I am in love with the Ju-On and Grudge films, there is just something about them that draws me to them more than any other horror movie. I have watched both Ju-On films, The Grudge 1, and 2 films many times, and just watched the recently released Grudge 3 and was very impressed with that one too. Even though I have the films almost memorized, and I know when all the scares are going to happen, they still manage to creep me out. So, when I heard that a game based on the movies was coming out, I was both excited, and skeptical. How would they make a game out of movies that do not have a happy ending? Where the characters have no weapons to fight, and no matter what they do, will always get killed. Would you get some mystical weapon to fight the ghosts with, would there be other ghosts other than Kayoko, and Toshio? I mean, how much could you do in a game with just two ghosts? I knew if the game had weapons or other ghosts to fight, it just wouldn't be faithful to the films.
All of these questions ran through my head, and reading previews didn't help much because a lot of the previewers seemed confused about what kind of game this was. Some previews said the game was on rails, others say it controls like a first person shooter. Some claimed you couldn't die and therefore the game wasn't scary, and on, and on. I really didn't know what to expect until I popped the game in my Wii and had at it. Well, I just beat it and to be honest folks, coming from a die hard fan of the films, I couldn't be more pleased. Lets see why.
Story: There isn't really a story to the game, it's just about a tragedy that strikes a Japanese family, and you as the player live the tragedy through the eyes of each of the family's four members, the mom, dad, son, and daughter. That is pretty much it. You won't have any journals to read, or story cinematics to watch.
Controls: The controls couldn't be simpler. You only use the Wii remote. The entire game is played from the first person perspective. Each of the characters have a flashlight and you use the remote to control the flashlight and for looking up, down, right, and left. The B trigger is used to walk, so you just point to where you want to go, and press and hold the B trigger. You use the A button for interacting and picking up objects, and pushing down on the directional pad lets you walk backwards. You cannot strafe, and instead either have to stop, and turn when you want to change directions, or steer yourself left or right while walking. I guess you could say the characters control like a tank. The controls work well for the most part, though I'd like it if they felt a little smoother when you are looking around. Fortunately, during the games quick time events, more on those later, the controls are 100% spot on in my experience.
Graphics: The graphics are fantastic with great lighting and shadow effects. The ghosts, especially the woman, have a lot of detail on them, right down to their eyeballs. The environments, combined with the flashlight effects are creepy as hell. Whether you are walking through the rusty and dirty abandoned factory, exploring the halls of the abandoned hospital, or trying to shake off Kayoko as she gets right up in your face, with her eyeballs rolling up in her head, the graphics never failed to impress.
Sound: Wow, the sound is just as good as the graphics. There isn't much music in the game, used only during the menus, QTEs, and during scares, but what is there is good. It's the sound effects that truly shine. While you won't hear much music, you are always hearing something, whether it is the trademark Kayoko throat sounds, Toshio's feet slapping on the floor as he runs by, your own footsteps, which change depending on the surface, or just the strange noises you'll hear, the sound effects also never failed to impress.
Gameplay: Okay, first and foremost, this is not an on-rails game like House of the Dead, or even Killer 7. No, you walk around just like you would in any first person shooter. You can walk, look up and down, and examine every nook and cranny. NO RAILS. Now that thats out of the way, on to the gameplay proper. There are five episodes to play, with each one taking place in a different location, and with a different family member, except the fifth, which has you playing as an earlier family member. The locations are the Abandoned Factory, Abandoned Hospital, Derelict Apartement Building, Beauty School, and the house, which is replicated perfectly. Each family member plays the exact same, and the goal of each episode is to escape the area with your life. You explore each area with a flashlight that you have to find batteries for. The flashlight is like your health meter. The battery life slowly dwindles away, and when the flashlight is all out of juice, its game over. Fortunately, it is easy to find batteries, and I never had a problem with this. Still, it brings an urgency to the situation as you can explore, but you have to keep an eye on the battery life, and for extra batteries.
As you explore the levels, you'll find keys to open locked doors, no puzzle solving here, look for batteries, get scared silly, and survive quick time events. I've always like quick time events, and these are fun and I was surprised by how action packed some of them are. Usually what will happen is one of the ghosts will jump out and you'll have to shake them off, and evade them using on screen waggle prompts, like shaking your remote left and right, or up and down. As I said earlier, the controls are spot on when these events occur, and I never died from the game not recognizing my motions. Also, you'll have to be quick when the QTEs happen, because if you mess up, it's game over. So, contrary to what some previewers said, you can die, either from your battery running out in your flashlight, or losing a QTE. If you die, you have to play the level over again, no checkpoints, but the levels are short so if you do die, it won't take you long to get back to the spot you died in.
You unlock each level after beating the previous one, but the fifth and final level has to be unlocked by finding well hidden items in the first four levels. This would have been annoying if there wasn't some helpful people on the Gamefaqs message board, because the items are hidden a bit too well in my opinion. If you play through the four levels, but do not find all the items in each stage, you'll have to replay them. I didn't mind this simply because going back through a second time, I encountered scares that I missed the first time around. Also as I said, the levels are short and won't take you long to get through, especially when you know what you have to do. The whole game is short actually, you could, if you know where all the hidden items are, beat the game in one sitting, I would have if I didn't have to go back to find the hidden items. The shortness of the game could be a turn off for some people, but I think for the kind of game it is, the length is perfect. Of course an extra level or two wouldn't have hurt. Another thing some people have a problem with is the speed with which the characters walk. You cannot run, just walk slowly. I liked the slow walk because it added to the uneasy feeling I had while playing, but that is just me.
There is a two player mode using two remotes. One player plays the game like normal, while the other pushes buttons on the second remote to trigger scares. I didn't try out this mode so I'm not sure how well it works, or how much fun it is.
Closing: So the game is short, a bit on the easy side, and the characters can't run or strafe. No puzzles to solve, no weapons to use, and instant level restart if you fail a QTE. The game doesn't sound very good does it? Well think again, I had a blast with the game because it delivered exactly what I wanted: An authentic, scary, and atmospheric Grudge horror game experience, that plays a little differently than other games. The scares in the game are done well, and I jumped in my seat more than a few times. The scares are of the "Boo!" variety, but the game keeps you feeling uneasy while you are walking around thanks to the well designed,moody levels, and creepy sounds you hear. As soon as the game started I was sucked in and was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time I was playing it. For the price of the game, I was more than satisfied. If you are a fan of the films, or horror games in general, than give this a try. I'll probably bust this out every Halloween and play it. Thanks for reading my review, and I hope it was helpful.