So, as I commented on the “Best Soundtracks” post, I really should like interactive novels. And yet, as with “XBlaze: Code Embryo”, “Corpse Party: Blood Drive” left me a bit cold … so cold, in fact, that I don’t think I’ll even finish the game.
The game is a chapter in a long-running “Corpse Party” series of horror visual novels, so I’m coming into the game in the middle. The game, however, is pretty good at getting you up to speed on what’s happened so far, which involves a magical inheritance through the family line, a book of magic spells, terrible injuries, and the disappearance from existence of a number of people, and even an old school. You, at least at the start, work through the girl who cast the latest spell and caused the latest disaster. While I’ve only experienced it once so far, the general gameplay is that you end up in a haunted place, and have to move around solving puzzles and dodging evil spirits that will attack you and kill you if they hit you enough. There are places that you can hide from them, but I don’t know of any way to actually attack them yet, and it looks to me like there isn’t any. There are also areas on the floor that you can step in and hurt yourself. You do have a flashlight that you can turn off and on to see things better, but if you use it too much and don’t have extra batteries it will die and, well, won’t work.
Graphically, outside of the cutscenes and internal dialogue, everything is done in the “Chibi” style, which doesn’t work all that well for a horror game.
Ultimately, there are two big issues that I’m having with this game:
1) The main character is far more scared by things that I am. This is understandable given her history — she’s survived a previous horrific experience that really ought to make her a bit jumpy — but since the game stops to let her panic it, well, stops me from playing the game until she calms down, when I’m not really upset at all. Ideally, the player should be more freaked out than the character they’re guiding is so that you don’t have their reactions getting in the way of the player’s reactions to the game. If the main character is much more scared than the player is, the player rolls their eyes at them and it takes the player out of the game.
2) Like “Cross Edge”, the gameplay and story have been done better elsewhere. All this game makes me want to do is play “Clocktower 3”, while “Cross Edge” made me want to play “Record of Agarest War”, because the “run away and hide” gameplay was done in “Clocktower 3” as well, and was done better, and the story in “Clocktower 3” was better, too. In fact, “Haunting Ground” is similar and again, more detailed in both story and gameplay.
Ultimately, I think it’s the latter that gets me when it comes to visual novels. Ideally, the story in a visual novel would be better than the story in other games … but many of the visual novel games go that way so that they can skimp on things and be smaller, and modern games often focus quite a bit on story, giving an overall better product. And since visual novels tend to simplify gameplay, what you end up with is a game that feels … small compared to other games. If the visual novel format is used to do something that a regular game would have a hard time doing, this can work … but “Corpse Party” does not seem to be that sort of game. Thus, I give props to “XBlaze: Code Embryo” for doing something that works well in a visual novel but whose gameplay is too small for regular games … it’s just that the whole “We decide the endings based on what you read” works really, really badly for me, who always wants to read everything.
Maybe there are visual novels out there that will more appeal to me, or maybe I’m just not the right audience for them.