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Corpse Party: Book of Shadows
Score: 79%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: 5pb
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Survival Horror

Graphics & Sound:
If you like anime, youíre going to love the look of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. The game is very much like watching an anime, but being able to direct where the characters go, at least somewhat. The cut-scenes, which comprise the majority of the game, are beautifully drawn scenes with your typical anime characters. The characters are school kids, so theyíre all in their uniforms for most of the time. There are flashbacks with them in other clothing and at least one scene in the bath where they are only covered by bubbles. This is not a game that is appropriate for all audiences. I would definitely say stick to the M rating when deciding who the game is appropriate for.

Given that Corpse Party is a horror adventure game, you would expect very creepy music. They definitely deliver on that end. If you are playing the game at home alone at night in a dark room, I guarantee you will jump at least once and start to look around, wondering what lies in the dark corners of your own room or house. It is more of a creepy, wondering what lays ahead type horror rather than a whole lot of blood, guts and gore type. The music reflects that style perfectly. It is creepy and haunting rather than jarring and loud. The game relies on subtle noises, footsteps and breathing. The voicework is all in Japanese with English subtitles.


Gameplay:
Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is the story of eight school kids: Seiko, Naomi, Mayu Suzumoto, Ayumi, Yoshiki, Satoshi, Morishige, and Yuka (Satoshiís little sister). While cleaning up after a culture festival at Kisaragi Academy, they decide to perform a ritual, on Ayumiís suggestion, that will supposedly keep them all friends forever so that Mayu who is moving away will always feel like part of the group. Little do they know what really lies in store for them. The ritual is very simple. They all grasp onto a little charm printed from the internet and pull it apart. Each of them will have a piece and it will bind them together for all time. Satoshi warns them that they shouldnít do it; that their lives depend on them not doing it, but they chide him and continue. As soon as they pull, everything goes black. When Seiko looks up she sees a black figure advancing on her. Everyone has disappeared except for Seiko. They can also hear Yuka somewhere in the building. This begins the chapter of Seiko and Naomi and their search for a way out.

There are seven chapters to the game total. Each chapter is completely independent of the previous chapters, but you will have to play them in order to unlock the next chapter. Each chapter will focus on a different character or characters in their quest to figure out what happened to them and if they can survive the horrors that they now face. Unlike most adventure games, there is no fighting. You arenít going to be able to use your fists, level up your characters, or anything else that you are traditionally used to. Corpse Party requires you to use your brain (and a lot of luck) to try and come up with the best ending possible. Just like the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that we used to read as kids, there are different endings based on the choices that you make in the game. Some are obviously bad and some are "good." Of course, given that this is a horror game, donít expect that "good" and happy are the same thing.


Difficulty:
There are two ways that you can play Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. You can choose to play it through yourself, exploring all of the creepy rooms, trying all of the options they give you, and sometimes finding the good ending first is one method. The other is to look up a FAQ and get everything "right" the first time. Personally, I recommend that you actually play the game yourself, but if you get stuck for too long, then you can look up where to go. Either way, you will come to the ending of the chapters. The game is not "hard" in the traditional sense. No matter what you do, you will get to the ending of a chapter, eventually. It just might not be the ending that you want. If you are determined to play the whole game and find all of the endings without a FAQ or help, well then it will probably be considered hard as it will be very time-consuming! Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is more like watching the anime and telling the characters where to go every now and then, so thereís really no way to judge the difficulty in that. Itís all a matter of how much time you put in to finding your way.

There is one other thing that will change things in the game. You have a "Darkening Meter." This is very much like the sanity meter in Eternal Darkness. As you progress and examine scary things, like a corpse, your darkness will rise. As it gets higher, you can hallucinate sounds and such. If you get it all the way to 100%, you can end up with the "bad ending" or other such horrors, so youíre going to want to keep it down. Of course, since you are going to need to examine things to figure out where to go, it will naturally rise. There is a balancing act to keep your characters sane enough to complete the chapter.


Game Mechanics:
The first thing to remember is that Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a PSP game, so you will not be using the touch screen by default. You can, however, set the corners of the screen to be the buttons if you want. Personally, I found it easier to just use the buttons to move. The back screen isnít used at all. The movement isnít really intuitive. When you are finally able to move, you will be in "Search Mode." In Search Mode, you are able to scan around the room and search for any relevant (or irrelevant items). You arenít able to actually move anywhere in Search Mode though. To move to a different room, hit your top left button and then choose the room you want to move to. You can choose any visible room, but if that means you go through a few rooms to get there, be prepared to be stopped by text information about the room you are going through. If you want to skip through the text quickly (usually because youíre going through the same thing again), you can use the top right button. It will let you skip entire pieces by holding it down rather than (X) which will only skip a sentence or two. You can also press Start and it will start scrolling through until you press Start again. This is quite handy when youíve already seen the action and you need to try another option.

Personally, Iím still not sure how much I really enjoy Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. It is great for completely creeping you out, but I did find it frustrating to keep going over the same places again and again. I found that I kept going back to a FAQ more than I should have, but I was tired of searching in empty rooms. Of course, balancing searching with a bit of FAQ help put it on a speed that I had time for. You can probably play through the whole game in a few hours if you look it all up, or an untold number of hours if you look up nothing. I think to find the right enjoyment means figuring out how much you really want to keep searching. Maybe a few monsters to fight would have kept me searching more, but then it wouldnít be the same type game. I recommend that you rent it or borrow from a friend and see what you think if you want to check it out. It is a very interesting game, but it might not appeal to all tastes. Of course, that usually makes for the biggest hits with the fan base that it does appeal to.


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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