The remastered edition of one of the oldest RPG Maker Horror Games, if not the oldest one, Corpse Party on Steam plunges you into a Dark and Brutal world where not all is what it seems.
But is it scary?
After a short introductory dialogue, heavily involving ghost stories and superstition, the characters are quickly transported to a world that seems both to be in another dimension, and in the past. Players are immediately barraged by a dark and creepy atmosphere, with disturbing gore and imagery being juxtaposed against the cute, anime style graphics of the games characters. The effect is astoundingly creepy and unsettling, leaving me feel uncomfortable and at least a little wary of what's to come. Steeling myself for what's to come, I trudge ahead. Staying true to its predecessors, corpse party has very few, if any, jump scares, which gives it points in my book. Instead, the game focuses on making you THINK. While occasionally I’ll admit to having jumped in my chair, the horror behind this game is more of a mental variety. Did I cause that to happen? Is that my fault? How can I fix that so it won’t happen again? This game chooses to make you scared of your own actions and progress through the game, making you worry and wonder if that minor action you just took will snowball into murdering every character in the game. And I like it. I like it a lot.
As a remastered version of an RPG Maker Game, Corpse Party uses controls and mechanics familiar to anyone who enjoys the genre. Players primarily can either use a keyboard (no mouse required), or a controller as I did (specifically my trusty steam controller). While many games of the Genre might encourage players to spam the interact key on any and every object in sight, thankfully Corpse Party doesn’t have such a crutch to create “difficulty”. Useful Tools and the places to use them are often highlighted to players in some way, with many objects not critical to progression still having flavor text regardless. Indeed, discovering hidden text can add quite a bit to the story, making the mystery of game world a little less...well, mysterious. While there is no combat in Corpse Party, the player does have hp. More specifically, 30hp. Occasionally during puzzles or encounters with whatever ghouls you may find, the player can take damage from Environmental Hazards or enemies. Obviously, if the player's health is reduced to 0hp, they die. Death isn’t so bad, simply sending players to the main menu to continue from their most recent save. Speaking of saves, players can have up to three save files in each “chapter”. Players must find lit candles in order to save their progress, rather than being able to simply save anywhere with the menu, which can lead to some irritating spots where players may feel “stuck”. However, candles are close enough together to make this system feel well balanced and planned. Finally, one gameplay mechanic that is particularly disturbing is presented to players fairly early. By examining the remains of people scattered around the environment, players gain knowledge through the “victim” system. This system tells players the dead person's name, school, class, and finally how they died. This information is accessible both in game and from the main menu at any time.
What's that sound?
As any horror game player will tell you, sound plays an extremely important role in creating a good Atmosphere. So how is the sound in Corpse Party? Phenomenal. The music in many areas is both unsettling and fast paced, keeping the game moving forward and enjoyable without alleviating any of the fear players are feeling. However, simultaneously, there is a very huge glaring issue involving the music in Corpse Party. The game frequently changes music to better fit the situation, which in itself is actually quite a good thing. The caveat with this is that when the tracks are changing, the game will completely freeze for one to two seconds. While this doesn’t effect gameplay aside from being an annoyance, after a while it starts to get on your nerves. Sound Effects wise, this game is covered. From the subtle sound of flies buzzing over rotting corpses, to loud sudden bangs, this game has got it all, and more. The voice acting in this game, as is common with original Japanese voiceovers, is superb. Indeed, all of the voice acting is in Japanese and accompanied by English subtitles, but I personally wouldn’t have it any other way. While English voice acting may be less intimidating for newcomers, in my honest opinion the quality of voice actors over in Japan is superior in every way to their English counterparts, feeling much more comfortable and conveying far more emotion.
Character depth is important, and these characters are so deep you can’t even see the bottom!
Each and every character in Corpse Party is completely different from every other. Not a single character feels bland or allegorical, and the game practically implores you to understand them to their core. And while some information is blatantly given to you, such as this character being cynical and sarcastic, or this character only having a father to care for her and her family, much of it is implied and hidden out of sight. This may seem irritating to some in this age of instant gratification, but having characters with true depth and feelings, whose lives and experiences feel real and potentially understandable, is a rarity in modern games, with many developers choosing to create characters more shallow than a kiddie pool. As such, if you do play this game, I truly implore you to pay close attention to every piece of dialogue and information, because you just might learn something!
A game truly horrifying on a psychological level, Corpse Party returns triumphantly to the PC platform it began on with great success. With vastly updated sound effects compared to the original, the atmosphere has only gotten better. And if you prefer to read than listen, Corpse Party delivers as well with excellent character depth and dialogue, all bundled together with simple controls and mechanics that are easy to understand and enjoy.