Review: Corpse Party: Blood Drive
It’s Halloween, and that means spooks, scares, blood, and gore! We’re sitting down with the latest entry in the Corpse Party series, Corpse Party: Blood Drive, which released earlier this month for PC, a vastly more accessible state than its earlier PS Vita release.
Corpse Party: Blood Drive, developed by Team GrisGris and published by XSeed in North America, continues the trend of merging horror and gore with copious amounts of fanservice and a touch of black comedy. It’s a lengthy entry at that, with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
Spooks and Scares!
So, it should probably be said that if you intend to understand the story, playing through the original Corpse Party as well as Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a good idea. Blood Drive doesn’t do a very good job of bringing players up to speed on what has happened, jumping straight into the cast trying their best to continue their lives after the events of the previous games and the loss of their friends.
Taken at face value, the plot is nothing special. In a way it feels a bit forced to try and make this into a trilogy, with the seemingly destroyed Heavenly Host Elementary having survived, and a new villain introduced to take the place of Sachiko. It does quite honestly feel like the game could have ended with the first two and called it good.
That said, I found myself enamored with the writing itself. I found myself eagerly pressing on just to see what would happen to the characters, their reactions to the fear and grief. Was it a necessary sequel? I don’t really think so. Was it enjoyable? Most definitely!
Now, that said, there is a bit of an elephant in the room. While primarily a game about spooks and scares, there’s a good deal of fanservice at play. Sometimes it’s your typical awkward situation between teenagers, sometimes it’s little things here and there that are emphasized often enough that it’s obvious it’s a kink. And then there’s Yuka. She’s 14, looks even younger than that, and has a fanservice scene of her brother catching her naked in a changing room. I’m trying not to judge too hard, since it is a fanservicey Japanese game and this is to be expected… but still, yikes.
You Can’t Run and You Can’t Hide
Corpse Party: Blood Drive abandons the primarily visual novel style of Book of Shadows for a take more akin to its RPG roots. While the majority of the game is still visual novel-style conversations and exposition, these are broken up by exploration sections where players need to search, find items, and solve puzzles to progress in a typical survival horror fashion. There’s traps to avoid and dismantle, healing items to find, and spirits to encounter. With no way to fight back, players need to either run and hide or have a talisman on hand to protect themselves.
This leads me to one of my major criticisms about the game: It often feels like running away is an impossible task. While the game throws talismans at you fairly regularly, if you’re caught without one it can often be a death sentence. Running away doesn’t move you much faster than the spirits and, unlike them, you can tire. If you completely tire out, you’ll stop to catch your breath and get interrupted by attacks until you die. The only way to escape a spirit is to hide in a closet and wait for them to leave, but if they see you enter they’ll yank you out and attack you.
Unfortunately, remember that bit I said about barely running faster than the spirits? Getting enough of a lead to hide is certainly easier said than done. That said, saves are frequent enough that one can simply reload after death and avoid the ghost entirely.
Outside of that little detail, I did enjoy exploring Heavenly Host. There’s a certain satisfaction in tracking down the various hidden items and collectibles, and a fair few frights and surprises to be had. The collectible “Wrong Ends” make a return as well, so even failing to solve a puzzle or escape from a boss can often be just progress on seeing more plot and achievements.
It’s Coming from Inside the House!
Corpse Party: Blood Drive nails the presentation perfectly. The visuals are beautiful, in all their bloody, visceral, gory glory. The music is fantastic. But by far the best part is the sound design.
The Corpse Party series utilizes a technique called binaural recording, using a dummy head mic to better capture the 3D element of sound. It’s no exaggeration to say that there were several moments where I actually felt like the sounds were coming from my own room rather than just game sounds through headphones. It’s a subtle effect, just a bit different than normal stereo sound, but it’s like the auditory equivalent of increasing the resolution or frame rate; once you hear it, you realize how much better sound can be.
It’s a Dead Man’s Party
Barring a few minor issues here and there, Corpse Party: Blood Drive continues to be one of the most enjoyable visual novels I’ve played. It’s campy, gruesome, a little fanservicey…so a lot like the scary movies I grew up with through a different cultural lens. If you’ve enjoyed the Corpse Party series so far, I highly recommend picking this up. If you’re new to the series, maybe start with the original and work your way up here.
Review copy provided by XSeed for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.