Team GrisGris/Marvelous USA
Genre: Horror Adventure
The story starts off as innocently as any horror movie: a group of kids and their teacher are after school, cleaning up from a culture festival, and one of them will be leaving the next day, adding a melancholy sentiment to the whole ordeal. One of the students suggests that the group performs a charm to ensure that they will all be friends forever. Once the charm is performed, however, an earthquake rocks the school, and the floor falls out from under them. From there, the horror begins.
The game itself is split into five chapters, each centering on a certain character or characters who are stuck in the mysterious halls of Heavenly Host Elementary School. The story behind the school is explored throughout the game in great detail, as well as the story’s of the students and others who have been trapped in the same situation. There are certainly central characters, but every one of the nine characters involved in the story have some kind of exposition and time in the spotlight. You can’t help but feel for most of these characters, even when they are saying or doing deplorable things, which can happen with some frequency.
As you progress through the chapters, you will find that there is only one true way to finish the chapter and move onto the next, but there are various ‘Wrong End’ scenarios where your characters will meet gruesome and viscerally jarring conclusions. This is almost as much of the games charm as it is unnerving, as by the time this is happening, you really care for these characters and what they’re going through. It is heart wrenching when it happens, and it really makes you proceed more carefully through the chapter the next time you work getting through the chapter.
The catch of this game is that while it is set up much like an RPG- the characters even have HP- there are no battles or fighting. The game focuses on exploration and the occasional dodging of malicious spirits. If you touch these dangerous things too often, your HP runs out and your character dies, forcing you to start over. This makes for some very tense gaming, even toward the beginning of the game. It’s reminiscent of Clock Tower or other games of that ilk.
There are some downsides to the game, though they’re more personal issues than gameplay issues for the most part. The game comes off with a lot of fan service, which means that you’ll see your share of panty shots and other things that kind of remove you from the terror of the game. It’s not as prominent as in some other games, but it does put a tone shift in some scenes that is jarring to the horror mindset. Also, there is the occasional puzzle that you might be doing directly by the guidelines that have been set up by the game, but it winds up not being the logical answer. Players may find multiple instances where they will be slapping their head over the solution of a puzzle which was never presented but seems to make some sense.
The incredibly charming part about this game is really the presentation. The game is concocted from 16 bit graphics that make you feel like you’re playing an SNES game. The music is also an incredibly effective collection of midi-esque tunes which makes the player feel the fright and exhilaration surrounding the action in the game. Really, the game’s front end is one of its stronger features.
I finished the game in a couple of days time, as I could not put the game down once I got it, and once you finish, there are Extra Chapters which detail some of the character relationships as well as some of the stories surrounding the other students that are referenced throughout the game, so long as you go back to find some of the multiple endings. The game retailed around $20.00 when it released, and if you’re a horror fan, it was well worth it.
Enjoy, and here’s to not meeting too many wrong ends!