I first saw the original Ju-on movie in Japan on Halloween night 2005. I was doing fine up until the part where the TV in this lady's apartment goes wonky.
I didn't even bother with the American version after that. The Japanese original was scary enough for me, thank you very much. So when I heard there was a game coming out that was made by Japanese developers based entirely on the lore established by the Japanese film series, I was totally cool with it—even if it was "another movie game."
Then I actually played it – if that's what you can call the act of participating in a "haunted house simulation."
It's Not A Game, It's a Haunted House – and It Fails At That, Too: Ju-on: The Grudge bills itself as a "haunted house simulator," which means you're supposed to experience it rather than play it. True to form, you can't control much of anything in the game except the odd flee-from-malevolent-ghost quicktime event and there is no way to "win" the game in the traditional sense. This might still be an okay thing… except Ju-on isn't a very good haunted house, either. The scares are predictable (except the ones inflicted on you by a second player mashing A on their Wii Remote randomly) and a lot of the monsters, ghosts and motifs are repeated between the four levels. For example, hair tentacles and the little boy meowing like a cat are used way too much to be scary after the first time you encounter them and the random dolls or bodies that fall from the ceiling right in front of you are almost comical in their absurdity.
The Controls Are Lousy:The Wii remote functions as a flashlight which is like a life bar (when you run out of flashlight battery life, you die); and all your movements are mapped to the B trigger and the D-pad. Squeezing the trigger takes you forward at a fixed pace and you can change directions gradually by pointing the Wiimote in a direction while you walk. This system of movement is frustratingly slow and wonky – especially when you're trying to turn around tight corners. The effect ruins whatever scary the game manages to achieve because you're constantly facing in the wrong direction see scary stuff like a ghost running down a hallway, or you can't make the Wiimote obey the QTE sequence of flailing – so you wind up dying and having to repeat the same thing over and over again, which really sucks the scary out of the game.
Not. Scary. At. All. Scariness in games is a result of a lot of things, as we explore here in this feature. Conversely, un-scariness is a result of a lot of things – poor controls, lousy execution of basic startles, etc. Ju-on: The Grudge has some of what it needs to scare you, like the dynamite films on which its based and the necessary creepy settings you imagine in nightmares (hospitals, burned out apartments, etc.). However, its control scheme and poorly-timed cheap thrill scares make a mess of what little the game has going for it. The result is an experience you'd sooner skip, not because it scares you but because it's such a waste of potential.
I'm disappointed that I couldn't find even one thing to love about this game. I really liked the movies and I love horror games. To be fair, there even was one thing I liked: the mechanic of a second player having the ability to scare player one. However, this idea was poorly implemented in Ju-on because the images generated by pressing A repeated themselves too often. So even that doesn't work out for Ju-on and I've got to tell you you're better off just watching the movie. Or going to a real haunted house. Or actually encountering a real death curse. Any of those options is bound to be scarier and way more exciting than Ju-on: The Grudge.
Ju-on: The Grudge was developed by Feelplus and published by XSEED Games for the Wii. Released on October 13 for $30 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played all four levels in the game, plus the courage test with a second player periodically mashing on A to give me random scares.
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