Corpse Party: Horror done the way it should be done

December 5, 2011

We don’t see many titles these days that truly embrace the values of a good horror game. For all the praise games like Dead Space get, their style of horror is mostly limited to some cheap scares via clever monster placement or gratuitous amounts of gore. Games like Siren and the Fatal Frame series are rarer than they were last generation, and even series that used to play up the horror to some degree have mostly ditched that for a shot at the action genre. Enter Corpse Party, a game that truly embraces the values of a good horror game. Jump scares only make half the game, after all.

It’s easy to understand why horror games are scarce nowadays though. A game that makes the player uncomfortable and disturbed is likely not going to sell as well as a game that’s accessible to everyone. Corpse Party plays right into this, constantly putting the player in situations where one might not feel right seeing events unfold, nor the direction the game might be going. Death lurks in every corner, and a wrong choice or unexplored room are very likely to lead to a very disturbing death for any of the nine characters involved in the game’s events.

Corpse Party follows the actions of a group of students and their teacher. After spending a late night at school telling ghost stories, the group is warped to Heavenly Host Elementary, a haunted building that had been previously torn down and replaced with the school they currently go to. The site of a series of murders that led to its eventual demolition, ghosts and other mysterious forces roam these halls, ungracefully killing everyone who steps into its halls. Your job is to unravel the mystery of Heavenly Host and lead everyone to safety. This, however, is much easier said than done.

The journey through Corpse Party is not a happy one. Characters will meet early ends. The depressing situation will drive people mad. You’ll see these characters get placed in some gruesome situations and circumstances, leaving nothing to the imagination. Every single line in the game is voiced, blood-curling screams included.  The game sports some impressive use of audio recording, with headphone use making an already-creepy game even creepier. Corpse Party alternates between great sprite work and detailed CG for important scenes, the latter most often showing up at moments you wish the game only showed you sprites for the situation.

For all the good things Corpse Party brings to the genre though, it does commit some cardinal sins for a heavily text-based game. There is no text or scene skip option available, making replaying whole segments to either progress in the game or find another of the game’s bad endings a test of patience. The early chapters aren’t as bad, but replaying the longer chapters from the start due to one mistake gets annoying, even with the fastest text speed enabled. Fortunately, the game separates chapters as their own separate games, along with giving you 5 save slots per chapter. It’s a decent compromise for the lack of text skip.

Despite a few issues holding it back, Corpse Party is a true example of a horror game done right. It has all the makings of a truly terrifying experience, which is entirely not for people with weaker sensitivities or get queasy to graphic scenarios. It’s almost a shame that this game is only getting a digital release, though understandable given the small niche this game is aimed at. Still, fans of the horror genre shouldn’t pass out on this gem of a title, as Corpse Party is one of those rare titles that usually doesn’t make the jump stateside.

Pros: True horror, full voice acting
Cons: No text skip option, no cross-genre appeal

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.