and creepiness of knowing that your friends are trapped in the same building, but in a different, unreachable dimension. The chapters interweave, masterfully driving the story forward. You’ll notice that your party members have HP, as if this were an RPG, but don’t be deceived. There is no combat in the game, but characters will encounter moments where they must survive. If the HP runs out, or if you make the wrong decision in the game, you’ll be treated to one of the Wrong Ends.
In addition to the main five chapters, the game has 10 extra chapters that are unlocked as you progress. These connect to past victims and features of the school that you will encounter in the main game. It’s quite clever and helps deepen the experience.
As I mentioned, the visuals are a combination of 16-bit sprites and anime stills. The dialog takes place with profile cutouts and many of the key scenes are depicted with the gruesome, detailed images. The music and effects are fantastic, with voiceovers available only in Japanese. Even if you don’t like subtitled games, if the premise intrigues you, don’t be put off. There is one character in the game that had some dialog that had me in tears with its absurdity. Thankfully, even her peers comment on her weirdness, making it seem intentional rather than a trick of bad localization.
Corpse Party isn’t going to be for everyone. There is very little replay value once you get the correct ending to each chapter. Additionally, the lack of combat and dearth of interactive moments beyond exploring might not keep some players interested for long. If you like horror movies and ghost stories, though, you might find Corpse Party to be something perfect for your library.
Corpse Party has a lot in common with fully interactive point-and-click games. The tone, storytelling and characters make what could have been a plodding experience, truly memorable. It’s wonderful that XSeed has brought this over and, hopefully, will do well enough to encourage more of these unique titles to make a North American appearance.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.