Publisher: Xseed Games
Developer: Team GrisGris, 5PB
Three things I should probably admit right up front:
- I never played the first Corpse Party game, because;
- I'm a huge wuss who isn't very fond of horror stuff in general; and
- I'm not a Japanophile.
In other words, I may not be the best person to pass judgment on whether Corpse Party: Book of Shadows succeeds as a sequel, or as a horror game, or as a faithful localization of the original. I can, however, tell you this: if you want an unsettling experience that leaves you a little shaken by its over-the-top gore and off-putting atmospherics, this is the absolute perfect game for you.
Actually, I'm not sure that even begins to fully capture the madness that is Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. For one thing, calling it a game in the usual sense doesn't do it justice. It's really more a digitized Choose Your Own Adventure novel. You'll spend the vast majority of your time with Book of Shadows reading through endless screens of text. There are the odd moments of player urgency — you can choose which rooms to visit, you can decide to explore certain rooms a little further, you can even occasionally make a decision about what course of action you're going to take — but for the most part, much like those CYA stories from the '80s, the game funnels you from one point to the next.
In fact, if you think of all the endings in those Choose Your Own Adventure novels that ended with you dying, that comparison seems even more appropriate — though those old books have nothing on Corpse Party: Book of Shadows when it comes to inventing new ways for people to die. Here's a short list of some of the ways people are killed in this game: their bodies get drained of blood. They get their legs cut off/they get their bodies chopped in half. They get their bodies crushed against walls (this one had a vivid description of how the various skin and organs clung to the splatter). They get their heads crushed (like a watermelon, as the game helpfully describes). They get their heads ripped off partially. They get their heads chopped off entirely. They get burned to death by boiling oil, leaving teeth as the only recognizable body part. They get disemboweled alive.
On top of that, there's all the non-fatal injuries, coupled with liberal doses of pure grossness. People cough up chunks of hair. Black blood starts flowing out of a female character's vagina. One character gets dropped into a room filled with dead and decomposing school children. Ankles get shattered with hammers. One person starts chewing on another's neck. Rooms are full of jars filled with decomposing meat.
And so on and so forth. Basically, if you've got a weak stomach or you're easily disturbed (both of which I am), you're probably going to find yourself fast-forwarding text — especially during some of the particularly descriptive chapter endings. Though be warned: you'll still get to hear all the stomach-churning sound effects (some of which give a whole new dimension to the descriptor "bone-crunching" as it relates to video games), and you'll still have to see the screen flash red (which makes the injuries seem a little more realistic).
Now, having said all that, I'd be lying if I didn't find myself drawn in by the story. Even without any prior knowledge of the characters and what happened to them in the first game, the game did an excellent job of making me invested in them — which, of course, made their grisly ends all the more disturbing. I suspect that people who played the first game will get even more out of it. Consequently, because of that, I'd say that if you're remotely interested in this game but never played its predecessor — and if you like really gory horror, you should — do yourself a favor and download the first Corpse Party before you play Book of Shadows.
One other word of warning: you probably should avoid playing the game in public. This has nothing to do with the gross-out factor (though I can't imagine you'd get the best reaction from a seat neighbor on the bus if they looked over and saw you playing a game featuring a ghost child missing the upper portion of its head). Rather, you'll want to avoid playing a game in public that features a scene just a few minutes in that seems like it could get you put on some kind of sex offender registry. Instead, download Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, turn off all the lights in your house, put on some good headphones, and enjoy. And try not to play before meals, because it's definitely going to spoil your appetite.