The Japanese horror genre has brought forth some very creepy games over the years, but the Corpse Party series has definitely been one of the most interesting. Initially made within RPG Maker, this cult series transitioned to a polarizing visual novel style in the sequel. To conclude the Heavenly Host trilogy though, a hybrid of the previous entries has arrived in Corpse Party: Blood Drive.
The Corpse Party series has first and foremost been focused on the story, and that is definitely still the case here. That reliance on story does have its issues though, mostly with introducing newcomers to this world. Corpse Party certainly isn’t a huge name in the industry, being limited to platforms like the PSP, so someone that decides to jump into the series with Corpse Party: Blood Drive might feel lost. The game does reference past events, but a recap of sorts even in the menu system could have been useful for such a story driven series. Regardless, the story is very well written, with it serving as a satisfying conclusion to the first trilogy of games.
Corpse Party: Blood Drive made the interesting decision to change the way the game looks, outside of the visual novel sections at least. Rather than a 2D RPG style look, they instead decided to utilize a 3D look. Most modern games have adopted 3D art styles, so this makes sense overall, and the locations look fine for a handheld.
However, while this change might seem like a natural progression for the series, it really does more harm than good. The 3D style they go with character wise is of chibi character models, which clashes heavily with the horror theme. There are moments where the 3D models are used effectively, but it becomes a lot harder to take the game’s serious tone with this art design that feels more cutesy than scary at many points.
Rather than using the visuals for scares, instead the game is more focused on evoking fear through the unnerving story and disturbing situations. This is really where Corpse Party: Blood Drive shines brightest, with a story that adds in some mystery elements, while also throwing downright creepy elements in throughout.
Corpse Party: Blood Drive itself is split across numerous chapters, each of which is treated like its own section of the game. Upon the completion of one, you save and go back to the main menu to start the next, which does kind of slow up the game itself. However, this does allows one to jump in and out of each chapter at will, which is a useful option for those that may want to go back and play one specific chapter without having to play the game all over again.
Within each of these chapters, the game essentially mixes up the gameplay of the previous two games into one. There are an abundance of story based segments, which are done in a visual novel style, with two characters animations talking while overlaid upon a static background. The biggest issue with these is that they often run way too long, even for a very story centric game, to where it can feel like a chore to watch them again and again.
The other style of gameplay, which is much more of an actual game, are the 3D exploration areas. These are kind of a mixed bag, though they do get better when they are utilized more and in longer sections. These consist of the player controlling a character through an area without much in the way of directions. This requires a lot of looking around and opening of doors until you find the right way. There are some creepy enemies to come across that will chase after you and try to kill you, but as previously mentioned, it’s hard to really feel any level of fear here with the chibi designs.
Within each of these areas, there are random items that can be found, such as bandages or batteries, as well as more specific items for that area. Once an item is picked up, it goes into your inventory, and then you will be prompted to use them at certain areas. This adds a puzzle element to the game that definitely does enhance the gameplay a bit, though it may be a little hard to see some items.
Someone that decides to jump into the series with Corpse Party: Blood Drive might feel lost
The halls of Heavenly Host Elementary School are very dark throughout, which pretty much requires the use of a flashlight to correctly navigate. The problem would seemingly be that these are battery powered and run out before too long. However, the game includes a feature known as endless batteries that can simply be turned on by pressing the select button, as long as you currently have some power left. This was a weird design choice, as this is something that maybe should have been an option at the start, rather than something to switch on and off in the game.
The actual navigation through the various areas in the game can become somewhat of a problem at times, as the frame rate tends to slow down at certain times. Even worse are the load times, which are about as bad as they come. Even just getting back to the game from the pause menu can sometimes take more than 20 seconds, which really makes you want to avoid pausing altogether.
On the upside, the audio performance is quite fantastic throughout the game, which is certainly nothing new for the series. The developer conjures up not only a fantastic soundtrack, but also very fitting sound effects that greatly enhance the horror based atmosphere.
Corpse Party 2 may be on the horizon, but the conclusion of the original trilogy is here first. The puzzle-based exploration can be fun and the series’ signature horror themes are ever present here, but the clashing character design choices and other questionable decisions keep Corpse Party: Blood Drive from being an entirely bloody good time.
- This article was updated on October 26th, 2015