Corpse Party: Book of Shadows – PSP/Vita
Publisher: Xseed Games
Developer: Team GrisGris / 5pb
Release Date: Jan 15, 2013
Genre: Adventure, Horror
Reviewed by Jason Flick

Review Score: 5 of 5

In my years of gaming, I’ve played countless horror games where schools have made an appearance or have been the focal point of the action. None however were as excellently disturbing or captivating than Team GrisGris’ 2011 release of Corpse Party for the PSP. It’s been a little over a year since that fateful trip I shared with the classmates of Kisaragi Academy and it seems the powers that be weren’t too keen on my escape. It was apparent that I was destined to take another chapter from the scary crap lesson book of horrors as I dove happily into my review of Xseed and 5pb’s newest release, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows for the PS Vita and PSP.

At first appearance, you would think that Book of Shadows is a sequel to the original, but that is far from the truth. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows actually takes place before, after and during the events of the original story. If you played the original, then you’ll pretty much be up to speed on the events thus far. You don’t necessarily have to have played the original, but I would recommend it before playing this one.

Book of Shadows features eight tales that present alternate timelines where some characters go into Heavenly Host with a sense of déjà vu knowledge of their potential fates. It’s your chance in these chapters to try and change your fates by choosing the right decisions. Some of these chapters actually flesh out a lot of the backstory of some of the secondary characters in the first game. For example, players will get a look at Ms. Yui’s life before the events of Corpse Party in the “Encounter” chapter. There are several other characters that you will get to meet apart from the main cast throughout each chapter. Some of them I recognized in name from the original story, which was a nice treat and a great way to expand the story of this school of horrors.

Book of Shadows not only introduces other characters and scenarios to the player but also brings about a more personable experience by shifting the adventure into a first-person point and click survival horror. I rather enjoyed this change of pace, not that the original was flawed, but the suspense is more ramped up when you don’t know what’s going to happen from one room or hallway to the next. Like most point and click experiences Book of Shadows uses the analog sticks to move a cursor around the screen looking for blue highlighted areas to great effect. Another new feature is the ability to save practically anywhere, which saves a lot of time if you walk yourself right into a dead-end.

One of the most interesting things about Book of Shadows is the newly added “Darkening” System which brings about an insanity element to the series. The more horrific events or items you trigger the more your character descends into a frightened state and the graphics alter for the worst. This can impair your ability to make the right decisions sending you right into an early grave if you don’t keep your player as calm as possible. Any bad choices could end in one of many “bad endings” before you make it through to the true ending. Half the fun of Book of Shadows is discovering all the endings and it’s one of two ways to unlock the final chapter of the game. For those that played the first game you can unlock the final chapter by importing your save file from that game – a nice little loyalty reward.

As was the original, this horror story is available to play on both the PSP and Vita, so I took the opportunity to make use of the larger more vibrant screen despite no actual control advantages. I must say right off that the game doesn’t suffer one bit unlike some games as it takes full advantage of the screen without any noticeable stretching. Most of the time you’ll find yourself in dark corridors and classrooms filled with the remains of dead students and spirits so the game is pretty bleak to begin with.

That doesn’t mean that the developers slacked off though. The bleakest moments of darkness are just as detailed as the happiest moments in the warm sunlight. Book of Shadows features sharp visuals seen in its hand drawn character models and its gruesomely tragic deaths. The horror aspects of this point-n-click style can be down right repulsive to the faint of heart but I didn’t mind it in the least despite the tragic events that have plagued our society as of late. Nevertheless, Xseed and 5pb have created a work of fiction that is richly detailed and features great atmosphere.

Part of that atmosphere comes from its out-of-this-world soundtrack and audio effects. The score alone is amazingly creepy but it’s the audio technology in Book of Shadows that really makes this adventure memorable. Horror titles are usually best played on a console with the lights turned off, surround sound volume way up and during the wee hours of the night. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows however offers something most portable games don’t; the use of binaural 3D audio effects when using headphones. Using the same technology as in the original Corpse Party you are able to hear speech, haunting sound effects and maniacal childish laughter that seems to come from practically anywhere. I dare you to play this game at night with headphones on and lights off and not get chills down your spine. I will point out that the spoken dialogue in Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is completely in Japanese so get ready to read. Personally, I love this game just the way it is as some localizations don’t pan out so well. Luckily Xseed is on their A-game once again.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a game that almost begs to be played more than once if for no other reason than to experience all the possible endings, good and bad. But there is more to be had for the truly dedicated player as you can unlock music tracks, art stills and my personal favorite, the voice actors’ interviews which adds a more personal touch to the game. There is even a weird little mode that allows you to create your own custom conversations from spoken lines throughout the game.

I love horror games and more importantly I loved Corpse Party. Book of Shadows may have a different gameplay style but it is still 100% Corpse Party to its very core. The eight short stories that are contained within complement the original title as well solidify it as the newest addition to the haunted tale of Heavenly Host. The music and audio is to die for and the characters are memorable…both the living ones and the dead. If you like a disturbingly good tale, I highly recommend buying a copy of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows from the PlayStation Network today, plug in those headphones and turn out the lights.