I am an unapologetic fan of the horror genre. Some of my favourite video game memories come from late nights playing Resident Evil in my basement, the controller being passed back and forth between me and a buddy because we were too scared to keep going. In fact, the only reason I bought my PS4 was to have P.T to play around Halloween; that’s right, I spent $500 on a demo and to this day, I do not regret it. Apparently, while horror had all but disappeared from the AAA industry, a creepy little game called Corpse Party was being released on the PSP, with one on the Vita only last year. It was my further joy to learn one was heading for Steam, with one for 3DS coming in the summer!
I was a little disappointed with Corpse Party. When I had initially started following it, I was under the impression that this would be the version I had seen coming out for the 3DS. However, the PC version of Corpse Party is a re-release of the updated version of the original Corpse Party subtitled Bloodcovered (the 3DS version being an updated version of the updated version of Bloodcovered titled Bloodcovered: ...Repeated Fear). So the game I expected was not the game I got, but that doesn't mean it's bad.
Corpse Party (Or Corpse Party: Bloodcovered if we're being accurate) tells the story of 8 unlucky high school students and one unlucky TA who on the one particularly spooky night, decide to perform the Sachiko Ever After ritual which will supposedly bind them as friends forever. However, since their high school was built over the remains of an Elementary school where a bunch of murders happened, naturally they get sucked into another dimension where the vengeful spirits of the former students seek to kill our heroes, one at a time.
As far as plots go, that's actually pretty good blending elements of anime with the slow, psychological style of Japanese horror, in a setting that's reminiscent of Silent Hill. Throughout the game you'll control each of the different students, exploring the haunted school in a top-down RPG style, searching for clues to the mysterious events in the Heavenly Host Elementary School and trying to find a way out. The choices you make will determine whether you live or die and Corpse Party does have some pretty disturbing scenes played out like a semi-RPG interactive novel, being described in gory detail.
I've often said creepy imagery always comes off creepier in the 8/16 bit style and Corpse Party does make use of some pretty nasty stuff, but being an early build it's not as polished and it's Chibi, RPG sprites never take things too far. Some of the original Japanese voice acting does up the spook-factor, adding a greater sense emotion and drama to the story, although the spell is broken slightly when the anime elements of the story creep in.
Similarly, the game's tone is kind of all over the place and keeps the game from being as scary as it could be. At times the atmosphere can be quite unnerving, and the accompanying music or ambience can increase the tension, but then as you're exploring the school the game's accompanying theme sounds like a spooky version of the "turnabout" theme from Phoenix Wright.
Overall, Corpse Party felt a bit like Deadly Premonition. When the horror was on, it was really on, but the strange shifts in tone and sometimes comical delivery of the story kill any sense of tension the game may have had. It's not bad by any means, but I would recommend waiting for the 3DS version. Based on what I've seen of it, it looks darker, the music has been adjusted to create a creepier atmosphere, and new anime cutscenes add a graphic detail to the 16 bit aesthetic. Skip this Corpse Party and wait for the Corpse After Party.