[PSP/Vita Review] Corpse Party: Book of Shadows
The first Corpse Party game chronicled the struggles of seven high school classmates, one little sister and one teacher who all got trapped in a cursed elementary school that shouldn’t even exist, and were assaulted mercilessly therein by malevolent spirits. It was a game riddled with twists, turns and “wrong ends” that culminated in haunting, brutal death scenes, and its conclusion left many questions unanswered and more than a few loose threads untied (while at least one other was tied perhaps a bit too tightly)…
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a compilation of eight short stories set before, during and after these events, “fleshing” out the experience and further developing its characters and mythos alike.
Some chapters take place in an alternate timeline, where characters go into the events of Corpse Party with foreknowledge of the fates that are destined to befall them, granting them a rare opportunity to make different decisions and potentially avert their grisly demises.
Other chapters detail events leading up to Corpse Party, providing insight into the minds of some of its less prominent characters and revealing the influence they may have had in the grand scheme of things (or the influence it may have had on them).
It has been a year since I got a chance to review Corpse Party for the PSP, and it has been a long, long wait for the next game in the series to find its way to the US. Luckily, the wait was worth it and I got to play a very fun game that will probably be one of the last great PSP releases for the year. Since Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is only available digitally, this opens up the possibility for Vita owners to also enjoy the game, so if you only own a Vita, be sure to continue reading.
The first Corpse Party was made in RPG Maker and featured an old-school 2D 16-bit engine pulling the strings behind the scenes, which made for a hectic, frantic and scary experience. Book of Shadows leaves this style on the side and dives into full visual novel territory with a classic point-and-click interface that will allow you to explore every single scene in detail from a first-person perspective designed to have less breaks between story and gameplay, thus allowing the dialog and voice acting to shine. This makes for a more slow paced game that ends up being even scarier than the first one thanks to a great element: audio. This is a game you should play while wearing headphones (and in a dark room) to make the most of your purchase since they have done wonders with the audio portion of the game. Since 90% of the text in the game features voice acting, they use a few tricks here and there to project audio as if it was coming from your sides or from behind you which, when playing at 1 a.m. in a completely dark room, will give you the most bang for your buck.
There is new “Darkening” system in place that measures how your actions and what happens in the game starts to affect that chapter’s character. The gorier and crazier things get, the faster your darkening meter will start to fill up. If you get to 100%, it is game over for you, so you have to be careful with what choices you make along the way. As was the case in the last game, you can inspect corpses to obtain the name tag of one of the less fortunate students who have found death and despair, but if you analyze too many corpses your darkening meter will jump up considerably. The screen will start to turn red and the characters will start to react accordingly with new dialog and choices to make in specific situations.
Book of Shadows focuses on characters that didn’t get much screen time the first time around, or on those that were only mentioned in passing by one of the name tags you found in Corpse Party. Book of Shadows can be played without first playing Corpse Party, but those of you that have taken the last PSP game for a spin will get the most out of this new adventure.
A welcomed feature is the ability to skip conversations and fast-forward past events you’ve already seen which, when combined with the new “save anywhere” feature, makes it easier to obtain all wrong ends before going back to redo things while hoping for a different outcome. Since you can save anywhere, you might as well save right before making a though choice since they have a tendency of sending you towards a wrong end if you don’t pick the right option. This might feel as if it cheapens the experience since you can quickly reload a save and continue down a different path, but the great sound, atmosphere and voice acting make it easy to overlook this small “flaw”.
By watching the wrong ends and by moving along the story, you can unlock extra bonus features in the game. One is an art gallery that shows you all the large still frames that move along the story, the music tracks that set the mood for the game, as well as interviews with the voice-actors that worked in the game. If you have a save from Corpse Party you can load that to unlock extra art from the first game and said save can also allow you to easily access the final chapter in Book of Shadows because the other option is watching every single wrong end in this game before the final chapter can be unlocked. Chances are that if you’re reading this review you’ve played the first game (and if not, buy it right now!), so hopefully Option #1 is how you open up this tale of how a pair of the survivors from the 1st game take on a new challenge in order to unravel the mystery that is Sachiko and Heavenly Host Elementary.
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a must have game for fans of the first game and even newcomers to the series can enjoy it as a stand-alone tale. The amazing 3D sound, the superb voice-acting and the new spin on the Corpse Party story make this an easy purchase for fans of visual novels. There is more than enough content in here to validate your purchase, and you will enjoy this new tale from start to finish.
[review score=”92″ pros=”Great music and audio.
Events from the first one from a different POV.” cons=”Point and click not for everyone”]
This review is based on a PSP/Vita copy of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows provided by XSEED Games.