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21Oct/090

Ju-on : The Grudge - Haunted House Simulator game review

500x_grudge1_02 This game has a lot of potential, and it's based off of one of the few good recent horror movie franchises I've seen lately.

I won't lie to you, I'm a big fan of the Ju-on : The Grudge films, I've seen them all (and if you think it's limited to the 3 American films, you're sorely mistaken. And I’m enough of a fan to admit the American versions of the The Grudge 2 and 3 were terrible) and this game does manage to keep the feeling of suspense those movies put forth thanks to the help of Takashi Shimizu who was the creative consultant. And it's  bargain price at $29.99 doesn't hurt it either and would make a great Halloween purchase.

 

 

 

There are a few problems though, which I'll get to in a bit. But for now, let's concentrate on what this game gets right. Graphically, it's not perfect. Very jagged edges, low polygon counts, weird loading where things seem to pop up out of nowhere like boxes and various scenery. But the details are actually pretty good, and the two antagonists are very close to their movie counterparts right down to the creepy mannerisms they have such as Toshio's knee rubbing when he's sitting in a corner and running by just out of site. And Kayako is just as terrifying here as she is in the movies, maybe more-so at points because she does some things in this game that the actress, regardless of her contortionist abilities, would never be able to do. And it's an extremely dark game, most times you're going through almost pitch black with the only light source being your flash light. And the lighting, what little is there works perfectly for the purposes of this game. There are a few misses, such as Kayako's hair. It just doesn't look like hair to me. And the scenes where it attacks you are just corny and ridiculous. And regardless of which members of the family you're playing, they're all right handed and all their arms look exactly the same. And the low polygon count really makes for some very sharp edges. And the hair in the game looks like late PS2/Xbox to early Xbox 360 quality, which is a big deal because Kayako's hair is just as much of a character in both the movies and the game as she is. Now, yes, I know this is the Wii and it's not a graphical powerhouse. But I know it's capable of much better than this.

959942_20091002_790screen016 With the somewhat low graphically quality that is well hidden by the darkness of the game, the sound is a whole other beast. For a system that doesn't support surround sound, it's awesome. Music is very sparse and more saved for the "run like hell" moments and the scares. But the environmental sounds are just awesome. Your chosen character's heavy breathing and the sound of their heart about to beat it's way out of his or her chest to the little creaks and groans or whichever of the various environments you're in. And not to mention the sound of Toshio running everywhere and that damn cat noise he makes that initially drew me into the series of movies in the first place, Kayako's occasional death rattle to let you know that she hasn't forgotten about you. The sound is the best part of the whole game because it helps the occasionally cheesy scares make you damn near jump out of your skin. Everything about the sound is every bit as as good as what you would expect from going into a haunted house and is done extremely well.

959942_20091002_790screen005 The scares in the game are just that, scares. Things jumping out at you in front of the screen. The visual stuff is more of a "GOTCHA!!!" kind of thing, which STILL gets me. I'll be going through a level I've been before, KNOW that a scripted event is coming, and STILL jump a lot of the time. But there's not much in the way of psychological scares like the movies have save the for sound. Which is still my favorite aspect of the game For the most part, the game is pretty easy because the gameplay is fairly shallow. All you really do is walk around getting batteries for your flash light and keys. Occasionally something different, but it's never really all that different. You collect little hidden items, but you're not able to really see them. They just kind of sit there. But they do allow you to unlock a extra level once you find them all. So that adds to the replayability a LITTLE, but not much. And you won't have to worry about running out of batteries, because they take a while to go dead (which is fortunate considering how slowly you move). But takes a guess what happens once they go dead. Everything you actually need to play the game glows like a little star in the darkness, so you don't have to ever worry about whether or not you will find them.

959942_20091002_790screen001 Now to talk about the gameplay a little more in depth. The game uses a single remote setup. You hold down the B button to walk forward, and use the remote to look around like you’re used to. And the A button manipulates things and picks things up. You can only manipulate things when a picture of the button is in the corner of the screen. And unfortunately, that’s about it. No strafing, no ducking, you can’t even walk backwards. What you’ve got is it. And the control is clumsy to say the least. I’ve played games where aiming with the remote works, and it just doesn’t work all that well here for whatever reason. And that’s the biggest obstacle to enjoying this game, because I almost immediately dismissed the entire game due to the terrible control. Which I know isn’t fair, but still. And during the “run like hell” scenes it’s not always apparent what you’re supposed to do, sometimes you’ll see an arrow that points straight up. Which means you move the remote up. But other times it’ll be pointing up, but slightly forward. And it’s extremely hard to tell which is which sometimes, and the game is very unforgiving about messing up on those. In the later levels, you literally have about half a second to react. And the game bases your fright level as to how you move the remote, which is very bad for someone like me. It is literally, physically impossible for me to hold my hands steady. I shake like a leaf regardless as to what I’m doing, and that makes some of those scenes extremely difficult because sometimes you have to keep the remote cursor inside of a very tiny circle and that’s near impossible for me to do. Now, of course, for most people this won’t be an issue. But it is a fairly large one for me. And the game seems to think I’m more freaked than I actually am and calls me a sissy and various other things when I either beat a level or die. :)

959942_20091002_790screen004 And something else, the game is rather short (probably explains the cheaper price tag). You can get through the main bulk of the game in about an hour and a half, which … if it was something a bit more than simply a haunted house simulator I’d knock it for that. But it’s the perfect length for what it is in this writer’s opinion. There are 4 main levels to the game, and when you manage to find all the little hidden objects throughout the game, you unlock the actual house that is featured in the film. After that, unless you get someone over to your house who’s never played it, there’s not much of a reason to replay it. There IS multiplayer but not in the conventional sense. Another person can sit back while someone is playing the game and hit buttons on his or her remote to trigger events in the game to try to scare the hell out of the person playing it. Which is actually pretty fun to do, but that’s about it for multiplayer.

7.5 – This is a fun game once you get past the somewhat weak graphics and the control scheme. Some people may be turned off by the extremely slow pace of the game, but when’s the last time you went just tearing through a haunted house for your local Halloween thing? Exactly. Don’t go in thinking this is a survival horror game, because it isn’t. There is no combat at all (trust me, I’ve tried). It stays very true to it’s source material, which is one of the things I love about it. And it does a great job at creating a very spooky atmosphere and will more than likely send quite a few shivers down your spine when you hear Kayako’s death rattle or Toshio banging on things and running off. I do wish there was more to it, but it’s definitely worth the 30 bucks if you want something a little different this Halloween. Turn out all the lights, crank up the sound and scare the hell out of either yourself or your girlfriend or boyfriend. ;)

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