Corpse Party takes the choose-your-own-adventure genre, adds some 16-bit RPG, and then drips on some decaying Japanese horror. It isn't filled with high-fidelity scares, but its evocative anime and pixel art plays on the imagination.
A terrifying tale
Children are fascinated by horror stories, and the students of Kisaragi Academy are no exception. A group of friends are telling each other ghost stories, and decide to perform a charm known as "Sachiko Ever After". This ritual thrusts the unsuspecting students into an alternate version of the school – forcing each of them to relive terrifying events from its past.
You take control of many of these friends as Corpse Party rolls out its slowly unfurling and branching tales. How you react determines whether you make it through the game's five chapters. It’s an intricate system, and trying to see everything is not the best course of action, with the various side plots and characters leading you away from the main task of escape.
With hundreds of lines of dialogue, staying on track is not as easy. Tragic characters that you meet in the world regularly inspire sympathy, curiosity, and fear. Sometimes they are vital to your goal, while others distract. Though, interacting with these bit-players, does unlock side-stories.
Corpse Party's highlight is its design, which proves that less can be more. Much of this story-heavy experience is relayed through still anime images of the characters as text scrolls along the bottom of the screen. Despite their static nature, each character's expression changes between images to convey emotion with subtle effectiveness.
This carries through to the characters' top-down 16-bit personas. These walk around a pixel art world, their tiny forms conveying fear in an adorable manner as they emote and shrug their way around the screen.
Equally, Corpse Party's audio is suitably spooky, managing to keep you on edge throughout. Eerie, haunting music ensures the tension is high, with more powerful pieces on hand to accompany key events. Plus the original Japanese voice acting is great.
Dying to play it
Corpse Party is a game that is hard to talk about in certain terms, as giving examples of the horrors it holds would ruin it. Every one of it little vignettes fold together wonderfully to create a beautiful book of digital ghost stories.