"Team GrisGris' dedication to making players uncomfortable is weirdly impressive."
Intrigue, shock, terror, disgust, and then shock again. That about sums up the emotional roller coaster I rode when I had the misfortune of playing Corpse Party and its brutal sequel, Book of Shadows. The series began as a single RPG Maker game back in 1996, but has since evolved into a studio-developed, multi-part saga across multiple platforms. XSEED localized the first two titles for PSP, and now the upcoming Blood Drive serves as the final chapter in this trilogy of compelling but deeply unsettling horror adventures.
The Corpse Party series tells the story of a group of students attending Kisaragi Academy in modern Japan. When one of the students insists that the group perform a charm called "Sachiko Ever After" in order to solidify their friendship forever, something goes horribly awry and the group is transported to the haunted Heavenly Host Elementary School. Haunted by vengeful spirits, the students face a variety of terrifying ordeals in their desperate attempts to escape. The second game, Book of Shadows, builds upon the plot of the first and reveals that even the outside world is a dangerous place for the unlucky people caught up in the mysteries surrounding Heavenly Host Elementary. Blood Drive picks up immediately after the ending of Book of Shadows, and it immediately spoils the events of that game, although there is both a recap and an in-game "Encyclopedia Obscura" full of story details for unfamiliar players.
I'm not kidding when I say that Corpse Party is a brutal series — characters die horrible, painful deaths that are visually and aurally represented in excruciating detail. The first game emulates RPGs of the 16-bit era, and the second is mostly a visual novel, but even so, the sound design paints an extraordinarily clear mental image of the trauma these games' characters experience. One can hear the snapping of breaking bones, the squishing of eviscerated organs, pained screams and gurgling death cries... Corpse Party pulls no punches in delivering its unique brand of visceral horror. Blood Drive, having made the jump to the PS Vita, is now fully polygonal, meaning that the grotesquery is on display in higher definition than ever. Like, really. It's nasty. And I mean that in a good way, assuming gratuitous gore is your thing.
Blood Drive features 11 chapters of messed-up stuff happening to people who don't deserve it, as well as 8 extra chapters where even minor characters suffer in terrible ways. Characters can now be hurt outside of cutscenes; pit traps and other dangers reduce their HP, and once it hits zero, it's game over. Enemies are more aggressive, too, chasing characters from room to room. This is in addition to the returning Darkening system, where the characters approach the brink of insanity as they become more afraid. I'm not going to mince words: everything in Blood Drive is out to get you.
Team GrisGris' dedication to making players uncomfortable is weirdly impressive. The Corpse Party series is one that routinely inflicts emotional trauma on me, and yet I am so gripped by its dark narrative that I cannot help but see it to its grisly conclusion. You can experience the horrors of Heavenly Host when Corpse Party: Blood Drive releases on PS Vita later this year.