Note: Familiarity with the previous Corpse Party game recommended while reading this playtest. Also, I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but a few will creep in. Be warned!
Things after Corpse Party ended aren’t happy, even for the survivors. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows opens with the mother of one of the survivors calling her therapist, asking what to do about her daughter. Naomi isn’t eating, isn’t sleeping, and is more or less catatonic… and talks about a girl who doesn’t exist. A girl who was supposed to be in her class, but no one actually remembers this “Seiko” person.
But then, events turn straight around, and it’s like a reset button was hit. Naomi and Seiko are preparing for a culture festival for their school. Festival over, they hold a farewell party for Mayu, where Ayumi suggests they perform the “Sachiko Ever After” charm so they will all be friends forever. And they grip the edges of the charm…
…except for Satoshi, who shouts at them to stop. He yells about how it’s dangerous, how horrible things would happen, but who’s going to believe him?
And so everyone falls into Heavenly Host once again.
The setting may be the same in Book of Shadows as in the first game, and it is true that many aspects of the game stay the same. The first and most noticeable is the absurdly amazing audio quality of the game—binaural audio makes a return and every last line of dialogue (including narration) is voiced. You can still hear the pitter-patter of little feet as ghosts search for you, circling the desk you’re hiding under.
However, just as many things are different, the first of which is the game interface. You no longer control a character from overhead, watching their 16-bit sprite move from one creepy hallway to the next. The game is presented as a point-and-click adventure, where you use the analog stick to scroll around the image and the X button to look at whatever is observable. When the time comes, you’ll be asked to make choices, which will often determine the ending you get.
You travel to different parts of the map by using the L button to open the map and then choosing which area you want to travel to. The map depicts the whole of Heavenly Host in flowchart format. Moving from one end of the school to another can be tiring due to the slow fade effects, but looking stopping is necessary to capture the details of a place. I’ve noticed that rushing past an area seems to prevent you from even catching sight of a corpse lying in the hallway, for example. Thankfully, events will stop you in your tracks so there will be no accidental deaths that way.
The game also advocates an interesting “search as much, but as little as possible” attitude that originates from the fact that as you discover more about the horrifying building you’re trapped in, your Darkening meter (shaped like the Sachiko paper charm) slowly fills. At 20%, red starts creeping into your vision, and it only gets thicker as you start reaching 50%…
The game is still divided into chapters, each with their own set of Bad Endings. However, the chapters aren’t connected. Instead, they are more like a series of short stories expanding upon the Corpse Party universe, either following from one specific ending in the previous game, expanding upon existing events, or acting as prequels for some of the side characters who appeared in Corpse Party like Sayaka (Naho’s best friend) and Touko (one of Byakudan’s students, where Yuuya Kizami also attends).
Because of the format of Book of Shadows, some aspects are certainly different than in Corpse Party.
For example, since you don’t actually walk through the halls yourself, you can just avoid observing the ghost boy in the corner instead of actively having to dodge around him to avoid a Bad Ending. Despite this difference, the art, music, and excellent (and detailed) writing weave together an atmosphere that’s just as unsettling as in Corpse Party. Sometimes there are timed events that force you to make a choice quickly, and Book of Shadows is not without its sudden scare moments. And then, of course, there are the characters, whom I cared about no matter the format.
And if you cared about the cast in Corpse Party, you’re bound to care more (or dislike them more) in its sequel because this time we see many events fleshed out and from different point of views. We also delve further into their thoughts than in the first game, and so we have a stronger and clearer grasp of who the characters are—even some of the more undeveloped ones like Mayu, Seiko, and Yui as well as students outside of the Kisaragi Academy—and their relationship with others in the cast.
For example, my favorite chapter is Chapter 3 because it is one of the more lighthearted moments and because it showed us more about Yui, past and present, and features Yoshie, one of the more horrifying ghosts present in the Corpse Party universe. I especially loved the small moment at the end that made me go “Oh, so that’s why she was there!” In Chapter 2, you play as Mayu and gain much more insight into her personality, and in Chapter 4, you are introduced to Sayaka, Naho’s best friend, before she is also dragged into Heavenly Host.
Book of Shadows also comes with many extras. There’s the usual CG gallery and audio gallery, although you’ll have to unlock both by finding them in the game. The Unlock Status option in the Bonus menu allows you to see your progress in that. There is also another option—EVP Machine—that seems to allow you to “listen to and create conversations using any of the game’s binaural 3D voice files,” although I haven’t unlocked that yet. Finally, you can listen to cast commentaries that are also gradually unlocked as you complete the game.
If you also have Corpse Party data from the first game, you can view the game’s CG in Book of Shadows, which is very nice since Corpse Party itself doesn’t have a CG gallery. I believe all the CG are unlocked at once in Book of Shadows.
Food for Thought:
1. You can also collect name tags, like in Corpse Party, for completion’s sake.
2. Uploading the data from Corpse Party also allows you to automatically view the last Chapter. Otherwise, you’d need to view every Bad Ending in Book of Shadows to unlock this last Chapter, which contains hints of another sequel.