Corpse Party: Blood Drive Review

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Title: Corpse Party Blood Drive
Developer: 5pb Games, XSEED
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 1.5 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail (Special Edition Only)

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail (Special Edition Only)
PSTV Support: 
Yes

Let’s talk about sequential games in franchises and storyline.  There are many franchises where new games require you to play the previous games beforehand, and other franchises where you don’t.  Let’s go with the Sword Art Online series for starters.  SAO: Lost Song is a direct sequel to SAO: Hollow Fragment, but you don’t necessarily need to play HF before you play LS.  There will be references that you won’t understand, but the overall plot of the new game will be decently understandable.

Other franchises, though, you can’t just jump in with the new game.  Corpse Party is a very good example of this.  A couple months back, I decided to do retro reviews of Corpse Party and its sequel, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, in anticipation of the third game of the series coming out this month.  This is important because Corpse Party is a series where you absolutely cannot play new games without the previous games.  Book of Shadows is a confusing mess if you haven’t played the original.  Just like that example, this new game cannot be played without having played both prior games.

So, I’m sure all of you know what’s coming next.  Here is my official review of the finale of the Heavenly Host saga, Corpse Party: Blood Drive!

Story

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Two months after the events of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, there is spiritual unrest in the real world.  There have been various incidents of possessions and mysterious deaths that the media and the locals are blaming on ghosts and other paranormal activity.  At the same time, the survivors of the Heavenly Host Tragedy that took place in Corpse Party are pulled into a global plot that involves them, their lost comrades, and the hellish realm they only narrowly escaped from months prior.

That is all I can say of the plot without giving out major spoilers for Blood Drive as well as the previous games.  What I can say is that you absolutely should not even think about playing this game without playing both prior games.  There are references and basis on story elements from the first two games thrown into Blood Drive from the get-go, and if you don’t know the source material, you will be completely lost and confused.  Knowledge of the prior games is a requirement before starting this game.

Now how is the story?  It’s really well done.  It brings back the gruesome horror elements of the first two games and pulls it into a much bigger scale.  You get tons of backstory on the characters as well as a host of new characters to add further information about the world the game takes place in.  You also get a host of new gruesome and horrifying death scenes.  Just like the previous games, there’s a dozen, if not more jaw-dropping scenes.  Once you get halfway in, the story has shocking twists and turns all the way through the finale.

Gameplay

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Much like the original game, Blood Drive is an adventure game with puzzle elements in a horror environment.  The only difference is that instead of being a 2D adventure game, Blood Drive is a 3D adventure game.  It definitely brings the series back to its roots after having Book of Shadows be primarily a visual novel with light puzzle elements.  If you were a fan of the original, you should be right at home from the get-go.

When you play the game, it’ll be passed between story events passing in a very visual novel manner and exploring 3D environments with a flashlight and sometimes partner characters along for the ride.  You have 10 different chapters to play through, and you unlock the chapters as you play.  At the end, you can start a new game in any chapter you want, but from the start you’ll clear a chapter and then be taken back to the title screen to start a new chapter while saving your system data to show what endings you’ve cleared.

When you’re exploring environments, you have the same goals as in the first game.  You want to reach an area that advances the story.  Like most horror games, there are a ton of locked doors and areas that require specific items to advance with.  Because of this, you will be doing a lot of exploring, searching for items you need.  You have the classic Loose Board puzzles from the first game to new puzzles and items that weren’t in the original game.

As you progress, though, there are a lot more hazards to deal with.  First of all, there are traps littered around the floor and visibility inside the main area is nearly pitch-black.  Because of this, it’s hard to find the traps.  Some can be seen with or without the light, such as cracked boards in the floor and spikes around the halls.  Others, such as piano wire (a rather large reference to a certain tear-inducing scene in Book of Shadows) can only be seen with the flashlight.  There’s strategy involved here, as the flashlight has limited battery life.  So, if you run out of batteries and don’t find more, you won’t be able to see these to disarm them.

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Outside of traps, there are phantoms and ghosts wandering the halls.  These are in set locations but can also spawn in the fleshy walls and floors you encounter along with tentacles that can drive you closer to the Darkening, the brink of insanity in which you will die.  Avoiding the tentacles is easy.  Ghosts, though, will give chase and follow you anywhere you go.  Unlike the first game, ghosts will follow you through the entire game.  You go to another room and they’ll be right there with you.  You try to run up the stairs and they’ll be tailing you the whole way.

This adds a rather large amount of tension to the game’s atmosphere.  Unless you have a Talisman, which are very scarce, you cannot fight off these phantoms.  You have to basically run for your life until you can get them stuck on a wall.  This running, of course, makes it much harder for you to see where traps are.  You can also hide in lockers and cabinets you find.  If they aren’t very close to you, they could pass you by.  If not, they’ll pull you out of the cabinet and attack you.

In the first game, you didn’t have many situations where you lost HP from your HP bar.  In Blood Drive, though, you lose HP every time you hit a trap or are hit by a ghost or phantom.  You have to watch your HP and use Bandages you find around to restore your HP.  Another choice is B-lining it for a save point, which will automatically restore all of your HP across all of your party members.

The key item acquisition is similar to the first game.  You grab an item and then you can use it elsewhere to solve a puzzle and advance the story.  So, there’s a lot of going back and forth to look for items, and then using them.  This goes until you get to the story event that ends the chapter and you go on to the next.

Across the 10 chapters of the game, you’ll be spending about 15 hours of game time.  That’s almost twice as long as the original game.  You can also unlock 8 EX chapters, which add more backstory to Blood Drive as well as the original game.  Then, with replay ability, you can go back and get the Wrong End endings.  With more than 40 different endings to get across the 18 chapters available to you, there’s a lot for you to do.

Controls

Controlling the game isn’t hard to do.  Things are pretty straight forward.  They’re also explained to you.  The touch screen, camera, and motion controls aren’t used, so you won’t have to worry about anything but the buttons.  One thing of note is that the R and L trigger controls are redirected to L2 and R2 when you play on the PlayStation TV.

Moving is done with the D-Pad and/or Left Analog Stick.  You can direct the flashlight’s area of focus without moving with the Right Analog Stick.  The L trigger is used to toggle the flashlight and the R trigger is used for switching which party member you’re controlling.  Finally, the face buttons are for menus and interaction.  X interacts with traps, items, and NPCs.  Square brings up the script log of recent scenes.  Holding Circle allows you to briefly run and dash.  Finally, Triangle pulls up the menu, where you can check your HP, inventory, or return to the title menu.

It’s pretty on par with how the first game worked, aside from the new features they added to Blood Drive.  Pretty much everything is explained to you as well, so no need to worry about not knowing what to do.

Presentation

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Here are where my only complaints are.  First off, the visual presentation looks nice.  It almost looks like it’s chibi in design with how the heads on characters is, but it looks good.  The layout of the environments from the first game come out wonderfully in 3D to a point where they have a lot of depth, but you’ll instantly know where you are once you start the game and check the layout of everything.  Aside from item placement, they did a pretty accurate job at recreating everything in 3D and still being faithful to the original designs.

The negative parts come from the frame-rate and loading sequences.  The game doesn’t run perfect, for sure.  The Unity engine the game uses has some frame drops in some areas, and when you have the flashlight on in certain areas.  The drops aren’t very severe, but they’re definitely noticeable.

The other negative part is loading.  Many of the loading sequences are bearable, but sometimes, the game takes a while with them.  It shouldn’t take 7-10 seconds to go back to the game from the customization menu.  It’s not unbearable, but it’s a lot longer than it should be.  It makes these sequences feel sluggish.

Summary

Corpse Party: Blood Drive faithfully brings all of the chills and bloody twists of the franchise to the PS Vita, completing the Heavenly Host trilogy.  On the downside, there are a couple issues with frame rate and loading sequences.  If you look past these, you’ll find a tense and deep horror game that no Corpse Party fan can afford to not play. 

8/10

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