Exclusive: Ju-On The Video Game Hands-On!
Ju-On: The Grudge for the Wii takes place in the fantastical movie universe we’ve come to love. There are no nubile young hussies who seem to beg for a beheading here. You are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now you and your family are cursed for it.
XSEED Games is calling this a “Haunted House Simulator” like going to a Halloween horror park or, on a lesser level, an interactive version of a very basic horror movie with jump scares abounding and your only objective being to get out alive. Any casual player can pick up the Wiimote and run with it. Armed with only a flashlight, you dive into the action. I use that term loosely as the first thing you’ll notice is your character does not move very fast. This is completely on purpose so as to heighten the anticipation and suck you in slowly so that when something happens, you might leap out of your own skin.
I’d liken this to playing chess for 5 minutes. When you settle into a thoughtful lull, an Alien chestburster erupts from the center of the board. Since the concept is so simple, game play only runs to around 10 hours. The creator of The Grudge, Takashi Shimizu, was heavily involved in the creation of the game, suggesting how the ghosts should move, where the scares go, and such. Diehard fans of the films will immediately pinpoint this as a must buy!
In our demo the choices for location were the dark and creepy warehouse or the dark and creepy hospital. Your flashlight is a standard, low powered POS that works best when only illuminating the floor in front of you or used in small spaces. When traveling through the warehouse with its cavernous hallways and high ceilings in search of your missing dog, you may as well be walking by match light. The developers did mention that the monitor we were using seemed damaged, so the lighting scheme may be better in the final game.
Nevertheless, our first victim on the Wiimote ran into many a wall and turned in a circle, in place, on more than one occasion. The flashlight is not only your only means to see, but is directly connected to the longevity of your life. When those batteries run out, the throaty girl ghost comes to claim her prize, showering the screen with a spray of the red stuff. To prevent your sticky end, we watch for glimmering objects in the distance. Upon investigation this could be a key or the all important battery. It’s important to note that those batteries do not re-spawn in the same location, so once you power back up, you’d best make an effort to complete your level with all due haste.
As you walk the halls with the pace of a young Frankenstein's monster, sudden noises jar you. The sound of something trying to escape from a metal locker ... an unseen force pounding on a door. Up ahead as you struggle to get your bearings, the halo of light just catches little legs running across the hall followed by the sound of a cat wailing mournfully. We choose the door to the left instead.
Brave man! Opening doors in Ju-On is almost ritualistic in that the process makes little sense and the execution is slow and oddly paced. The door knob is on the left. We turn it and it opens the door on the right but only an inch. There is a slight pause as we hold our breath. Sure enough, as the door begins to swing fully open, a bloodied arm juts out, taking hold of us. In the darkness ahead we can barely make out the tormented face belonging to the arm. To get free, the screen flashes arrows telling the direction we should shake the remote, reminding you of an ultra spooky version of Dragon’s Lair (in a very minimalist way.) Meanwhile the remote vibrates like crazy and the speaker makes the throaty “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” sound.
Once you are free, the door in front of you slams shut ... and here’s where the other shoe drops. There is only one definitive route to finishing each level. To continue, you’ll have to open that door again.
On the same level, at one point, our shaky player went to pick up an object on the floor and narrowly avoided a falling pallet. Just as he was regaining composure from the near miss, the pale little cat boy sticks his head in front of the screen, upside down!! Be ready for anything. Another time a door is opened, and there on the floor is the lady with the golden throat who turns toward you slowly. Our player backed away and she comes skittering after him. He makes a break down a hallway and down the stairs, and as he rounds a corner he pauses to look up. Sure enough, the girl has begun slowly coming down the stairs after you and peeks around the corner to give a very psychotic stare. We then run into that damn dog of ours and make it into the elevator. Just as it begins to move, the whole thing creaks and shakes violently. The dog is freaking out. Ghostly black hair slides snake-like into the elevator from any available entryway. Just then the doors fly open and your dog takes off into the black. As you take a step to go after him, you hear the dog yelp in the distance ... and that’s the end of the level! Now you get to review your performance in your “scare level” and “sissy level”, complete with a written assessment of how wussy you just were running for your life.
The hospital level is similar in tone, pacing, and content. You wake in an empty hospital with a picture of your family by the bedside and no one else in sight. In these smaller spaces the flashlight works much better. It could have been my imagination, but I’d swear there are more instances of little things spooking you just out of eyeshot here. You can pull aside curtain dividers while exploring, switch on TVs, explore mysterious breathing lumps in a bed, and even answer the phone at the nurse’s station. We are told the other levels include abandoned apartments with a delivery boy trying to deliver a package and even the house from the original film, which you can only get to after you collect missing items from all the other levels.
Developers visited the actual house and recreated the location, pixel by pixel. In the house you can explore every room to your heart’s content. If you are playing with a friend and discover a pattern to their shrieks, you can get in on the fun! Two-player does not allow co-op, but rather gives you control of a random scare that jumps right in front of the screen at the press of a button. There are around 8 to 10 possible scares that appear at random. The game supports 5-point surround sound, enhancing every creepy clang and menacing moan. Another feature of the game is a “courage test” that asks your favored gender and then your zodiac sign!
Ju-on is absolutely for the diehard fans of the film series, the casual gamer looking for a quick play, and your drunken friends looking to freak each other out in-between a night of heavy horror movie watching. Hardcore gamers will make quick work of the 5 different players and 5 levels in the game and will most likely be left frustrated with the repetition of actions and very slow pace. Luckily, a low price point ensures you are getting the appropriate amount of game for your hard earned buck. The Grudge is not going to be the next big thing in horror gaming, but it is definitely a killer time for your friends that scare easy. Invite over the skittish, and let the torment commence!
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