Video games that aim to give you scares are nothing new, but for the most part, gaming scares are derived from big, aggressive things jumping out from the shadows to attack your character—who is usually at least somewhat capable of fighting back. But what happens when you’re a group of high school kids forced into a situation where literally everything can kill you, completely helpless as you and your friends face death and despair square in the face? That’s the concept behind 2011’s adventure-game sleeper hit Corpse Party and Book of Shadows, a brand-new follow-up.
Corpse Party follows a group of Japanese high school classmates who have been sucked into Heavenly Host Elementary, a long-demolished school with a bloody history—and equally bloodthirsty residents—that exists in its own reality. The skeletal remains littering the halls are indication enough that many have previously tried and failed to escape this living hell. As unspeakable horrors occur around them, the students are forced to confront their own worst nightmares and the increasing instability of their companions. Can anyone leave Heavenly Host with their body, soul, or sanity intact?
If you’re new to the Corpse Party series, it’s best not to jump straight into Book of Shadows. It serves more as a companion game to the original by expanding upon many of the characters’ backgrounds and presenting alternate takes on events that occurred in the original game. If you haven’t played the original, the game’s eight chapters will likely feel disconnected and confusing to you. If you do already know what happens in the original story, however, Book of Shadows will provide several excellent companion stories, as well as an intriguing new epilogue.
Like the original, Book of Shadows is broken up into several separate chapters that unlock in sequence once a “true ending” has been reached in the preceding chapter. Exploration, however, is very different: it’s more akin to the investigation portions of the Ace Attorney games than the 16-bit RPG-like maps in the original. You’ll need to carefully scour several locales and backgrounds for clues and solutions. Sometimes it isn’t always obvious where you need to go, which is a bit frustrating, so don’t feel too bad if you get stuck and crack open a FAQ from time to time.
But it’s best to play through “blind” as much as possible to get the most out of Book of Shadows. The game is filled with literal life-or-death decisions that can turn out unspeakably badly. Don’t expect too much animated gore, though—many of the most violent sequences of Book of Shadows are described only in sound and character dialogue. It’s actually profoundly effective at being disturbing, as it allows you to experience the fear and suffering of the victims firsthand rather than being a detached observer. Make no mistake, this game is absolutely not for anyone with a weak constitution.
If you enjoy a good adventure game, or are looking for a game that delivers some very scary material in a fairly unique way, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows should definitely be on your radar. The fact that it’s heavy on text and light on combat doesn’t make it any less of an intensely terrifying experience. Just try to have some franchise familiarity going in, lest the full effect of the game’s fearful atmosphere be dulled.
Hint: Keep plenty of separate saves for each chapter. You never know when a choice you make early on can come back to haunt you in the most unfortunate of ways!
Official Game Website
by Heidi Kemps