Taking the week off, everyone! Here’s a review by Anne, the only person I know who has ever told me I’m optimistic. Enjoy!
Let me start off by saying I HATE THIS GAME! I spent multiple curse filled, blood pressure raising, hours playing this game and even the memories of it make me want to toss my Wii-mote off a tall building. There, with that out of the way I can look at this game a little more objectively but still, you know what you’re in for.
Ju-on: The Haunted House Simulator is, as so many people before me have stated, more of an experience than a real game. It plays in the style of old point and click adventures to a certain extent in that you use the Wii-mote as a flashlight and as a means of telling the lucky character of any given level where to go. This also allows you to interact with a limited number of pre-set objects that either progress the story or cause a jump-scare to occur. I say limited because there are a certain number of paper scraps one must collect in each level and they tend to be hidden in drawers or in mailboxes but it is sometimes difficult to figure out what can be interacted with and what is just a static background piece. The best example I can give is in the security guard level there is a section where you must flush all of the urinals in the men’s bathroom in order to set off the next sequence but prior to this none of the bathrooms have allowed such an option, so the player must go by trial and error to discover what will make the story progress. In addition, if you do not collect all of the pieces in the level you will find yourself replaying as the only way to unlock the final level is through having all of the pages from all of the previous levels completed.
With all of that nitty-gritty detail out of the way let’s talk game play. I would like to start off with one not to subtle hint: there is no run button. Each character walks down their given corridors like they are strolling through a museum rather than being chased for their lives by a vindictive ghost. Personally, if I were in their shoes I would have noped the fuck out of there way before things got as bad as they do and to hell with my dog, my job, or my ‘family’ (I think that’s what they’re indicating with that picture that shows up in each level and the little bit of commentary in the last one?). Picture this if you will: you are walking your dog when it suddenly gets away from you and runs into a darkened warehouse. In the very first room that you enter you hear it barking and attempt to open a set of doors only to be grabbed by something behind the door and shaken. Would you calmly start browsing around for batteries, keys, and hidden pages? I personally would be well on my way to another zip code and hoping the dog was smarter than it looked.
Additionally, and I know this is picking at small details but what is with the trend of having video game protagonists get horse shoes nailed to their feet before any game that involves any level of stealth. This game’s horse shoe sound effects are so bad that there were several times that I missed the beginning of a scare because I couldn’t hear it over my own character’s walking. Again, am I the only one who would be tip-toeing as quietly as possible if I were being chased or even taking off my shoes if they insisted on making that much noise? Also, where does one find a horse-shoer for humans? Is it a niche market? Is there a discount since there are only two feet to shoe or is it extra since you probably have to anaesthetize them so they don’t pass out when you nail the shoe on?
Finally, the motion sensor aspect of this game as a way to simulate a flashlight is actually a really innovative and interesting idea. Newer horror games have run with this theme with the most notable one in recent memory being Outlast. The problem with this is that the Wii-mote sensor in this particular game is AWFUL. I thought I had played bad Wii games before but I was wrong. When my character wasn’t determinedly staring at the ceiling like a paranoid pest control worker he or she would make 180-degree spins to go in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. This wouldn’t have been such a problem except that every level is for all intents and purposes timed due to the shortest lasting batteries that have ever been my honor to curse about. This means that half the time a ‘scary’ nose would occur and I wouldn’t even be looking in the right direction for the scare.
Which brings me to related point. If you run out of batteries or fail a quick time event, which you will because of the aforementioned control issues, you have to start the level all over again from the very beginning. This wouldn’t be such an issue except every last cut scene must be triggered in order in order to progress and the jump scares don’t change. After the first, or heaven forbid eighth time, you go through a level the preset scares simply feel like they’re taking up valuable time and are a chore to slog through. I’ll admit that every once in a great long while you’ll find an optional jump scare that you may have missed along the way but it is extremely rare and yet these soon to be yawn worthy moments still lead to the ‘scared’ and ‘sissy’ meters at the end of a level somehow filling even if you in no way waggle the controller during one.
One memorable time I was playing through a level for the umpteenth time and finally completed it only for the game to taunt me with a quip about my basically needing to go hide under a blanket while during the very next level when I nearly jumped out of my skin at a well placed and new to me jump scare it told me I had nerves of steel.
Now here is the part of the review that I like to call ‘random crap that was said during the game’. Some of this will actually be from my brother’s run as I made him play it to make up for him making me play through the first level of Dark Souls II blind (and I don’t play that type of game so I had no idea what to do at first) and spent a good hour or so laughing at me.
~’This looks like the owner’s own personal crop of weed.’ -Regarding the field from level 3 (the delivery boy level) with the grass covered play set and oddly shaped ‘plants’.
~’This person should just lay down the cash to get an LED flashlight or even a crank operated one.’ -Regarding the quickly draining batteries of the flashlights in every level.
~’This is a sign that you’ve taken your delivery to the next level… neither rain, nor sleet, nor slashing knife…’ ‘Oh, no worries, some days are just so strange.’ -Regarding the delivery man not only entering the apartment to attempt to deliver the package but then continues wandering around the buildings afterward rather that high-tailing it out of there.
~’That guy needs to wear bifocals!’ -Regarding the delivery man’s need to hold the package right up to his eye in order to check the address and later being unable to see more than an inch or two in front of his face.
~’Not the death tuba!’ -After yet again missing a jump-scare because my character was facing the entirely wrong direction.
So is the game worth the play through, I hear nobody ask. In my opinion no. It has all of the ideas and elements to be a great game from the haunting locations and claustrophobic environments of the classic Silent Hill games to the raging jump scares that we’ve come to associate with games like Five Nights at Freddy’s. The problem is that it has extremely limited replay value and even then it isn’t all that scary. I spent most of the short play time simply re-doing levels where I had failed a quick time sequence due to poor control sensitivity or looking for the annoying and sometimes ridiculously placed page fragments that truly require a walk-through to locate. This is made double frustrating by the fact that the levels are so dark that sometimes you don’t know if you’re actually progressing or simply have collided with an obstacle that you can’t see and are slamming the character uselessly and repeatedly against said immovable object. Darkness is atmospheric but it is not, in and of itself, scary.
In addition, the Grudge lady is poorly animated from her chunky octopus hair to her albino son who is practicing his cat calls. Even fans of the original movies are going to be disappointed as there is minimal plot other than that one or all of the characters in the game may or may not be living at the original Grudge site. If the game gave us any reason to relate to or even empathize with the characters this might have played out differently but as it is, slapping a name on the beginning of each level and then asking the player to feel bad when they ultimately meet their untimely demise is bad story writing. This is not to say the game can’t be entertaining for a short time but at least this gamer spent more of her time cursing poor controller sensitivity and crappy batteries then actually feeling frightened and in a haunted house simulator, the sense of impending doom is everything.