Ju-On: The Grudge: Haunted House Simulator (Video Game)
Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Available for the Nintendo Wii
Published by Xseed Games
I think most of you were with me when the news landed earlier this year that Takashi Shimizu was bringing his Ju-On world of horror to a video game. When I heard that news, my reaction was very simple: "What the hell???"
As wonderful as the original Ju-On films are (we'll not speak of the US remakes as long as I'm driving, thank you) they just aren't in the top five properties that would seem appropriate for the video game treatment. Hell, they aren't in the top 1800 or so.
I was very relieved when I learned that the game wouldn't be a game at all, but a haunted house simulator. Rather than some pixelated character jumping from platform to platform trying to escape hopping little Toshios with rocket launchers mounted to their backs, we'd have an interactive walk through the horrors of the films. Okay, fair enough. Promising innovative Wii controls and supervision from Shimizu-san himself, I actually got a little excited about the title.
I regret to inform you that the curse has struck again ... no, not the death curse from the films, the curse of either too little money or too little time leading to very shoddy software.
We're presented with a shell of a story. Four members of a random family run across the curse from the films, as well as antagonists Toshio and Kayako, in four different environments. Why? No frickin clue. Each member of the family has their own episode, and their own environment: abandoned factory, empty hospital, derelict apartments, and empty office building. You pilot each member through their environment, trying to escape the curse.
The premise is fine. The basic concept is a sound one. Even the scares and the Ju-On characters aren't bad. The problem is that these meager gifts come in a package made of pure crap.
While the whole engine is an issue, the main problem is the control system. Or lack thereof. You use the Wiimote to control the flashlight on the screen. Moving to the edges will spin the camera/character, pulling the trigger makes the character walk. Yes, that's right, you don't use the nunchuk. WHY?!? I mean, have these people ever played the Wii? What a complete mess. A simple use of the nunchuk's joystick to move around would have solved about half the problems with this game. The controls are fundamentally broken. It's just that simple.
As you struggle with the controls, moving your character around at a snail's pace (these people move awfully slow for being scared to death) you spend most of your time looking for flashlight batteries. If you run out, you die, time to retry the level. If you have enough batteries, you wander around looking for whatever will trigger the next event that will allow you to move to the next section. Not exactly riveting.
Occasionally, action sequences happen when Kayako finds you and attempts to grab you, forcing you to wiggle the Wiimote around to escape here. These prompts are sometimes brutally brief with zero room for error. Error means death, and yep, you start over. Again.
Here's the worst part: even with the slow movement, wandering, and a few restarts, you can breeze through all four episodes in 3 hours. THREE. Not even an hour an episode. If it wasn't for the overlong, dragging second episode (the hospital), it'd be even less. A full-price ($30) Wii game for 3 hours of play? I should mention there's zero replay value. Play the episode again and all the same scares happen in all the same places.
But wait! Aren't there five episodes? Why yes, there are! I've forgotten to mention the big finale, a fully-realized Sakei house from the film. I forgot because I never saw it. You see, in order to see that fifth episode, the end of the freaking game, you have to collect a bunch of tiny little pieces of documents throughout the four episodes. These are extremely small, aren't highlighted in any way, and sometimes only appear after specific events happen. Did I mention that bugs sometimes keep said events from happening?
I spent three additional hours, using a walkthrough translated from Japanese, trying to find all these. I finally gave up. Fighting the controls and searching for items that have no bearing on the plot just wasn't worth seeing the finale.
Most important, it's an absolute insult to the consumer to force them to go through hell just to see the entire game they purchased. When your product is this short, with this little value, it makes me downright angry.
More than anything I'm frustrated. There's an excellent concept here, the seed of an amazing, revolutionary experience. The devs involved here either lacked the talent or the resources to realize that concept. It's a shame, but it's the truth. The only people who should even consider this (once it's $3.99 in a Gamestop bargain bin) are die-hard fans of the Ju-On series. Unless you have an autographed photo of Shimizu-san over your bed that you kiss every night when you go to sleep, don't even touch the box of this stinker.
1 out of 5
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