Corpse Party Review

In 1996, a small developer by the name of Team GrisGris released a unique horror adventure game made in RPG Maker for the Japanese only PC-98.  A decade and a half later, the game is remade for the PSP, terrorizing western audiences for the first time via the PSN download service.


The game follows a group of 8 students and 1 teacher who have been transported to an old haunted school by the name of Heavenly Host Elementary.  There, they will run into malevolent spirits, dangerous deathtraps, and plenty of corpses belonging to several other poor souls transported to the nightmarish institution.

While Corpse Party does have RPG and visual novel elements, it primarily falls into the adventure genre. The game is divided into chapters with each one giving you control of a different character, at least for the first few.  The player navigates one character represented as a sprite through the school, interacting with other characters and objects to advance. Figuring out just how to move forward is one key aspect of the gameplay with many puzzles and obstacles standing in the player's way.

There is HP, but this is for the most part a red herring.  There is very little resembling actual combat.  Most "skirmishes" with evil ghosts and other hostile entities consist entirely of running away with a capture almost always resulting in instant death.


A large part of the challenge comes from the decisions you will have to make in order to move forward. In fact, you will be dissuaded from doing certain actions no matter how tempting they may be.  For example, a note on the wall might say not to read the newspaper on the floor just a few feet away.  Of course knowing whether anything bad will really happen or not is what makes following the advice a gamble.  Perhaps you will die or perhaps it will actually help you advance.  You must use your best judgement.

Often, there will be absolutely zero indication that the decision you made was the correct one.  It is also entirely possible that a certain decision will lock you into a game over or worse; prevent you from completing the chapter at all.  There is a bit of trial and error involved and it is best to keep multiple saves despite the relatively short length of each chapter.

Since we are talking about a horror game here, it is important that it delivers on the scares.  Thankfully, that is indeed the case.  Even though 16 bit-esque graphics doesn't exactly lend itself to the genre's selling point, the atmosphere is fantastic.  While walking down a dimly lit hallway, anxiety will set in and potentially cause some hesitation.  You will never know if a murderous poltergeist will be waiting for you at the other end. Perhaps a mannequin will spring to life and strangle you. That fear of the unknown is what makes the horror element in the game notable and not an afterthought.


As an adventure game, the story is vital to the experience and ties into the gameplay.  Fortunately, it does not disappoint.  When you aren't doing everything in your power to stay alive, your mind will be going crazy with speculation.  What is Heavenly Host Elementary?  How do we get out?  Is a happy ending even possible?  All these questions and more will race through your head when viewing some of the more shocking scenes.

In a way, the story is comparable to that of a typical slasher film, but with a bigger focus on character development and Japan's own brand of psychological horror.  It could also be considered a tragedy, with plenty of depressing scenes scattered throughout.  Bad things WILL happen to your favorite characters and thanks to the competent writing and presentation, it will very likely break your heart.

The characters are for the most part pretty likable and relatively relatable.  It is very easy to sympathize with them and hope they make it out of their plight alive.  The wild and cheerful Seiko, the misunderstood "bad boy" Yoshiki, the childish Yuka, the easily frightened yet reliable Satoshi; each character is interesting in one way or another and will pique the player's curiosity.

The story and dialogue are told through text boxes accompanied by static anime-style images of the character speaking.  When a character is not talking, the text describes the scene in great detail.  You will come upon a black screen a few times, making the descriptions quite helpful.

This game is NOT for the faint of heart.  From the disturbing descriptions to the grisly visuals, you might find yourself actually cringing on multiple occasions.  People will die in horrifying ways or be tortured to the point you wish they were dead.  Some scenes are implied to be so bad that they will not even be shown, leading to the black screen mentioned above accompanied by some bloodcurdling descriptions.  These are mostly a result of getting a game over, with each one having its own gruesome scene.  Those with a morbid curiousity to see the end of their character may actually intentionally die for this reason.


The OST does wonders for setting the atmosphere.  With tracks ranging from frantic to somber, you will find plenty that are well composed and fit the situation to a tee.

The Japanese only voice acting does an excellent job at conveying the sheer horror each character experiences.  There is A LOT of screaming, coughing, gurgling, and other noises that often accompany a gruesome death or those that witness one.  This coupled with the unnerving art and chilling soundtrack create a trifecta of terror that you'd be hard pressed to experience anywhere else.

Speaking of art, there really isn't much to complain about.  Rarely will you see a horror game done with sprites, but you would be surprised at how well it works with displaying the characters' emotions and feelings of dread even when ignoring the static images.  When adding the latter in, you will see some very nice facial expressions that perfectly match the look of panic and insanity you would expect from the situation.  These elements put together create an expressive cast with the added benefit of actually having naturally flowing dialogue.


Overall, Corpse Party is a fine addition to any horror game fan's collection.  With some very competent writing, a tense atomsphere, and a memorable soundtrack, this is one game that is more than worth the asking download price.