Probably the most appropriate October release this year is Xseed’s Ju-on: The Grudge. This haunted house simulator for the Wii may not be deep, lengthy, thought provoking or especially challenging, but it does what it promises. It’ll give you the haunted house experience in your home and an occasional scare.
Ju-on: The Grudge has the player exploring a number of mysterious and haunted areas. The game starts in an abandoned factory. After choosing your gender and astrological sign, you watch as your dog, Ivy, runs after a ghostly apparition and heads into the factory. Of course you just happen to have a flashlight in hand and bravely go in after her.
Unfortunately, this is a factory that is haunted. Just walking in means that you’re cursed. You’re going to be assaulted and attacked by vengeful ghosts and frankly, you probably won’t make it out alive. Once you get in, the door locks behind you.
Now, you’ve got to find your way through safely, and hopefully save your dog as well. You’ll only survive as long as your flashlight lasts, so you have to collect batteries, find keys and get through as quickly as possible. Sometimes the ghastly boy and woman from Ju-on: The Grudge show up for quick scares or to try and kill your character.
At first, I was a bit worried that Ju-on: The Grudge was going to be an "on-rails" haunted house simulator. That your character would be on some sort of track and you’d just determine the pace and occasionally the area in which you’d search. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. You are given a first-person view of environments, and are able to freely walk around areas.
Moving can be a bit troublesome though. It’s easy enough to walk – you just hold down the B button – and explore – press A when prompted. The thing is, the direction you move in is determined by how you hold the remote/flashlight. Turning can be a bit slow and sometimes I found myself waving the remote around furiously trying to turn in or move a certain way.
Most of the scary moments are harmless. They’re just there to make you jump out of your seat. However, the scary Ju-on lady will often pop up to get you. When that happens, and it will happen, you have to quick wave the remote in directions shown on the screen to escape. I was surprised at just how quickly she shows up – the first time she popped up, a few minutes into my exploration of the haunted factory, I was too stunned to even realize I had to do anything. (Not scared, mind you. Stunned.)
If you do get a Game Over screen, the game will rate you, telling you how brave you are or how scary the event was that got you annihilated. It may also say something like, "Aren’t Scorpios supposed to be known for their bravery." It’s a nice feature, and helpful for mocking purposes.
There are two modes, the standard episode play where you go through the environments and a Courage Test. The Courage Test is almost the same as the main game, but with a few differences. There are no mystery items that you can find, which in the normal mode can be found in all the episodes to unlock an extra episode, and there’s no saving. So, it’s essentially a quick way to see if you can complete the game and areas without dying.
As far as being scary, Ju-on: The Grudge has its moments, but really isn’t all that horrific. If you provide the right atmosphere, there are a few things that will shock you. The visuals are really good, which helps. But it isn’t Fatal Frame scary, where you feel like you’re on the edge of the seat because any second your character could die and scary ghosts pop out of no where. Also, he remote will occasionally vibrate when something scary is coming. I thought that, instead of building suspense, that it sort of took away some of the surprise and shock value. Overall, there’s some great atmosphere, and some of the general noises will be enough to make you jump. I’d say that the movies, the original Ju-on or the English The Grudge, are scarier.
Ju-on: The Grudge‘s most discussed feature is the multiplayer. Well, it isn’t really so much multiplayer as it is an attempt to scare the person playing. Someone can grab the second controller while another person is playing and press buttons to make one of six random events happen. Honestly, none of these random events are all that scary. Two of them have potential, but the other four just cause something to appear on screen that obscures your vision. Like a pair of hands suddenly appear from behind you and move towards you. The screen then goes black as if this ghost had covered your eyes. Other second player scares make blood stains or flies appear. After a random event appears, you have to wait 15 second before you can trigger another one. The second remote gently vibrates to let you know the feature is ready.
In practice, it really wasn’t all that scary. One of the scarier ones involved the female ghost dropping from the top of the screen to the bottom, and even that didn’t cause any of us (I played with three friends to test the multiplayer) to jump. When I made the flies appear on screen, one of my friends asked if that was it and how long it was going to last because it was getting annoying.
While Ju-on: The Grudge isn’t horrifyingly scary, it’s still pretty fun and the price ($29.99) is right. It’s definitely a good game for Halloween. If you’re having a party, turn on the Wii, pop Ju-on: The Grudge in and turn off all the lights. Even if you don’t find yourself scared, it’ll add to the atmosphere.
Food for Thought:
- If you’re playing with friends, hide the second remote so you can use it without the other people knowing.
- It could be a good game for horror fans who aren’t skilled or co-ordinated enough for more challenging games like the Silent Hill or Fatal Frame series.
- Make sure you adjust your TV’s brightness and contrast first! Otherwise you may have difficulty seeing everything.