I thought for my first review, it would only make sense to start with the game I most recently finished. Recently as in just this evening. Ju-on: The Grudge. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, Ju-on is the original Japanese horror movie that The Grudge was based off of. I rented this game as my first choice from Gamefly, mainly because I wanted to watch my parents play it. My mom hated the movie, so making her play the game was pure torturous joy for me. And let me tell you, nothing kills a scary mood like watching someone wander around like they’re having a seizure every five seconds (the character on screen… not mom, just to clarify). After dying within a minute of the game, I took over & played through it while she watched.
If you’ve read any news on the game, you know that this game has received negative scores all around. But is it really as bad as they say?
The box cover claims the game is a haunted house simulator. Well, that’s all well & good, but what does it mean? Basically, the game is yourself starring in The Grudge. The story is what you’d expect if you’ve watched the movies: it follows a family who is trying to escape the grudge. You play as various family members throughout the game (daughter, mother, son, father & then the daughter again) & try to help them survive the grudge that’s hunting them down.
You’ll work your way through five levels (factory, hospital, apartment, office & finally the grudge house), searching for keys, batteries & other items to help you escape. The game operates on a sort of rail system, meaning there is only one set path you can take. From time to time you’ll have staged encounters with the grudge, which requires you to swing the wii-mote in certain directions to survive. You don’t have a health meter in the conventional sense. Instead, when your batteries run out, so does you life. You will find batteries along your way, but it’s easy to run out if you get lost or linger too long.
Narrative: Not much in the way of plot. If you know anything about Japanese horror, you know what to expect. Family moves into cursed house. Family is tormented by grudge for no reason other than just being there. Family tries to escape but it’s ultimately futile. You know the drill. So overall, don’t go for this game is you’re looking for mind-bending plot twists. All of the characters have zero sense of self-preservation & do things that will always get people killed in horror stories. Let’s run into the abandoned warehouse after the dog! Let’s deliver this creepy package to an obviously abandoned apartment complex! It’s also pretty lame that the game makes you find all of the scrap paper hidden in the levels to unlock the final level & see the real end of the game. Not that it really changes anyone’s fate. Score: 2
Mechanics: Okay, so the story’s not going to win a Pulitzer. But we all know you don’t play The Grudge for the story. You do it for the scares. So how does it do in this regard? Not well, I’m afraid. The game just isn’t that scary. There were a few moments that made me jump, but most of them you can see coming a mile away. Most of the time I seemed to be looking the wrong direction for the scares. The overall gameplay aspect is just atrocious. First of all, you have to use the B button to move. Because my version was a rental, it didn’t come with the instruction book, so it took us a few tries to even figure that part out. Why not use the nunchuck like a normal game? Moving the wii-mote changes your direction, but it’s very finicky. Sometimes you barely move at all even when you’re flinging your wrist around like there’s a spider on it, & other times just tilting the wii-mote sends you flying in circles while staring at the ceiling. The worst part for me was the speed you walk. Seriously. We’re in a haunted (insert creepy place here), how about a little hustle? Sadly, the gameplay aspect is the worst part of the game, & drags down the whole experience. Score: 2
Aesthetics: The visuals are average. The character designs seem a bit blocky. The backgrounds look nice in HD… assuming you can see them. That’s really my chief complaint. The game is just too dark. I know dark is scary, but it’s not so scary if I can’t see anything. Half the time I was just staring at the ground because it was the only way I could tell if I was moving forward & not walking against a wall. The audio fares slightly better. I actually like the audio. Mostly the game is silent, with no music. The only thing you can hear is your own footsteps, punctuated by creaking & groaning from unknown sources. It definitely lends to the creepy atmosphere. But like any good horror movie, music kicks in when something especially frightening is happening. So overall, the audio is good, but the average visuals pulls it down some. Score: 3
Replay Value: Very little. Once you’ve seen the scares, you know what’s going to happen so there’s little reason to play again. The only reason you’ll play through the levels more than once is to collect all the special items you need to unlock the final level. Score: 1
Overall Score: 2
Final Word: If you’re a fan of this type of thing or are easily scared, you’ll probably get a few thrills from Ju-on: The Grudge… once. But the mediocre presentation & frustrating controls keep this from being a permanent addition to horror-lover’s collections. Rent it, have a few good screams (or laughs, depending on how you look at it), & send it back for something better.
Game Title: Ju-on: The Grudge – Haunted House Simulator Console: Wii Rating: M Developer: feelplus Publishers: AQ Interative (Japan) & Xseed Games (US) Release Date: October 13, 2009