Based on the hit Japanese horror movie that got an American remake, Ju-On The Grudge: Haunted House Simulator is an idea that I think is fundamentally sound on the surface. There’s a segment of casual players that want a scary experience, but don’t have the gamer acumen to take something on as hardcore as Resident Evil or Silent Hill. If put together properly and packaged at the right price, this concept could come to life in a way that most other games in the genre haven’t. After playing a few levels of Ju-On, it’s evident that this falls well short of the mark.
This game is broken up into a series of levels that you take on in a linear manner. In the first level, you take on the role of Erika, whose dog has run into a rundown factory. After that, you wake up as Miki in an abandoned hospital. These seemed to be completely unrelated to each other, though these may come together by the end of it. Playing from a first-person perspective, you must navigate your way to the end of each level.
For a game that touts itself as being a haunted house simulator, reaching the end of each stage is more involved than I originally thought going in. You have full control of your movement and are required to solve some basic puzzles to advance through each segment. I appreciate its attempts at adding depth, but its execution is poor. You’re armed with the worst flashlight of all-time, as aiming it in the right spot is oddly difficult, and the light it emits is laughable. I get that you’re in dark environments and that its battery life is scarce, but when you can only see two inches in front of you through a dim spot that’s just a tiny fraction of the screen, the effect not only breaks the immersion, but makes navigating the world needlessly difficult. This may also be a means of hiding the sub-par graphics, which look really bad when in focus.
Making matters worse is the way in which movement is handled. By holding the B button, your character walks forward. You then use the Wii Remote to steer. I get the appeal in making a remote-only game, though it makes the action of walking clunky. I would have appreciated the inclusion of nunchuck support to address this.
During its fleeting moments of enjoyment, it did actually cause me to tense up and even jump out of my seat during specific scary moments. However, the main sources of fear got predictable very quickly. Every few minutes, the kid who sounds like a cat would scurry in front to startle you. Then you’ll see black hair envelope the room you’re in. Eventually, you’ll square off in a Quick Time Event-driven encounter against the creepy girl, where you’ll need to waggle your way out of her clutches. Other than that, you’re simply walking from room-to-room, collecting door keys to unlock the next area, which isn’t very interesting at all. Maybe it does get better after those two, but from reports of this game having only five levels, I doubt it’ll turn it around in time to redeem itself.
I figured that Ju-On The Grudge: Haunted House Simulator would be bad. However, I didn’t think I’d come away with it carrying a sense of disappointment like I did. I get the sense that could have delivered a Slender-like experience years beforehand, but it stumbles on every conceivable aspect beyond its base concept. Unless you just have to own this to complete your Wii or survival horror collection, there’s nothing else redeemable about this dud.
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