In this review, Corpse Party will be used to refer to the Steam version released on April 25, 2016. Unless explicitly referring to the original 1996 game.
Corpse Party on the PC, which is also called Corpse Party: BloodCovered to distinguish it from the original 1996 game is a puzzle horror game initially made in RPGMaker. The game follows a group of students and a teacher from Kisaragi Academy who are transported to the cursed Heavenly Host Elementary School. The students are sent to the cursed school after performing a ritual called “Sachiko Ever After”, a playful ritual that’s meant to be no more dangerous than fortune telling. However, this isn’t the case as once inside Heavenly Host the students quickly encounter the spiritual forces of the school.
Once inside Heavenly Host Elementary, players are taken through an episodic adventure chapter by chapter. Slowly the mysteries of Heavenly Host and Sachiko will be explored all while the health and sanity of those trapped begin to fade. The nine from Kisaragi Academy are separated by dimensions, as is explained in the game. While they’re all trapped in the same school, each group is unable to see one another and may even have access to different rooms and locations. Although, the veil between dimensions is thin and things one character does in their own Heavenly Host can have an impact on another group. For instance Ayumi, the class president lights candles that are used as save points. These save points appear in other versions of the elementary school for other characters as well, even though they’re not in the same version of the school as Ayumi.
Corpse Party has well-designed sprites that make each character recognizable on sight, along with a host of props that push just how creepy sprites can be to their limit. Piles of rotting meat, rusted buckets full of excrement and mutilated corpses are found everywhere in Corpse Party. This isn’t a game that’s shy about grotesque descriptions and body fluids. Floor details don’t always make it obvious what can and can’t be walked upon. A big hole in the ground is obvious, but at one point the player can walk across this big crack that appears to be full of glowing red eyes without issue. It’s worth mentioning that the PC version of Corpse Party, unfortunately, doesn’t have CG art for cutscenes. These can be found on the PSP version of the game, however.
The audio in Corpse Party is almost more important than the graphics themselves. Characters are almost fully voiced The sound and music of Corpse Party is purposefully designed to sound three-dimensional and set the mood for scenes. A board will creak in one ear while the sound of flies seem to buzz about your head. The music is almost upbeat at times, but that only makes the contrast more noteworthy when it stops, the lights dim, and a ghost slowly approaches from off-screen.
Most Japanese RPGs have a lot of backtracking and exploration to make use of a smaller map. As a remake of an older title, this is even more noticeable in Corpse Party. However, rather than being frustrating, Corpse Party rewards a player’s observation, logic and memory skills and it can be rewarding to piece together a recently found item with an obstacle that was unsolvable without it. Player choice can make a difference at pivotal moments, although quite a few choices in the game have no impact on receiving a particular ending. On that note, each chapter has multiple endings although there’s only one “True Ending”. Players will receive a star underneath the chapter title and a Steam achievement for completing each ending in a chapter, including the bad endings. Luckily for achievement hunters and completionists the game lets players skip dialogue and scenes they’ve seen already.
Overall, Corpse Party is an elegant old-school adventure game that makes great use of its limited tools. The sound cues and visuals create a sense of dread that doesn’t rely on jumpscares that seem to have become a staple of recent horror games. A great game for players who appreciate the atmosphere, Japanese horror and don’t mind some of the legwork required of retro Japanese RPGs.