First off, let me just start by saying I love Corpse Party, and I was extremely excited at the announcement that the the follow-up titles were getting re-released on the PC. I will be looking at two things in this review: explaining the basics of how the game works (and why it works so well) and to discuss what the PC port brings in comparison to the PSP version of the game. For horror fans however, this title is one that has to be experienced.
The Corpse Party series is based on a simple plot device: high-school kids perform a ritual for fun, and end up getting sent into an alternate universe, made solely for seeing them die. It’s a gruesome game, with memorable and haunting imagery accompanied by a visceral sort of text. The images themselves are relatively tame, compared to something you might see in modern, western horror games. You won’t see as much gore as is described (though it’s definitely not nonexistant) but likely due to the way the game was being released, they kept the actual levels of gore toned down in visual form.
However, this doesn’t truly matter, since they more than make up for it in their descriptors of the situation. It’s what fascinated me most about the series – the multitude of ways that they could describe some horrifying death of a beloved character, or even an unknown that you can’t help but feel sorry for. Able to showcase not only what’s going on to paint a very clear picture, but able to tell the story in a way that allows us to care for these characters, and being scared of seeing whether or not they’ll die.
The amount of distress caused to the other characters over their friends’ deaths feels real, and if you grow attached to them yourself, you’ll likely find a tinge of sadness, or even guilt, if you fail to keep them safe.
The timeline on these games is a tad odd – you’ll find that if you just jump into Book of Shadows it’ll be a little confusing as characters realize they’ve experienced this before. Some chapters are essentially scenarios that could have happened in an alternate timeline, but didn’t quite come to pass, whereas others are talles of what happened during certain parts of the original game that weren’t shown to us, or barely talked about. It’s possible to play this on its own though, and keep up with the story – the re-tellings are essentially just what they seem on the surface. It’s the idea that something changed on the timeline, something seemingly small that ends up being a major plot point that leads to an alternate character’s death, or a greater demise for some. Playing this one before the original game won’t cause you to be spoiled, though some things may seem familiar, due to the fact that the chapters that cover the same story end up entirely different from the original.
Unlike the other games in the series, Book of Shadows is much more of a visual novel than a pseudo-RPG, with a point-and-click style of gameplay that, in my opinion, better represents what you’re coming across in the various rooms and hallways of Heavenly Host. This also allows it to pace a bit better than the other games, as it ends up a bit easier to figure out what you should do to move forward. While I do of course like the other games in the series a ton, BoS is by far my favorite simply because it highlights the storytelling and art far more than the gameplay – which is a huge boon for a game of this nature. The gameplay itself consists of going from room to room, investigating and trying to find objects or interactions that can lead you into the next area, or chapter.
Certain actions can lead to the characters becoming more panicked, and force them into thinking differently, called Darkening. It’s a bit of an odd mechanic in terms of how its implemented, as instead of being a gradual decrease in sanity, it’s more of a ‘perform certain actions and lose X sanity’. Some endings require that you’re at a certain level of darkening to get the ‘true ending’ or vice-versa. It ends up lending itself to a large amount of replayability since you have to go through multiple times to get every ending – though that might not be for everyone.
Overall, the PC version seems to be essentially a port of the PSP – but with full resolution art and assets, and the mouse control is nice for those who want it (though it honestly felt nicer to sit back and click through with a controller, in personal preference). The sound has been slightly improved a tad, giving the same 3D sound effect that they advertise, and work really well with, but there’s not anything new here from the PSP version, other than some small level of compatibility with the steam version of the first game. Though that only allows you to view gallery images from the first within BoS, so it’s not necessary for anything.
All in all, the PC port is great, but there’s nothing new to bring to the table with it. My only wish is that it could have been remastered similarly to the 3DS version of the original, adding a new chapter or even some small events to flesh it out a bit more and give even more reasons to purchase this for past fans of the series. That being said, if you’re a fan of the Corpse Party games, I would wholly recommend it even if you’ve already played the original, as the enhanced assets are amazing to look at compared to the PSP version, and it’s still a great game. Outside of that, if you’re interested in a visceral bloodbath of storytelling, this game is for you – though I do recommend that you play the original game first, either in the steam or 3DS version, to get the full experience. There are some serious spoilers if you play these out of order.