For a while I have skirted around the niche RPG Maker game community, touching upon a lot of non-combat driven adventure games such as Mad Father, Misao, OneShot, and Rakuen. Heck, I even checked out the progenitor of this greater niche, Yume Nikki— though I had some less than complimentary things to say about it. However, I have yet to cover one of the most well known and influential entries in this loosely defined genre, that of Corpse Party: Blood Covered.
I was initially unsure about which version to review, as there are three unique editions of this title, but primarily due to how the PSP and 3DS versions don’t look very good when emulated, I decided to take the simple way out and just for through the PC version, despite it having the least amount of content. Plus, I bought it before I knew about the version differences. But enough preamble, onto the review!
Corpse Party: Blood Covered Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Max, Linux, PSP, iOS, Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Team GrisGris
Publisher: XSEED Games
Corpse Party: Blood Covered, or just Corpse Party, is the story of a group of high school students who, on one dark and stormy night decide that it would be a nice gesture to partake in a ritual meant to commemorate their friendship. Unfortunately, things go awry almost instantly, and the gaggle of children are sent throughout space and time into a fourth dimensional hellscape shaped like a dilapidated elementary school, known as Heavenly Host. Scattered across various permutations of this school, these students must contend with the vicious spirits and monsters that lurk within its halls and uncover the prevailing mysteries of this unnatural domain in order to return to their own reality.
More specifically, it is a multi-chapter horror-themed puzzle adventure game that follows a rotating cast of characters as they deal with the emotional trauma that comes with being tormented by vengeful spirits and traversing the shifting halls of a corpse filled elementary school. The story itself is not one that I would necessarily call scary, but rather one that delves into dark unpleasant subject matter meant to make the player uneasy, while also encouraging them to sympathize with a surprisingly endearing cast of innocents who were thrust into this wretched realm. All of which is given structure and layers in the form of gradual insights about this school’s history, and the origins of the apparitions that haunt it. It is ultimately a well paced and entertaining story with some interesting mythology to it that I am actually quite interested in seeing more of.
As for the gameplay, well, it’s actually a bit rough. Even though it is running on a custom engine, the game does play much like an RPG Maker adventure game, with the majority of gameplay consisting of minor puzzle solving and figuring out where exactly one needs to go to next. It is a pretty standard format at this point, but Corpse Party does not execute it in the most elegant of manners. With the game speed being fairly slow due to the lack of a sprint button, navigation being a bit confusing due to numerous roadblocks and the lack of a proper map, and progress being very obtuse at times, to the extent that the game’s length would have assuredly been doubled if I was not using a guide.
Actually, doubled might be a bit too conservative, as in addition to occasionally throwing me for a loop with regards to progression, Corpse Party is also a title filled with numerous “wrong ends”. Now, that is not inherently a bad thing, as I found the endings in Misao and Mad Father endearing… for the most part, but the endings here rarely ever provide something additive to the experience beyond a small section wherein characters die, go crazy, or are possessed, which is mostly conveyed through text alone from the sample I played.
Oh, and these are not quick asides to one’s overall adventure, as it takes genuine dedication and successive playthroughs to find some of these endings. Also, unlike the aforementioned titles, the bad endings in Corpse Party are not always always obvious, making it possible, if not likely, for the player to stumble into these endings accidentally. Especially in the final chapter, which honestly felt like an unintuitive death trap at points with its branching webs of potential dead ends, and limited save points. I think the best example of this is how I wandered down a hallway near the end of the game, and just doing that was enough to cause me to stray away from the true ending and right into the little sister brocon ending. Which… is a really weird ending, but not for the reasons you might think.
Now, I previously mentioned that the main reason why I am covering the PC version is largely because of the visuals. I personally like seeing big chunky pixelated sprites as opposed to blurry meshes, and the sprite art seen in Corpse Party actually impressed me at points. Despite being small little chibi renditions, the character sprites are surprisingly emotive, have a variety of contextual poses, and generally are rather detailed in their design. The school and general map design is surprisingly effective at creating a spooky and claustrophobic atmosphere from very little. While the portrait art is… a bit odd to be honest, as it is used sporadically and aims to cultivate a far more cutesy vibe for the sake of contrasting with the grotesque imagery and themes present throughout the rest of the game. I ultimately like it, but I can see why a more grounded style was used in subsequent entries and revisions.
Then there is the music, which I feel falls into two main categories. Impactful and daunting themes that sell the dread and fear lurking within just about any given scene, and tracks billowing with such bombast that they wouldn’t be out of place in a Falcom game. While it is all good, I honestly found these more energetic tracks to be a bit inappropriate, both for more serious and emotional scenes, and for general navigation, mostly on account of all the backtracking and wandering. Meanwhile, the Japanese voice acting effectively conveys the more emotional scenes, and goes to enrich this cast of characters, but is also used in a fairly sporadic manner, often aligning with lines that involve a lot of screaming. At least in this version of the game anyways, as later versions have an entirely different and full dub.
Going through this version of Corpse Party has reminded me that I really should just bite the bullet when it comes to playing the most updated versions of games, as it is fairly rough around the edges. Yet despite some frustrations found with the act of progression, the title does ultimately deliver with a captivating story driven by detailed characters, interesting mythology, and a presentation that, while a bit limited at times, nevertheless creates an effective and horrific atmosphere. I just hope this same level of quality can be maintained, or even surpassed, as the series continued with Corpse Party: Book of Shadows… which I should get to sometime in 2019.