We can’t do a #ThrowBackThursday in October without playing something horror-themed and searching through my collection at the beginning of the month I had a wealth of options including popular classics such as Silent Hill or Resident Evil 4. However, I ultimately decided upon a game that has maybe been forgotten about in recent years, Capcom’s Gregory Horror Show.
Wikipedia defines Gregory Horror Show (or Gregory Horror Show: Soul Collector as it is known elsewhere) as a Survival Horror, placing it in the same camp as your Resident Evils. However, most Survival Horror games have you gathering resources and attacking various monsters alongside puzzle-solving. Gregory Horror Show differs in this respect by being all about puzzle-solving. You see, as the unnamed player character, you have to collect the souls that are being protected by the oddball guests at Gregory’s House, a hotel hidden in a forest. Once you collect all twelve for Death (who, inexplicably, wears a hat bearing markings very reminiscent of the Swedish flag) he will tell you how to escape Gregory’s House.
Collecting a soul is achieved by spying on each individual guest, figuring out their routine and what it is that would enable them to abandon the soul they are protecting for just enough time for you to snatch it. Once this has been achieved, you move onto the next individual and so on, though the further you progress the more complicated it becomes to not only find that opening but to also just walk around the hotel, with the guests going about their daily routines but also keeping an eye out for you. If you’re spotted they chase you and if caught you’re submitted to their “Horror Show” (a short video showing them performing something horrific on you, each guest has a unique Horror Show).
I remember when this originally came out, with it getting some respectable scores despite being very much a niche sort of game. Of course, if it came out today it would rightfully receive a lot more attention for being so different to everything else available.
The thing is, it actually really stands up well today, this is largely thanks to two factors, the first is its visual design, the papercraft look that they went for means the lines are almost always clean and facial expressions are clear and crisp, okay the textures are typically PlayStation 2 in that they can be a little muddy but overall, its still a good looking game. The other factor that makes it work well today is its Capcom-ness. Now, this may come as a criticism, but I’ve always found that Capcom games have a certain clunkiness to them, in some games, it’s a bad thing, in others it works. In Gregory Horror Show it most definitely works.
I’ll give you an example. In most games of this era, there would have been some kind of mini-map or some “Live” way of knowing where guests were, or at least which ones were nearby. In this you find yourself having to constantly refer to the actual map by pressing the Select button, then checking a few moments later to get an idea of a guests route. Thankfully they mostly stick to a routine, but with 10 of them wandering the halls for you to avoid by the time you’re reaching the end, it can be hard to remember exactly who’s doing what and when, and that’s if you’ve even done your homework and been spying on the guests regularly.
What I find most interesting about Gregory Horror Show is its difficulty level, unlike other games everything you can do is available to you from the very beginning, so you’re not constantly having to learn new skillsets etc, the difficulty comes from the hotel becoming increasingly crowded and guests daily routines overlapping whilst you attempt to figure out and perform a plan to steal another guests soul. I’m going to spoil one of the later guests here, so if you plan on playing this and don’t want it ruined skip the next paragraph entirely.
An example of this difficulty was raised when trying to get the soul of the 11th guest Angel/Devil Dog. By listening to conversations and observing her I learnt that she likes to watch the same TV show at 6pm in the lounge each day. However, Gregory likes to clean the lounge at that time. Mummy Papa also jogs around the corridors at this time whilst Catherine walks past the lounge to go to the Medical Room around 6pm too. So I have to avoid the latter two and find a way to distract Gregory and that’s without even distracting Angel/Devil Dog long enough to take her soul away.
So there’s a lot of multi-tasking going on and the games systems don’t make doing that easy (you can only see a breakdown of each characters routine by visiting your room and each page is only filled in if you’ve spied on the specific character at specific times), the fact that its mechanics are all time based too, with few options too fast forward time (and those that are available do more harm than good), mean there will also be moments where you’re literally waiting for time to pass, but thankfully it doesn’t really manage to outstay its welcome and you’ll be escaping Gregory House before you know it.