Corpse Party: Blood Drive is a horror visual novel set in the creepy alternate dimension of Heavenly Host Elementary, a school full of corpses, ghosts and the occult. Drawn back to the school by the memories of her friends, young Ayumi is searching for the one book of black magic that might be able to bring her dead companions back to life, risking life and limb in the treacherous halls of the school in the process.
Most of your time is spent exploring the winding halls of Heavenly Host Elementary, dodging spike traps, broken floorboards and hidden trip wires to collect useful objects and solve some simple puzzles - such as using a loose floorboard to bridge a gap in the floor, or a gas lamp to burn away the hair that holds a door shut. Occasionally you'll run into ghosts and spirits in the halls, some of which may help by telling you the location of a key, whilst others are more out for blood, chasing you through the corridors until you manage to lose them, either by ducking in a classroom or hiding in a cupboard until they've safely passed by. Such chases may put the fear of god into some children, as well as being potentially confusing, as there's no set pattern for how to get away from ghosts - it all depends on the ghost in question.
A large part of the game is a "visual novel", meaning much of your time in Corpse Party will be spent reading the text conversations between characters on screen, watching the story unfold, or catching up on story sequences while exploring. With its voice overs being somewhat infrequent and entirely in Japanese, a pretty solid reading ability is a must here, especially as it can be tricky enough knowing where to go and what to do next if you can read - let alone trying to play the game blind. All too often it relies on you heading into a specific room or whatever to trigger a cutscene to move the story on, but gives you little in the way of hints as to where you need to head, leading to a lot of potentially frustrating wandering around corridors. Sometimes, what it expects you to do goes against what seems logical at the time, such as one part where you need to run towards a murderous ghost, into unknown territory in order to progress.
As a horror game, it should come as little surprise that Corpse Party: Blood Drive is violent, gory, and more than a little adult at times. Exploring the school that claimed the lives of your friends, you'll often come across corpses of students sprawled on the floor, sometimes skeletal, sometimes in pools of blood, sometimes hanging themselves in the toilets, each with a collectible tag that describes their demise, sometimes in graphic detail. Likewise, cutscenes show characters stabbing themselves with knives, complete with blood spurts, a child crucified on a stake in some occult scene, or one character as a ghostly version of themselves, with a bloody mass in place of their face. Text descriptions can also be similarly gory, talking of "blood gushing into the air from the gaping hole above my neck" or graphic descriptions of someone's entrails falling out between their legs into a bloody pool on the floor.
Generally speaking, blood, guts and gore are the name of the game here, although there are a couple of innuendo-y conversations, often referring to one character's lack of chest - and another's ample dimensions. Bad language is pretty frequent too, with words like f*ck, sh*t and b*tch/b*stard cropping up fairly often, as well as various combinations of such things, like f*cktard and sh*tass.
Format Reviewed: PS Vita