I think I should start by stating that I haven’t played the previous two titles in the Corpse Party series and in actual fact I didn’t even know of the series until I started covering Blood Drive, with this in mind I don’t inte4nd to be particular judgemental of the overall story, but I am also kind of aware in the changes of gameplay from the previous instalment to this one.
Getting that particular part of the review out of the way first is key, Blood Drive plays in a similar manner to top down dungeon crawling RPG’s due to the developers decision to take this particular instalment down a 3D route rather than the previous titles more interactive novel approach. This is where my comparisons using my lack of any real knowledge beyond Wikipedia end. I will say though that despite being pushed as a horror title, the games 3D appearance and use of chibi-esque character designs detracts from the scares somewhat. It’s hard to find a large headed, small bodied ghost squealing like a baby as it floats towards you as something that is scary, and its only the immediate threat of harm that makes you concerned for their appearance.
It’s also at odds with the descriptions presented to you during the games long story and conversation dialogue moments. Things will be described that just don’t measure up when performed by the 3D characters and there are a few moments where events that are played out are contracted by the lack of change in those character models, this is exacerbated by the use of manga character art that appears during all of the story driven moments.
Corpse Party: Blood Drive is littered with numerous aspects that aren’t what one would consider to be good videogame design. For starters dialogue goes on for far, far too long, this isn’t something I’m normally bothered about, after all I’m a huge fan of Atlus’ rather dialogue heavy Persona series, but more often than not it feels like Corpse Party is either over explaining itself or the writers just don’t understand when to stop and let the game be played. Once it does allow the player free reign theres quite a bit of enjoyment to be had from the games hide and seek kind of gameplay. As you explore the alternate dimension school that the games plot takes you to (and which the characters are returning to from the series second instalment) you will find that you have to avoid various traps whilst also avoiding ghosts (even hiding in closets from them in a rather Metal Gear Solid-esque fashion), this is where the game is at its strongest. The school itself is rather crudely designed and takes some getting used to whilst you find your bearings due the lack of map which kind of adds to the tension of discovering a ghost. You can also rid yourself of such pests by using talismans to dispel them, butt he core mechanic revolves around running away and hiding until the threat has passed.
The lighting model doesn’t always help you avoid traps, there is very little light within the school and you will find yourself reliant on your torch, especially in new areas whilst you figure out where the various traps are. However the batteries on the torch do drain and you will only find a few replacements littered around during each chapter, I never actually ran out but I was really frugal with the amount I used my torch, mostly because I could never tell when it was likely to run out due to the games like of HUD. There are no on screen bars to tell you when your health, battery or stamina is low and its usually through character driven cues that you notice that you need to address a particular situation (i.e. not sprinting as much, instead relying on walking, as your character begins to stumble a bit).
The thing is, Corpse Party: Blood Drive, isn’t a good game, the lack of HUD, odd decisions over its presentation, weird mechanics and overly tedious interactions between characters that aren’t particularly interesting, plus the lack of being scary in any particular way, should all mark it out as one to avoid. And yet I found myself wanting to return to it time and time again just to edge a little further on each play, I genuinely found it intriguing and oddly morbidly amusing. I’m certain thats not the developers intentions though.