Review: Corpse Party: Blood Drive (PS Vita)

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Corpse Party has a long standard tradition of being accessible on handheld playstation devices and for this third instalment, Blood Drive, the game has been developed for sony’s latest handheld device the PS Vita. Does this new choice of platform bring out the best of what Corpse Party has to offer? That’s hard to say but it does offer a intense storyline that will keep you hooked for hours… or until the battery runs out at least.

corpse-party-blood-drive-ps-vita-box-uk Title: Corpse Party: Blood Drive
Publisher: Marvelous Games Europe
Developer: 5PB
Platform: PS Vita
Resolution: 960 x 544
Audio: Japanese
Subtitles: English (White)
Local Players: 1
Online Players: N/A
Install: YES (2.1GB)

Developed by 5pb and Published by Marvelous Games Europe Corpse Party: Blood Drive is the final instalment into the Heavenly Host Elementary School saga which sees a group of students whisked away into the alternate reality plagued by death, ghosts and demonic spirits. It’s a great story that keeps you ‘entinced’ and ‘engaged’ for hours upon end unfortunately however unless you have played the two previous games in the franchise, namely Corpse Party and Corpse Party: Book of Shadows you won’t have a full grasp of what has transpired – but luckily for us the entire prologue section of the game presents a good explanation into whats transpired so far.

The events of Book of Shadows, the second game in the franchise, saw Corpse Party’s protagonist Ayumi Shinozaki, along with her classmates, use black magic spells found within the Book of Shadows and as a result were transported into the nightmarish hell of the Heavenly Host Elementary school. As part of this nightmare Ayumi managed to escape along with a handful of friends but in the process lost not only her sister but many of her other classmates. This third game in the franchise, and the one we are most going to talk about, takes place two months after that event and sees Ayumi Shinozaki attempting to rebuild her life back together but when a mysterious woman claims to be her sisters acquaintance the events of the past come back to haunt them.

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The premise here is that this woman, known as Aiko Niwa, belives that Ayumi’s sister and her classmates who died in the Heavenly Host School can be returned to the living world and offers assistance to Ayumi in order to accomplish that; however Aiko has her own ‘twisted’ desires of her own. How exactly can this be achieved? Through the power of the book which has mysteriously re-appeared in the school that was once throught destroyed. Fuelled by regret and self pitty Ayumi joins forces with a mysterious boy, known as Misuto, and returns to the alterate reality in order to find that book so that her friends can be saved…. and this is where the game really begins.

After a relatively long build-up, one that re-introduces you to the world of Corpse Party and progresses forward with the new story, we take control of Ayumi in the unmistakenable world of the Heavenly Host School. The nightmarish atmosphere is beautifully played out on the screen and, despite not having played the previous two games in the franchise, it’s a massive jump from what i’ve seen before. 3D Character models inside highly detailed unlit environments is what’s on offer and with every movement being considered your last it creates a enticing experience that leaves you engaged in the moment.

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That’s pretty much an introduction of what the game has to offer; and from here players will take control of Ayumi and navigate her around the game-world of the Heavenly Host School in order to find clues on how her friends can be brought back to life. For most part Corpse Party: Blood Drive is an exploration game; whereby you will explore derelict rooms for tools and devices that will help you progress forward but on the other hand its a catch and mouse (Metal Gear Solid like) experience that will see you sneaking round areas and hiding in small areas to avoid detection by spirits that haunted this land.

Its a relatively bizarre combination; but its a formula that the Corpse Party franchise have used for awhile – and its one thats used again in this title. Disappointingly however to newcomers – such as myself – the experience can be quite stressful and irritating. Looking around rooms for objects to use is one thing; but trying to avoid a spirit thats chasing you becomes problematic – especially when you’ve got no idea on how to defeat them. Simply running a way isn’t an option either as due to stats characters can only run for a brief time before they get tired and as such you have to pace yourself when running – which when running away from a spirit isn’t easy. Avoiding enemies can also be problematic as while they walk (or float) set paths if a spirit sees you entering a location, such as a locker, then the spirit will find you and kill you. It’s not just spirits you’ve got to avoid either as damage to the floor, such as spikes, glasses and loose floorboards – will also see you take damage or plummet to your death.

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The Hevenly Host School environment is not a nice place to be trapped in – which is pretty obvious considering the games age rating; but the combination of Spirits, Traps and darkly lit environments really adds to the tension and being caught can result in players becoming frustrated with what to do – to which i also raise my hand. To aid players in this you can use a combination of save points – which do not appear that often – and are represented as candles as well as the flashflight; a tool which will light up your surroundings but, at the same time, alert nearby enemies to your location. Finding balance is key to survival and while it may sound like i’m complaining it was actually quite enjoyable.

Playing Corpse Party Blood Drive is pretty much the same throughout; by controlling Ayumi through environments and collecting pieces that will aid her in her quest; but outside of that the story is progressed through visual novel dialogue sequences – some of which will last for lengthy periods of times. For instance the entire prologue aspect, which lasts for a good two hours or so, is nothing but pure dialogue with some ‘minor’ character movement involved and unlike visual novels, such as Amnesia and Steins Gate, theres no multi-choice options to be had – it’s simply sit down, watch and enjoy the discussion take place.

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Interestingly though as the topic is so engaging, even for a newcomer life myself, its hard to not find yourself engrossed in the story thats being told and as with most visual novels the dialogue sequences are fully voiced in Japanese; however the odd ‘short discussion sessions’ between gameplay and dialogue are text-based-only. In short theres a natural balance of visual novel, which progresses the story, and gameplay, which sees your explore, and it offers an engaging story with a perfect atmosphere… that is until each ‘Act’ comes to an end.

Thats right; each segment of the game is separated into Acts or Chapters and when a chapter ends it will throw players back to the main menu. It’s a relatively bizarre way of playing the game and upon first taking place i thought i had somehow completed the game with a bad-ending or something. As an example after the progloue chapter becomes complete the game will fade to black and throw you back to the main menu; at which point Cotinue and New Game will be displayed. The obvious reaction would be to choose ‘Continue’ but in actuality you have to Select New game and then choose which chapter you want to play. It’s confusing and it disrupts the presentation and pacing of the game but i can understand why this has been done – as those wishing to replay the game at a later stage can simply choose the Chapter they wish to play as opposed to replaying the entire game and seeing as the prologue is one big flashback it’s not surprising.

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Overall i found Corpse Party: Blood Drive to be an exceptional engaging and entertaining game that left me wanting more; but its relatively irriating gameplay mechanic and challenging aspects of where to go left me feeling disinterested in the world i had just engrossed myself in. If you’ve got several hours spare and want to spend yourself brutally entertained by this psychotic ghost story then give it a go – as you will enjoy it – but those looking for some quick pick-up-and play action will be disappointed. Your either here for the long haul or not at all but the end result of this tale is still great none-the-less.

Score: review-stars-4

Corpse Party: Blood Drive is now available for the PS Vita as both a digital download and retail cartridge within the UK and Europe.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked on ZOMGPlay and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita or Xbox One.

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