Available now for both PlayStation Portable (PSP) and PlayStation Vita, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is an unusual proposition. The sequel to 2008’s Corpse Party (which in itself was a remake of a 1996 release) Corpse Party: Book of Shadows has less in common with a traditional videogame and more with a novel. This is an interactive story designed for fans of the parent franchise, but beyond that many may find the thick layer of questionable decency hard to penetrate.
The videogame begins by introducing a clutch of characters in a typically abstract manner, with Natsumi talking to a therapist on the phone about her daughter, Naomi. Naomi is not well, it would seem, extremely distant and suffering from visions of imaginary friends who she whole heartedly believes are real, but cannot convince anyone of the same. Sadly, her methods of trying are only likely to suggest that she does have a few more problems that the average angst ridden teenager.
Passing through the introduction gives a few hints as to what the videogame will entail, with many youngsters in school uniform sat uncomfortably next to imagery of violence, dead bodies and blood, as well as the occasional glimpse if a buxom young lady unashamed of her ample cleavage. After many years of Manga productions being adapted for a western audience it seems only appropriate that videogames should follow movies, series and novels, and Corpse Party: Book of Shadows may well be one of the first to do it. There have been similar experiences made available before in terms of interaction, but as far as the context is concerned Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is decidedly less approachable than anything Electronic Theatre has previously experienced.
The story is divided into chapters and doesn’t waste any time in delivering what its target audience demand. Within five minutes of starting the first chapter you’re presented with a still image of two large breasted teenage girls lathering one another in a shower room. Subtlety is not Corpse Party: Book of Shadows’ strong point. Furthermore, it’s clear that the imagery is more important in intent than the dialogue, as while the artwork is presented wonderfully, offering high quality still images on either the PSP or PlayStation Vita screen, the subtitled conversations are frequently poor in their localisation.
Progression through Corpse Party: Book of Shadows offers little in terms of variety. While the story picks up the pace in later chapters and the horror aspect comes forcibly into play, the player is left as a spectator for much of the experience. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows never once tries to pretend that the player is more involved than as a fourth wall, which some gamers might think is somewhat missing the point. For those who understand the intention of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows however, and are able to push beyond its casually offensive subject matter, this could well be seen as laying the foundations for a new kind of interactive experience.