There’ve been quite a few horror games released in North America for the Wii, but until now none have been truly scary. Suspenseful (Silent Hill: Shattered Memories), unsettling (Dead Space: Extraction), creepy (Resident Evil) and pathetic (Ju-on: The Grudge), yes. But scary, no. Calling is scary. Leave the lights on, don’t play alone scary.
There’s a website known as The Black Page. Anyone familiar with the series Jigoku Shoujo/Hell Girl should know right away that a supernatural and mysterious website should be on your block list, but apparently The Black Page visitors aren’t anime or manga fans. An occult magazine called Samsara was investigating it, but the findings were never published. Four people have found their way to the site, Rin, Shin, Chiyo and Makoto, each with their own reasons for doing so. All they seem to know about the site is that something isn’t right about it, and visiting it could give visitors the opportunity to talk to the dead. After all four arrive, they receive a strange phone call on their cell phones.
One of the creepiest moments I first encountered in Calling didn’t even involve a ghost attack. I was in the very first room in the game, and hadn’t even acquired the cell phone yet. I’d just saved at the black cat doll and investigated a dresser. Suddenly a cell phone rang, and I went to answer it. After doing so, all the lights went out. When I turned around to look back at the dresser, TV and wardrobe, I suddenly noticed a ghostly figure that appeared to be a young girl, looking down and watching my character from atop the wardrobe. If I moved closer, I could see her more clearly, but because the lights were out only got a message that the it was too dark to see.
After the call, all four people find themselves trapped in the Mnemonic Abyss. It’s a strange area between worlds that mimics reality, but isn’t. Standard rules don’t apply there, and ghosts freely navigate the area. These aren’t friendly ghosts, though. These are ghosts that are pissed about being dead and trapped, and want to take out their anxieties on the unsuspecting visitors to The Black Page.
Just knowing that something could be right in the same room as my character, watching and possibly ready to attack at any time, without anything I could do about it, was incredibly unnerving. Imagine how scared I was when it came time to venture outside the room – I was sure one of her friends was just waiting to ambush me in the hall.
These ghosts aren’t content to just occasionally hang around, pop up, grab you and/or kill you. They want to taunt you before doing so. Early on in each character’s Mnemonic Abyss explorations, each character will acquire a cell phone. Apparently, the number to said phone is written on every ghost-bathroom wall, as they’ll call you. Repeatedly. And they’re never, "Hi, how’re you doing? Hope you’re having a great day!" calls. Most of the time these are "I’ll find you and make you wish you were never born" calls. When you get a phone call, you’ll have to put the Wii remote up to your ear, like an actual phone.
The Wii remote is also used to investigate areas and look around. You’ll move and crouch, using the nunchuk, but use the remote to investigate every nook and cranny of an area. When you find something that can be investigated, the remote’s icon changes to a magnifying glass and you can enter a search mode. You’ll then use the remote to open drawers, doors, cabinets and such, investigate items you’ve found and so on.
The remote is also your only possible salvation from Calling‘s ghosts. Unlike the Fatal Frame series, where you can protect yourself with a camera, there’s no way to fight back against the ghosts in Calling. It’s more like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. All you can do is run. If a ghost does catch you because you couldn’t run away, and believe me it will happen, then you have one chance to dodge. If you miss, then you’re most likely dead.
There are cases, though, when even the remote can’t really help you. See, the four characters are only human. Being in such a stressful environment is going to have a definite impact. So sometimes, at the scariest possible moments, your character will literally be too scared to move. In which case, you’ll only be able to very slowly move and confront the presense which is stressing out the character. Then you’ll usually have to quickly react to the ghost before the worst happens.
Another thing to note is that there is no background music in Calling. In most games, this would be a negative, but in the case of Calling it is a positive that further enhances the otherworldly ambiance of the Mnemonic Abyss. There’s nothing to distract you from the creak, groans, whispers and other foreboding sounds that will occasionally surround you. If anything, your hearing becomes more attuned to the background noises because there is nothing else there to distract you. It also means you have no muzak warning for when a ghost is going to suddenly appear and try to kill your character.
Once it comes down to it, Calling‘s really all about scaring you, solving puzzles and hoping for the best. (It features quite a few sad stories though, so your best is probably still going to end up quite depressing.) Your investigations will help you find puzzle pieces and passwords that might help you survive in the Mnemonic Abyss for a few more minutes or hours. Maybe even escape, in some shape or form, could even be possible.
The only downside is that you constantly have to keep the remote pointed at the screen when exploring. You can’t just automatically set it to remain at a stable position while you move around a new location, or travel through hallways to new rooms. I suppose it’s good, in a way, since it encourages you to keep looking around. It’s also quite realistic, since if you really were exploring an area you wouldn’t keep staring in one set location. But sometimes you want to it to be stable while you’re moving from one place to another.
It’d be easy to overlook Calling, especially if you’ve been burned by Ju-on: The Grudge, but if you’re a Wii-owning horror fan, you should at least look into checking Calling out. It’s very well made and quite frightening, especially if you adjust your surroundings to complement the ambiance created by the game.
Food for Thought
- To get the full effect of Calling, play it late at night, alone, in a very quiet, dark room. Adjust your TV settings too.
- If you scare easily, don’t play it alone. Play it during the day, or with friends. Or, if anything, have some music playing in the background. Calling is very good at freaking you out.
- Calling really makes good use of the Wii remote, and it seems like it’s better at using the remote as a flashlight and phone than Silent Hill: Shattered Memories.