Blood Drive, the third entry proper in Team GrisGris’ Corpse Party series is a startling game in many aspects. It jumps from traditional survival horror with about as much clear guidance on offer as a piece of furniture without the instructions to heavy-handed teenage melodrama before taking a turn at overly descriptive gore without even really missing a beat. There is some enjoyment in completing its 15-20 hour story despite its startlingly inconsistent tone and some thoroughly awkward and uncomfortable scenes which push the boundaries of acceptability, but Blood Drive’s adherence to some now-archaic tropes of the survival horror genre among other things make it something of a slog to complete.
Having no previous experience of the Corpse Party series isn’t too much of an issue with Blood Drive, given how frequently the game explains itself and the great detail it goes into in the process. Picking off where previous installment Book of Shadows ended, Blood Drive finds Ayumi Shinozaki and company adjusting to life after three of their friends and teacher were lost in the harrowing corridors of Heavenly Host Elementary, a supernatural plain masquerading as a school, filled with vengeful spirits. Racked with guilt, Ayumi and co make a predictably ill-advised return and find themselves surrounded by new forces wishing to rip, tear and bludgeon them to pieces in the process.
The game itself takes a good two of its eleven chapters to offer you proper control, thankfully setting up the current state of play but in slow fashion. Once it does, the real meat of the gameplay consists of wandering through dark corridors covered with obstacles ranging from throbbing blobs of flesh to broken glass. Coming into contact with either of these will bring down your health, as will thankfully sparsely positioned spirits. Characters have limited stamina and can only run for a short time, meaning your options are either hide, die or, if you’re lucky, combat them with a talisman to banish them, if you’ve been fortunate enough to find one lying around. These aspects of the game are nicely explained, which is woefully at odds with Blood Drive’s refusal to suggest where you should actually be, y’know, going. It’s startling, especially when you take into account how much game time is swallowed up by having detailed conversations about your current location and situation with your classmates, making exploring Heavenly Host a far more laborious task than it needs to be.
The presentation is also a bit at odds with itself, with cute chibi character models presumably unintentionally contrasting the dark, dank corridors that you’ll walk through. With no English dub available, the Japanese voice acting instantly heads towards the melodramatic, high-pitched end of the spectrum and stays there for the game’s duration, although the ability to skip through the game’s frequently cumbersome dialogue is a plus given the presence of the 100+ piercing screams that await you. Special mention has to go to the incredibly descriptive deaths your characters experience from their own perspective, purely because few games feel the need to use the word ‘viscera’ quite so often.
Despite the mountain of dialogue on offer, there’s a half decent story in Blood Drive. Sure, it’s more dramatic than ten highly charged high school proms put together, and the game’s stray sojourns into slightly more mature, sexual content are at best, laughably bad and at worst, horrifically uncomfortable, but there’s a mild compulsion to push your way to the conclusion of Ayumi’s story. But even when it’s at its most attention-grabbing, you’re never too far away from an archaic survival horror trope, poor design choice or terrible sequence. One particularly memorable moment will have you running away from two monsters without any indication, once again, as to where you’re actually supposed to go; whilst you chug along with limited stamina with those shrieking/shouting pursuers easily keeping pace. It’s exciting the first time, but without any direction, dodgy controls and barely any time in which to make your escape, that tension quickly descends into farcical levels of hatred.
That welcome desire to set up its intricate story aside, Blood Drive is a frustrating experience that brings itself down far too often. Its decision to wed itself to so many awkward, enjoyment-sapping conventions of survival horror’s yesteryear might have prompted some begrudging respect if they didn’t make the 15-20 hours you’ll spend in its company so needlessly difficult so frequently. There’s a market for tough games, but there’s nothing fun about the lessons Blood Drive teaches. Fans of the series will likely find closure in the game’s true ending (if they can figure out how to unlock it), and even newbies to the series should find themselves clued up on the series’ previous events soon enough. How deeply players will delve into Blood Drive will be purely dependent on their threshold for the game’s faults, which vastly outweigh its positives.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 4/10 Format: PlayStation Vita Release Date: 13/10/2015
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Corpse Party: Blood Drive by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of three days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.