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Impressions: Ju-on: The Grudge (Wii)


Making a horror game for a "casual" audience requires a reorganization of priorities. While something like Resident Evil is intent on scaring the player, there are a lot of gameplay elements aside from fear, like inventory management and even accuracy. These elements make for a well-rounded game, but they can actually prevent the player from experiencing all the game's scares.

AQ Interactive's Ju-On: The Grudge, being released in North America this October by XSEED, takes out all the "survival" from a survival horror game to create what XSEED calls a "haunted house simulator," focused entirely on scaring the crap out of players over and over again. And from what we saw, it works.

Gallery: Ju-On: The Grudge (Wii) | 7 Photos

Ju-On consists of a series of playable scenarios in which normal people are brought into creepy haunted places. In the one we saw, a young woman's dog runs into a dark old building, and the woman goes in to find it. The game is controlled using the pointer and the Wiimote's buttons -- the pointer controls both the camera and the in-game flashlight, and buttons are used to walk forward and backward, and to investigate objects. Batteries found throughout the level maintain the flashlight's power.

The room is so dark, and the flashlight so dim, that you can typically only see a small circular area at one time. Items that can be picked up glint noticeably. After exploring the first room (some kind of office in a warehouse, it looked like) the person playing the demo went for a door. The door opened a crack, and then the camera jerked down to reveal a creepy ghost toddler thing staring through the door. Yes, we jumped a bit. The creature closed and locked the door, with the dog behind it, forcing the player to look around for the key. After finding the key on the floor, the player went into a small room with another door at the end. She opened that one, and immediately a pale hand jumped out and grabbed the on-screen avatar's forearm. Then the camera panned up to, well, this. Arrow indicators on the sides of the screen directed the player to shake the Wiimote to break the apparition's grip, after which the creature disappeared and the path was blocked. It was around here that our demo concluded.

It's interesting that both this game and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories hit upon the idea of the combat-free horror game. Not only does fighting monsters provide a barrier to the game's fright moments, in a way being able to defeat them undermines the horror themes. In most horror games, a skilled player can actually defeat the creatures (with notable exceptions like Silent Hill 2's Pyramid Head, who just happens to be one of the most terrifying monsters in any horror game), making the game more of a power fantasy than a true fright. In both of these games, you can escape the creatures at best.

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