When it comes to horror and all things unsettling, few would dispute that the Japanese are unusually talented auteurs in this regard. Indeed, the likes of Ringu and Ju:on The Grudge both come to mind as potent examples of horror, and now Weeping Doll from Chinese outfit Oasis Games (you might recognise them as being behind fellow PSVR effort Ace Banana) attempts to channel that very same spirit using PSVR.
Weeping Doll Review: Light on scares and fun
As a house maid belonging to a Japanese family who have gone missing in their spacious Victorian mansion, Weeping Doll starts off as you might expect; encouraging the player to explore the various rooms and secret areas of the house from a first-person perspective in order to uncover just what happened. Just about every single box on the Generic Horror Tron 5000 is ticked in earnest; there is an assortment of creepy-looking dolls lying about the place, abandoned bedrooms, and of course, attempts at the odd jump scare.
The problem is, and this is huge one, Weeping Doll just isn’t scary in the slightest. Don’t get me wrong, some of the tools are there; Weeping Doll’s environments are rife with palpably atmospheric detail and the sound design is competent enough to immerse the player; the problem is that none of it is ever parlayed into anything even remotely unnerving. A big reason for this is that you never really feel under threat from anything; instead you feel more like you’re taking a walkabout tour of a PG-rated horror film, more than actually feeling like you are in an R-rated one yourself.
Speaking of waking about the place, Weeping Doll accommodates two types of movement systems when it comes to control. Exclusively playable with the DualShock 4, folks can choose between a freeform movement system that uses both analogue sticks, or, a teleportation method whereupon you turn in forty-five degree increments and can specify a position wherever you want your character to go. While pretty much the norm, being able to choose between such systems remains welcome; given that the freeform movement method does encourage a slight amount of queasiness that grows after prolonged play.
When you’re not walking about the place, chasing after black-haired spooky kids, you’ll be mostly solving a variety of puzzles in order to progress, since there is no combat whatsoever in Weeping Doll. Often requiring you to comb the environment for clues, or combine one item with another, the mental conundrums in the game demand very little from the player, which when paired with its extremely brief runtime (just over a couple of hours) and lack of incentive to replay, means that Weeping Doll is sorely lacking in the value stakes too.
Finally, the cast of Shenmue can now breathe a sigh of relief, since after seventeen years we’ve finally found a game that, somewhat incredibly, actually boasts an ever lower standard of voice acting than Yu Suzuki’s classic series. With performances so absolutely cringeworthy that I almost fractured my spine (the main character in particular sounding like she’s just fallen out of 1980s home economics video), the abysmal calibre of the voice acting does little to inspire confidence in the quality of the game as a whole, not to mention the attempts it makes to try and unsettle the player.
A spectacularly ineffectual attempt at crafting a decent psychological horror for PSVR, Weeping Doll has a menagerie of issues that drag it down, but of them all, the fact that it just isn’t scary easily stands out as its most severe transgression. Horror games will soon be ten a penny on PSVR, and because of that, games like Weeping Doll need to do much more in order to stand out.