Totally Unnamed Gaming Column - Curse of the Movie-licensed Shovelware

by Mutsuki, Nov 3rd 2009

So, did you have fun during Halloween? Even though it's a pasttime that's only got a limited following in Australia, there's just something fun about trying to scare yourself, with the help of a few other people.

So here at our currently unnamed gaming column, one of our reviewers was volunteered to play a game based off the one of the more famous movies that's just recently hit US and European stores, and to see if he could get a good shiver down his spine just for the occasion...

It's not the only game we're going to look at though, as part of our tour of the creepy side, so come back shortly and we'll look at a few older horror games that might have gone under the radar over the years.

Zuiko, try not to frighten them too-

[Zuiko] Wii: Juon: The Grudge (FeelPlus)

Rating MA 15+ (Strong Horror Themes)
Release Date JP: 30/07/2009
US:13/10/2009
EU: 30/10/2009
# of Players 1-2 Players
Availability Import: Common
Local: TBA
Language English

I consider myself a big fan of the survival horror genre having played some of the hallmark titles such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill and the Fatal Frame series. The thought of having Ju-on, a movie with some great scares, turned into a video game was something I was looking forward to… but had me baffled as to its outcome.

As a fan there are certainly things you've come to expect from such adaptations, unfortunately like all the others this one has none of them. So first and foremost before I head on, for those tempted, Juon: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is bad - Read on and you'll soon see why.

The story of Ju-on is very simple - There's an inescapable curse that kills anyone it comes in contact with regardless of who the person is. The game pretty much structures each level around this as you'll start off as one of those targeted with each level involving a different person, played out through a variety of scenarios such as a girl chasing her family dog into a warehouse or waking up in a abandoned hospital.

This would sound pretty okay if it weren't for the horrible set up to each level told through a monologue of some of the most horrible dialogue you can imagine. An example of this is “Wow… What a wasteland, only missing is Zombies.” which happens in an abandoned apartment complex.

If you are after a well told story, you definitely won't find it here as the different stories themselves won't win awards any time soon. They are very virtually nonexistent and serve very little purpose to the overall game play. There isn't any character development and hardly anything to engage you into any of the scenarios other than to walk carelessly forward chasing after whatever is supposed to frighten you.

The issue is that since these characters all have to die anyway, there really isn't a need to want to play through the levels as there's no reward for doing so. It would have been nice if there was one that manages to survive because of the player's actions.

Damnit, I know should have bought a Mag-Lite. Hey kid, got any AA batteries?

You'll also find that the cut scenes which play out at certain points have no speech or serve any other purpose than to point you in the direction the game wants you to go. As such, the game is very linear as there aren't any branching paths with most doors being blocked off in true grudge hair style.

All in all there are only 5 scenarios, with the last one only unlocked after collecting all the items. Each scenario spans about 30 minutes with most of that time spent walking slowly around the levels.

The game essentially boils down to getting from place to place either collecting things or triggering cut scenes by directing your field of vision to some random glowing object.

At the beginning of each level, you are given a flashlight which uses batteries that is indicated by a small meter at the bottom left of the screen. As you navigate through the levels, you'll need to constantly pick up more batteries for it as it acts as a kind of timer. You'll also find random keys to unlock doors to progress or small collectables along the way. What you will soon find is that you'll end up in a horrible cycle of going into a place, collecting anything that shines and then opening a door or heading out back the same way all while the game tries to scare you. There really isn't really much more depth to it as it ends up as going from place to place to trigger scripted events.

The scares themselves basically amount to using cheap scare tactics rather than anything you see elsewhere as you'll see the boy who shrieks like a cat appearing at random times, the grudge girl appearing when opening doors or down corridors and her long black hair appearing around doors which pull back when you approach it to tell you the way to progress.

Yes, they do it over and over that you can pretty much tell when it's coming. The only redeeming factor though is the way it sets the atmosphere up as the game will definitely make you jump at certain times and it is clear that a lot of influence carried over from the original movies.

Walk in, see this. What do?

One thing that has got to be said is that your character walks around the levels as if they had their legs broken in 5 places. It is literally that slow trudging around the environment and makes Miku's walk in Fatal Frame seem like running in comparison. Walking up stairs is even worse as the amount of time it takes to do that arduous climb seems to span on forever.

While all this isn't enough, the game has one of the worst control schemes you can imagine - Half the time you'll be fighting the controls rather than having fun with the game. Navigating your character around the environment is simply a chore as you press B to move forward and control your flashlight onscreen by using the pointer. The biggest issue with this scheme besides the obvious absence of the nun-chuck as the form of moving is the pointer controls which actually uses the Wii Remote's Accelerometers instead of IR.

There just isn't anything intuitive with moving around with the pointer while also using it as a flash light. Not only that, you'll find that you miss a lot of the scares or struggle to quickly get to an area simply because the game doesn't recognize when you want to turn from side to side. The bounding box for it is fidgety and simply fails at certain times when it is crucial to continue. That and toss in some random quick events involving hit or miss swings of the Wii remote and you'll find yourself in for a very bumpy ride.

Don't let this TV distract from all the action in the game...

Another issue is that messing up a quick event instantly leads to a Game over screen and so does letting your flashlight batteries run dry. Once that happens, you've instantly lost all your progress and have to start the level all over again right from the beginning. This is made even worse if you mess up a quick event right at the end of a level because of the inaccurate motion controls.

At the end of each level, the game rates you on your bravery supposedly by seeing how well you handle the Wii mote. Now this would be a cool feature if the results wasn't made redundant because of the horrible controls and trying to get the game to just recognize your pointer placement. Each level also has collectables which you can find during your trudge through it.

One strange design issue is that once you've entered a level, you can't exit back to the main menu directly. As well, once you're on the level select menu after choose your profile, you can't exit back to play the multiplayer mode. In both cases, you will need to reset the game to go to these screens.

What are you doing on the toilet, cat? You're a cat, you don't belong on there, you can't even use the flusher.

As I've already picked on the title enough already, let me finally state one of its features which is pretty fun with a group of friends and that is its Courage test. Basically the mode acts as some kind of multiplayer mode which allows one player to play through a level while the other on a second controller can press either the A or B button to initiate a “scare”. This actually works when with a group of friends as it's actually fun to try to mess your friends up by initiating these “scares” and making them jump in their seat. The only issue is that there isn't a lot of “scares” to cycle through and soon enough the fun will start to wear out.

Visually, the graphics feels dated for something that is released on the Wii in 2009 and there have certainly been other Survival horror titles that do a lot more than this one. Environments are pretty bland and animations are pretty robotic especially with the Dog in the first level. There are hardly any other characters besides Toshio (The Cat boy) or Kayako (the grudge girl) so most of the time they'll end up appearing over and over while navigating through very empty levels. The levels themselves are very dark and they hold up okay but there's not really much to them so most of the detailing went towards the 2 main specters. The audio is okay at best as there are hardly any other sounds besides that of footsteps, random objects in the levels or the gargling of Kayako, the latter of which occasionally can be heard through the Wii Remote's speaker.

Even the toughest of men will be branded cowards as a result of our control scheme!

Getting a couple of friends together and renting a copy of Ju-on on DVD will be way more fun than playing this game even if you play it at its best in multiplayer mode. If you like cheap scares and can get past the bad controls, story and graphics you might actually enjoy it even if it's only so you can get some scripted or cheap scares otherwise pray that this never sees the light of day.

If you're particularly brave though, you can wait for a possible Australian release, or you can hop online to a major UK retailer that ships to Australia to play it without needing a US or Japanese Console.


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