JU-ON: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is bad. The graphics are bad, the presentation is bad, and the gameplay is bad. In fact, it's all so bad the game actually ends up being terrible.
Using the shirtless Asian boy and the creepy girl with filthy hair ghosts from The Grudge movies, JU-ON gives you a handful of creepy environments -- an abandoned factory, derelict apartments, etc. -- and hands you a flashlight to investigate them. There are no weapons, no healing items, and no health bar. You'll walk around opening doors and throwing switches, and the only ways to fail are to take so long that you run out of flashlight battery or to miss one of the QuickTime Wii-mote actions during a ghost fight.
Yup, you're going to have to ward off evil spirits by flailing your arms in this game. See, you control the "action" with just the Wii-mote. There's no nunchuk usage. When you move your Wii-mote, the onscreen flashlight follows suit. Slamming the device to a side has your character do a 180-degree turn to check out what's happening over there. When you want to move forward, you hold the B button and your character crawls forward.
Fear this game.
Now, you're not literally crawling, but boy howdy is this game slow. Sllllllllllow. You're assigned a character at the start of each episode, and these people have the motor skills of a person recovering from a stroke. You can barely turn your head, and each and every step is a slow and monumental effort.
I guess I could see this when you first enter a place like the abandoned factory. Here, you're a girl named Erika and the family dog just bolted into this dilapidated structure. In this situation, sure, I'd enter and go slow because I'd be afraid of stepping on rusty nails or whatever. However, after the first pupil-less, meowing little boy ghost, I'm sprinting through that place until I find my dog or I'm cutting my losses and waiting outside for Fido.
None of the characters in JU-ON share this basic sense of urgency. Yes, in some of the scenes where control is ripped away from you so that a scripted event can occur, your guy or gal will run a bit -- most notably when the delivery dude in the apartment level leaps through a plywood wall covering -- but then it's right back to baby steps around these horrible places.
Most of the ghosts you see in this game seem harmless enough. There's the Asian boy jumping around the hospital, some shadowy folks standing around the apartment complex, and a swing swinging by itself, but there are parts where you have to fight for your life. Usually, you'll open a door or enter and area and that long-haired chick shows up to act creepy. Well, kind of creepy. Like most people who make the jump from a movie to a game, she seems to be phoning in her performance. She'll come at you shaking her head side to side and such, but it's more like she's just turning it side to side. Then, she'll grab your arm and you'll have to pull off a series of quicktime Wii-mote flicks to get away. Nail the onscreen arrows, and you get away safely. Miss one of them, and it's game over.
Trouble with game over is that there's no checkpoint system in JU-ON. Let me tell you, the second scariest part of this game (the first being the realization that you paid for this experience) is seeing one of the arrows turn red to signify that you missed a move. You just spent 10 minutes slowly plodding your way to that point and now you have to do it all over again. I imagine the first time people fail (my initial screw-up came in the third episode) will be the last time they play JU-ON. For me, it was nearly impossible to summon the will to restart the snore-fest again.
If you want to get down to brass tax on why this game is an epic fail, there's the fact that it doesn't look good (environments are empty and blocky, plus the flashlight radius is pixelated), the sound effects and music cues are laughably bad, and there's no story. I do have to say that it's a damn shame there isn't any dialogue in this game because the text that pops up at the start of a stage to give us a glimpse of what our character's motivation is so horrible it deserves to be recorded so that it can give the original Resident Evil a run for its money in the worst VO of all time category with gems such as "… Wow, talk about a wasteland! The only thing missing is zombies."
The next (and perhaps biggest) problem with JU-ON is that it just isn't scary. I gave this thing a shot -- played late at night with lights off and such -- and every scare is so robotic and obviously coming that there isn't much need for fear. When you slowly open a door, you expect to get grabbed. When you see the shirtless boy, you expect him to meow.
If torturing yourself isn't enough, there is the change for some multiplayer action. "Courage Test" lets you trudge through the same single-player levels, but this time a second player can hold a Wii-mote and trigger "scares" on command. The second player hits A, and an image of the girl floats by, bees appears, or some other visual event that does nothing to the main character happens. Now, the game's not only boring, it's lame. A second player has to wait 15 seconds after deploy a scare tactic before he or she can do another one. Even if you wanted to try Courage Test, there's no way to jump out to the main menu from the middle of a single-player game and access the multiplayer option unless you reset the software, so enjoy that.
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