Corpse Party: Blood Drive Review

By Shawn Collier on December 14, 2015

Back in 2011, XSEED Games released the first entry in the Corpse Party franchise to western audiences on the PlayStation Portable. It garnered critical acclaim for its stylish 2D graphics, mixed with some quite excellently unnerving audio recording and gruesome detail of the various deaths of the characters during their trials throughout the game as they attempt to make their way out alive through the halls of the haunted Heavenly Host Elementary School.

Two years later, XSEED Games released the sequel, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. It made a repeat performance on the PlayStation Portable, but this time around it took the perspective of a visual novel-type format instead of the RPG Maker-inspired gameplay the original had, which was a marked departure from the original game's format that was disliked by some players.

So for the third main entry in the series, Corpse Party: Blood Drive, it's now on the PSP's successor, the PlayStation Vita, returning to the RPG Maker-inspired gameplay mechanics but now with new 3D gameplay touches and models. With this being another departure from the original, is something again lost in the shuffle? Or is this more of a return to form for fans of the original?

As stated earlier, this game takes place following the events of the sequel, Book of Shadows. Blood Drive puts you in the role of Ayumi, who has just been released from the hospital after two months following the events of the "Heavenly Host" incident that cost the lives of her friends and her sister. The sequel's events still lead the protagonists to want to find a way to bring their friends back to life, which eventually brings them back to the location of Heavenly Host Elementary School, which was thought to have been destroyed.

Being on a new platform, there's much more of a reliance on 3D gameplay this time around. Instead of the 2D directional grid-based movement found in the original, Blood Drive lets you have full 3D movement using the analog stick. Like the original, however, there's a number of obstacles and traps/hazards lying around that can damage you if you're not careful.

Like the original, there's also undead spirits that will chase after the player if they spot them in their sights. If you have a talisman you can immediately make them go away, but if you don't you'll have to find the nearest cupboard and hide yourself into it, hoping that you made it inside there in time without the spirit seeing you enter it. Otherwise, they'll pull you out of it and you will take a huge chunk of HP damage.

This is where the game's camera plays works against the player, as you only have a color-coded cue appear on the screen as to the spirit's distance, not their actual location, going from blue, green, yellow, and then red. And there's no on-screen cue to indicate if you successfully entered the cupboard in time either, as there's times it'll stay in the "red" zone for minutes at a time until the game decides for the spirit to de-spawn. I personally had this occur for a good five to seven minutes in one instance.

If you've played the first two games, you know that most of the game is spent going to specific rooms to trigger events or solve puzzles that further the narrative. Unlike the second entry there isn't a map, but generally the game does indicate items that are important or can be picked up by having them flash, so if you're inquisitive enough you'll be able to progress with enough trial and error involved. That said, there were a few puzzles and areas that said items were hidden and didn't give off these flashes, which made things much more of a pixel hunt than necessary.

Blood Drive does give you a flashlight that can be used to illuminate your surroundings to help find items and walk around traps, but it brings up a major underlying issue with the game's engine. The moment you turn on the flashlight, the framerate immediately tanks to slideshow territory. It's odd, because with that light turned off the game runs well (not perfectly, but at least steadily enough), so why there's such a drastic difference with it enabled doesn't make much sense. Frame rate drops also occur when multiple enemies are on the screen --- enabling the flashlight here just compounds upon that issue.

Speaking of engine issues, there's also a loading time issue that pops up in many parts of the game. Players can expect that there's going to be a slight loading time between rooms in the school, but there's lengthy loading times present even with browsing through the in-game menus. Pausing the game causes it, viewing the inventory causes it, even exiting the menu causes it. Because you need to access this menu to occasionally heal your player, you'll run into this issue more than once.

Thankfully, the narrative is up to the standards Corpse Party fans expect and is just as excellent as the previous two games in the series. Like the original Corpse Party where the RPG Maker-style "dated" gameplay and graphics were carried by the astounding narrative, Blood Drive made me overlook the niggling gameplay issues to see what would happen next. A shout out also goes to XSEED Games for the game's localization, as the character's dialogue felt quite well-written.

Artistically, if you liked the look of the original game, even with the 3D shift in Blood Drive it's still very much in line with the original's style. The only minor issue of note was that due to the increased graphical clarity of the character models, there's a minor disconnect between what happens to the models and what's seen on-screen. For example, there's a character who ends up losing an eye during the game, but they're shown on-screen with said eye intact.

Final Thoughts

If you're a veteran of the series, this is an easy recommendation as from a narrative perspective it's an excellent next step in the Corpse Party franchise. But the lack of polish in numerous areas detracts from the overall experience for those who might be on the fence. I could easily recommend the first game in the series to anyone who would ask, but I can't as easily do the same for this title.

If you were engrossed by the narrative of the previous two entries, you'll be gripped with this third entry in the franchise.
The graphical clarity of the character models and the environments are quite nicely done.
The audio is as excellent as ever.
Exceptionally bad framerate drops in certain circumstances.
Loading times seem much longer than necessary.
Occasionally there's a disconnect between the narrative's events and the new 3D character models.
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