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'Corpse Party: Book of Shadows' review (PSP): Stranger than fiction

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Released on Thursday, Jan 31 2013

'Corpse Party: Book of Shadows' screenshot

© Xseed Games


Release Date: January 15 (North America), January 23 (Europe)
Platforms available on: PSP
Developer: Team GrisGris
Publisher: XSEED Games
Genre: Interactive fiction

There's definitely a place for interactive fiction in today's mobile sector, with touchscreen controls, portability and pick-up-and-play gameplay lending themselves well to the medium.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a survival-horror addition to the digital library developed by Japanese studio Team GrisGris. While it's just as disturbing as any of the worthwhile horror that originates from the Land of the Rising Sun, it would have benefited from more emphasis on the interactive part of 'interactive fiction'.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a sequel of sorts to the 2010 PSP release Corpse Party: Blood Covered Repeated Fear, which was in fact a remake of an indie PC-9801 title dating back to 1996. Prior knowledge of the series is not essential going into this one, but those familiar with its predecessor will obviously have a better idea of what to expect, and no doubt appreciate it that bit more.

'Corpse Party: Book of Shadows' screenshot

© Xseed Games



The game - and we use that term in the loosest possible way - is an anime-themed offering that follows a gang of school children who inadvertently transport themselves to a demon school in another dimension, where the inhabitants are only keen to prey on the living in various unpleasant and grizzly ways.

Each of the eight chapters focuses on different members of the party as they attempt to track each other down and ultimately escape this wretched hell hole. In typical horror fashion, many of them are dispatched brutally and downright disturbingly. Don't let some of the twee anime character models fool you; this is an all-out gore fest worthy of Tom Savini.

Animation takes a backseat in Corpse Party: Book of Shadows but it remains a very visual experience, relying on gruesome stills and effectively eerie sound effects to unsettle the player (or perhaps reader is more appropriate). The version we played had Japanese voiceovers with English subtitles, but it's clear from the emotion-laden tones that the voice actors knew what they were doing.

'Corpse Party: Book of Shadows' screenshot

© Xseed Games



As a work of horror fiction, the title certainly has its moments, but the interactivity is minimal. The player has virtually no role to play in the opening stages and the experience begins to feel like sitting through an extended intro sequence. A little further down the line, you are given multiple choice options that feed into the story.

These usually involve dialogue choices or deciding how one of the characters should act in the face of danger, with making the wrong decision usually resulting in an untimely death. Surprisingly, seeing the characters killed off in various creative ways is a big part of the game's appeal. We can imagine avid fans playing through this one a few time to discover new ways of having them meet their maker, as morbid as that might sound.

Other interactive segments have you scanning around a room in search of plot elements, or choosing the next location on a map screen. It's all very basic stuff, without so much as a cursory glance towards any problem-solving or even gameplay in the traditional sense.



Given the minimal interactivity, the task of carrying the story falls upon the writing, and the script is sadly lacking. While the Japanese voice acting is convincing, as far as we can tell, the descriptions are bland and repetitive and the characters are in need of fleshing out. Some of the story's substance was likely lost in translation, and it's the western audience who are the victims of this.

Cultural boundaries in general are something of an obstacle for the game. No doubt some players will be more creeped out by the use of overly-sexualised schoolgirl characters than the horror elements on offer, and those who have never understood anime culture are unlikely to come away converted.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows has its moments from a storytelling perspective, but it would have benefited from more interactive features. There's some morbidly creative horror for readers to sink their fangs into, but don't expect to encounter any believable characters or award-winning wordsmithery.

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