Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Available for the Nintendo Wii
Published by Hudson Entertainment
J-horror may have worn out a bit of its cinematic welcome here in the States, but it’s still alive and kicking on the Nintendo Wii. Well, almost.
Hudson Entertainment’s latest digital fright-fest Calling takes elements from just about every big-time J-horror franchise (read: The Ring, Ju-on, Kairo) and uses them to craft a unique gaming experience that hits way more than it misses.
Just like in its theatrical cousins, the storyline here is more than a little convoluted. An underground website known as “Black Page” draws users in by promising them that if they visit, they’ll be able to communicate with the dead. Ultimately, while our characters (of which there are several) are logged on, they get sucked into a world where the dead can co-exist with and even kill the living known as the Mnemonic Abyss.
You’re mainly armed with only two things — a flashlight and your cellphone, both of which use the Wii-mote to absolute perfection and, dare I say it, in truly ingenious ways. Take that similarly themed and totally crappy Ju-On game and your spastic controls! Oh, how I loathe you! Ahem … moving on.
Imagine navigating through a very haunted structure when all of a sudden the speaker on your Wii-mote begins ringing like a cellphone out of nowhere. With a press of a button you can answer it, and on the “other side” of the line is the pained and haunting voice of a not-so-dearly departed person who’s going on about all manner of horrifying things, including gems like letting you know that you’re being watched and they are right behind you. You never know what these things are going to say or do, and every time it happens, it’s hard not to have a bit of a chill run down your spine.
All in all Calling is a very atmospheric and spooky good time; yet, there’s a four-hundred-pound gorilla in the room that needs to be addressed. While the decent graphics (for the Wii), the sound, and the controls do a lot to draw you into the experience, you’ll find yourself combating one other unexpected thing along the way besides the spectres (which you fight off waggle-style when prompted) — some really unforgiving gameplay moments that inhibit you from progressing until everything that the game wants you to do is done.
The first level of Calling can be the perfect example of just such a situation. Me? I’m a seasoned gamer. I play a LOT of games. With just three rooms and one hallway to explore, there’s no reason in the world why it should have taken me an hour and twenty-two minutes to progress to the next level. You see, there was one little thing that I didn’t do; we’re talking little in the sense of complete and total minutia that kept the game from triggering an event that would enable me to proceed. By the time I figured it out, I was furious, not at myself for being stupid enough to miss it, but at the game for being so ridiculously unforgiving that it wouldn’t let me pass. What happened was this — there’s a point in the level that you have to peer through a cracked door into another room. I did that seven hundred damned times. What I didn’t do was pan the camera far enough down and toward the right in order to trigger the event. Good thing that Wii-mote was strapped to my wrist because wow, was I ready to launch it. I mean come on! Really? You can look forward to many such instances during Calling, and the frustration of it all really keeps this puppy from scoring higher.
If you can forgive these moments and battle through each stage with the patience of a near saint, there’s a lot to like about this package, especially its interactivity, which no other console handles better than the Wii. At least for now anyway. If you’re up for the task, and damn it you should be, might I suggest digging on our Calling walk-through here? Believe me, it can help. A LOT!
Even better … there are a few other ways that the game gets you, too, when you’re done playing(!), but we’re not going to spoil that for you. All we’re gonna say is bravo, Hudson. Very clever!
So there you have it, kids. Another reason to use your Wii for something other than Wii Sports. Calling delivers on its promise to bring the feel and spookiness of J-horror to Stateside gamers. It may not be Fatal Frame 4, but it gets the job done. Turn down the lights, turn up the sound, and take the ride, man. These long distance rates can be deadly.
3 1/2 out of 5
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