I’ve not played the previous Corpse Party games which I hear are both horrifying and brutally gruesome, but Blood Drive seems to carry on that tradition in spite of its new chibi design.
Whilst I’ve played more than a few survival horror games, Corpse Party is definitely one of the more visceral and creepier ones as it uses its visual novel elements to detail violent acts, along with CG images that make me grimace. It’s hugely unsettling and although I struggled to play for long periods of time, and don’t think I’ll be playing its predecessors anytime soon, it’s easy to see why Corpse Party has such a niche following. I can’t really say I enjoyed my time with it though, as it’s let down by far too many technical issues that interrupted the flow of the gameplay, and much of the story and character’s actions struggle to make sense.
After the events of the previous games where many friends fell victim to being trapped in another realm found inside the school, which has strong spiritual ties, and many then proceeding to be brutally murdered, Ayumi heads back after hearing she may be able to bring those who’ve passed on back to life as their spirits may still be trapped at Heavenly Host Elementary School. Whilst Ayumi’s heart may be in the right place, she doesn’t come across as clever and realises that she’s in more danger by returning, despite having seen her sister and friends die due to going to this same very place. A friend of hers does try to stop her, but she attacks him and continues on anyway, getting him hut in the process – it’s extremely difficult to like Ayumi as much as I’d like too considering what she wants to do, but she should know that others will get hurt just by visiting the dangerous realm again. The story itself proves to be interesting but the characters aren’t quite as well-written, and Blood Drive feels like an unneeded sequel with little more than wishful thinking that sets it in motion.
I’m not a fan of the gameplay whatsoever. First I’ll point out my two biggest issues with the game – past the awful writing – which is the insane loading screens (I’ve had a loading screen last a good 3 or so minutes, which is far beyond a joke) and the pacing which consists of you walking a few feet, being stopped for whatever reason, and rinse and repeat. It’s irritating all of this works together to stop the game from being scary a lot of the time, and some of the dialogue was laughable. Sure, it’s still violent and a tad unsettling, but it doesn’t feel like a game that needed to exist and feels little more than a cheap sequel that seemingly rids itself of what made the series popular.
The actual gameplay mostly consists of walking around and finding a way to advance throughout the game, whilst implementing heavy visual novel elements. There’s a lot of reading and investigating, and you’re advised to hide from evil spirits as, well, they’ll murder you if they get their ghostly hands on you. It can get pretty tense but again, many things about the gameplay hold it back from being a good game, and it ends up being a frustrating experience that feels rushed and not much fun to play. The visual novel elements are fine when they’re not suddenly interrupting the gameplay, but the subtitles are a bit too wavy for my liking.
I know that it’s not to the preference of many long-time Corpse Party fans but I quite like the chibi visuals, although they don’t do a lot to match the game past the cutesy visuals being in contrast to how gutwrenching the game is. Don’t think everything will look as cute as the character models though, as the environments are creepy and there’s plenty to make you cringe away from the screen – whether you’re playing on Vita or the PlayStation TV. I understand that the game is supposed to be very dark but as it’s set in a school, much of the environment looks the same. Due to the crumbling nature of the building, there are hazards on the floor that chip away at your health and these seem to be almost everywhere – again, it’s something that could’ve been better implemented but ends up being an annoyance more so than anything else. The CG imagery and character portraits are fairly good for the most part but the slow pause in changing them, again, is in poor form.
There’s little to the OST as it opts mostly for ambience, but the excessive reuse of sound effects in both enemies and environment eventually grate on you and become less scary past the first hour or so, and there’s then not much left to say about audio to make up for it. There’s only a Japanese voiceover available which is fine and having much of the dialogue voiced is nice but it’s less frequent than I expected it to be, but that’s a small complaint in comparison to the abundance of gameplay issues it has.
This could’ve been a great horror game but the constant pausing, poorly written dialogue and the notable reusing of assets does nothing to aid the game but does a lot to bring it down. The scariest thing about it is knowing how terrifying it would be to be in that situation, but the game doesn’t do well in attempting to replicate that fear. It’s not enjoyable to play and I found myself wanting to play something else more than once, and I really can’t recommend it to fans or newcomers – one good point is that I didn’t feel lost as a newcomer, as the game covers some of the events from the previous games. Corpse Party: Blood Drive is far from one of the best games on Vita, and I very much doubt that it’ll be remembered as a stand out horror game.