Review: Corpse Party

Corpse Party may sound like a modern revival of the oft-reviled NES torture adventure classic Chiller, but in reality it has little to do with that shocker. It also involves no dancing and grinding corpses on a dance floor with a DJ. This new horror release, localized and enhanced by XSEED games, is a reworking of the original PC title made entirely via RPG Tsukuru, also known as RPG Maker. Corpse Part: Blood Covered…Repeated Fear is the full name of this quirky selection, with the subtitle dropped for American audiences who are likely experiencing the game for the first time. The PSP release is an interesting beast – not as polished and complete as one would like, but an engaging creepfest nevertheless.

Corpse Party follows a host of high school students (one junior high kid and even a teacher) as they make their way through a haunted and otherwise malevolent elementary school. Think The Drifting Classroom, only a little more cutesy in terms of graphics, what with the stylized anime portraits and retro 16-bit graphics – this is RPG Maker at its best. It’s an excursion that relies on exploration and the player’s curiosity to tell a story; in particularly, the tale of the many slain students scattered throughout this twisted school. While resembling any other classic Japanese RPG you might have played, it also features plenty of expository text scenes, giving it a bit of a visual novel lilt. Glossy anime portraits liven up and give the characters a little personality.

Despite the charming high school bishounen and stereotypical female bishoujo, however, and the occasional humorous observations from the students, Corpse Party is a deliciously gory and decadently creepy game. While there is no “real” combat, you’re forced quite often to run as fast as you possibly can in the opposite direction from the spirits responsible for transporting you to this insane dimension, or escape them in any manner possible. This isn’t always easy, and ensures you pay close attention to paths made through each area. Hostile paranormal entities wait around every turn, and every one of your decisions count. Make the wrong decision as to which room is the safest or even what dialogue choice will keep you alive, and you’ll soon meet one of 24 “Wrong Ends,” or Corpse Party’s version of gruesome ‘game overs’ that will keep the morbidly curious coming back again and again to see what the next one turns up – myself included.

The creepy interludes, engaging narrative, and character development keep you playing long after the novelty of uncovering the deaths of the former students (and eventually your party members) wears off and even though you’re pretty much left to your own devices as there is no quest log or any way to keep track of what you’ve accomplished, the unsettling atmosphere, fantastic sound, and quirky surrealism are reason enough to press on. If you’re a fan of Japanese horror or visual novels (Saya no Uta comes to mind) you should find plenty to love in XSEED’S Corpse Party, available via download only from the PlayStation Network.

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