It is the middle of February and I am disappointed. Timing is everything and I feel like I’ve been deprived of a truly scary Halloween night. You see I’ve been playing Corpse Party: Book of Shadows and if this were Halloween I don’t think I’d be opening a door ever again once the darkness set in the evening sky, as every creek of a floor board would have me defecating myself thinking I’d be killed in some horribly sick and twisted way.
Book of Shadows is a sequel in the Corpse Party franchise and is a game that is truly artistic in its execution. A group of students and their teacher make a pact to stay friends forever but instead they are warped to an alternate dimension when the ritual goes wrong, where they must survive being in a school that looks like it went through every horror director’s imagination. The game is played through chapters, with each chapter being told from the point of view of a different character as you experience their tale for survival. Tale is the key word here because the artistic part of the game is it’s not actually a game but a visual novel, something rarely seen outside of Japan. That means there’s a lot of text to read, almost as much as the entire Final Fantasy series put together.
Major spoiler warning ahead - this is not a true sequel in the sense it continues the story from the last game in the series, but instead it’s quite unique, creating a sequel from an alternate wrong ending in Corpse Party: Blood Covered. Because of that if you have not played Blood Covered then the main story will make very little sense, especially the opening movie once the game begins. So put down Book of Shadows and finish up Blood Covered first. Finished? Good, let us move on.
The entire game is reading, more reading, click on some grids, read another book, search the screen for an object, read another dissertation, reach a major plot point, and fall asleep from reading a book. All kidding aside this is completely about story. If you cannot get into the story and enjoy it then this game is unplayable because there is no action, no fighting, no hit points, nothing to make up for it. Even point and click games like Walking Dead had you shoot a couple zombies but this has nothing. But if you are a fan of the horror genre then this is a game that will be at the top of your list with a story full of unnerving heart break, suspense, and genuine horror.
Although there is no action in the game per say, the player still has the ability to control where they move along the map grid and have to search the area for valuable clues and objects to help the plot progress. Every chapter has multiple endings that are tracked by the game and not every ending is as simple as it appears. Some are basic bad endings where you die when you are not supposed to, while the so-called good endings redefine what ‘good’ actually means. It is something the gamer has to experience for themself. Also, as this is a sequel to a ‘wrong end’ I enjoy the freshness that a simple word change, bad to wrong, has done. The ending is not bad, just wrong from the pre-determined path the author set out for you in his mind. This allows for infinite creative writing in the game.
The game has every word and syllable completely voice acted which is a remarkable feat considering how much I’ve hyped up the game being just a book. The voice acting is top notch and really helps set the mood, and at times I honestly felt like turning down the volume on my Vita because I thought the neighbour was thinking I was performing an autopsy on an awake patient from all the screaming, which actually was true at one point in the game. The music as well was beautifully performed in a twisted sort of way as the combo of superb voice acting and musical score keeps the scene tense and helps accentuate the script and setting.
Graphically there is not much to the game as it is a lot of still screens - due to it being a visual novel. However, those still shots show off the anime style used for the characters, as does the creepy detail put into making the school setting a decaying rubble that looked like it went through 50 incarnations of Battle Royale.
Pacing does happen to be a problem with the game more times than I would have wanted. At times I was getting bored with the simple chit-chat that dragged on far too long that it ruined the sense of tension and suspense the game crafted so well. Thankfully for those who like to skip through it just hold the R1 button and it skips through the text at lightning speed, quickening up the pacing when it comes to a crawl.
Book of Shadows, if you have not already guessed by now if you are new to the series, is really violent and I mean like “this game should be jealous at Call of Duty for getting all the school shootings press coverage.” Weak stomachs and imaginations need not apply as the blender bed scene from Nightmare on Elm Street is the tamest thing you will experience in the game. For the gore and horror fans this is your game of the year. Nothing except another game in the series will live up to the gore factor.
This game is a literary masterpiece that takes horror games in a new direction. If you want something new and are willing to give visual novels a try then this game will have you wanting sequel after sequel. But if reading a book is not something you want to do in your video games then this game is unplayable, so save your money.
Summary: A literary masterpiece that pushes the boundaries of video games being legitimate art with its suspenseful, thrilling, and unique narrative that takes the horror genre to a new level. It is a classic for those Halloween fright nights but just make sure to double check the doors are locked when you turn the lights out.
-The Final Word-
A literary masterpiece that pushes the boundaries of video games being legitimate art with its suspenseful, thrilling, and unique narrative that takes the horror genre to a new level. It is a classic for those Halloween fright nights but just make sure to double check the doors are locked when you turn the lights out.