I don’t often review horror games, there’s a few reasons; I have issues with most horror games relying on jump scares, but also I’m actually a bit of a wimp. I jump at the drop of a hat, and can easily creep myself out with just a memory. It comes from watching horror films at a very young age and having a way over-active imagination. The thought of a Japanese horror game however piqued my interest. The original Ring has one of the creepiest sequences I’ve ever seen; for reference it’s the actual video itself, something about that dude stood in the stream breaks me. With Japan being masters of unsettling horror I had high hopes for Corpse Party: Blood Drive, unfortunately I’ve come through the experience more confused than scared.

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Corpse Party is a series of survival horror games that have appeared on various handhelds and systems over the past decade. The latest, Blood Drive, is a continuation of the previous instalment Book of Shadows. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of this and as such I can safely say that if you are new to the series, Blood Drive is not the place to start. I’m torn as to whether to blame the game for my lack of knowledge, it’s not like it’s easy to understand Star Wars if you began with Return of the Jedi. It just feels like the game makes very little attempt to accommodate those of us not versed in the canon of the series. What I could decipher was that in a previous game that our heroine, Ayumi, arsed around with a magic book and the outcome was that various horrors happened, including numerous friends being killed, except they weren’t just killed, they were wiped from existence and the only people who remember them are Ayumi and her friends who got caught up in the same nightmarish troubles.

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Although the game sells itself as a survival horror, that aspect takes a very far back seat to give room for the far more prevalent visual novel side of things. The opening of the game sees you click your way through what feels like hours of confusing exposition that needs to be thrown out before you can get the ball rolling. Characters are introduced and reintroduced at an ungodly rate and you’re left reeling from trying to take in all of this information. Eventually you’re released from the press x to hear next piece of Japanese V/O and Ayumi is the first character to return to Heavenly Host Elementary, a location that I was led to believe had been destroyed with her friends, but it turns out it was just hanging out in a different dimension. Seriously, this game’s story is not user friendly.

The bulk of the actual ‘game’ is spent in darkened corridors and classrooms, navigating your way by torchlight or phone light. Batteries die and with a scarce amount of spares lying around you end up walking to a new location, turn on torch, look at what to avoid, be it traps, hazards or enemies, turn off torch, remember route. This isn’t the streamlined and well-paced experience I was hoping for. Adding to the clear lack of streamlining with Corpse Party: Blood Drive you’ll also have to face the true horror of atrocious load times. On occasion I was able to get up from my sofa, pour myself a drink and return to see the loading finish. It’s not even the length of the load times which will cause frustration, it’s the sheer number. A relentless tide of ‘Loading’ blinking on your screen when you try to perform any action.

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In, from what I can tell is a change for the series, Blood Drive has decided to go with a Chibi cute art style for all non-Visual Novel graphics. On the face of it this change is quite cool, it’s a style I enjoy and is something a bit different. Unfortunately about 20 minutes into the game you get a scene where a character self-harms with a pair of scissors. Rather than being a horrific cry for help this comes across as somehow slapstick and can’t help but induce a laugh for the sheer surreal nature of it all. Had this been done in a cutscene or even in frames in the visual novel section this would have had so much impact, instead I just laughed.

The sound is Corpse Party’s strength, with a set of headphones the whole game’s audio is one creepy experience after another. It all comes together to be a jarring experience, the unnerving tones and approach to sound design with the Chibi character animations is a juxtaposition that I found it hard to look past.

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This game needs to tick off two boxes for me to recommend it to a certain crowd, is it a good horror game? And would fans of the series be satisfied? To start with fans of the series my response has to be yes; from an outside perspective this game seems to be pure fan service, a constant reintroduction of old faces and locations that if I remotely understood what was going on I’m sure would have me giddy with excitement. But for a horror game? I can’t say it’s worth a purchase. On a system that has classic’s like Resident Evil and Silent Hill available the repetitive and uninspired techniques to induce fear into the player come across as more played out than frightful. For a game to be truly scary you need immersion, nothing will take you out of the mood quicker than the load times and the generally slow pace of the experience. If you like the series you’ll be buying this game anyway, for everyone else? I’d just hit up Steam and play whatever Youtubers and screaming about these days.

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Ruaidhri

Big-Boss of PixelBedlam.co.uk
Ruaidhri has been writing for a number of sites over the past few years, spewing his vitriol and love in equal measures on all topics from Video Games to Film and Board Games to Geek Culture. He started PixelBedlam in September of 2012. Follow him on Twitter!

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