Ju-On The Grudge: A Fright Simulator (Wii) Review

By Mike Mason 12.11.2009 7

Review for Ju-On The Grudge: A Fright Simulator on Wii

This is the perfect time of year for horror games. The clocks have just changed, you barely see daylight and the wind is bombing it through the trees outside. Plus, there's just been that little thing called Halloween. Sadly, not much has actually been seen of the genre recently on Wii, outside of Cursed Mountain and Dead Space: Extraction, and so by default Rising Star's Ju-On, based on the films of the same name (or The Grudge films, the American remakes), has claimed the weeks surrounding everybody's favourite excuse to dress up like a goblin. Does it deserve it, though?

As I write this review I cradle a cup of mint hot chocolate. Mainly because it's delicious, but also because I needed to calm my nerves a tad. I'm a big sissy and Ju-On knows how to push my buttons, with its grabbing arms bursting out of places they shouldn't and things that shift around spookily. Don't be mistaken though - Ju-On is not a traditional survival horror game as you might be led to expect. It's more akin to a ghost train or something similar, hence the subtitle: A Fright Simulator. You wander through the levels, looking at and interacting with the environments, but you do not attack anything; the closest thing to action is collecting batteries to power your torch. Oh, and the whole 'escape from the murderous ghosts' part is pretty big...

The best way of thinking of Ju-On is as a casual horror game, as opposed to most others that are games aimed purely at hardcore audiences. If you're expecting a game where you can go around shooting things in the face, look elsewhere, as you'll find no joy in Ju-On. No, this is horror for the non-gamer, which means a simplified experience that's split into five episodes, each ranging somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes in length on average. Your goal in these levels is to basically be led along by the 'signposts' that appear; things like hospital boards lighting up telling you which rooms need attention. It's not on-rails - all control is completely manual - but heavy hints tell you where you're supposed to be going next. The 'next' inevitably involves some kind of ghost attack.

Screenshot for Ju-On The Grudge: A Fright Simulator on Wii

Before you begin, you are asked to select your gender and starsign. It reveals why later. At the end of each episode you are given a ranking on scare factor and sissy factor; how much you have investigated your surroundings and how much your hand/the remote has been shaking or moving during scare moments. A paragraph pops up, too, explaining your reactions and how that correlates with how people of your starsign might react. It may have been nice to see this expanded more with graphs or statistics to show exactly what sort of moment scared each player most, but it is what it is.

A criticism that many may have is that the game moves too slowly. I don't share this negativity; it all adds to the experience. The Wii remote becomes your torch, and wherever you point is where a beam of light goes into the dark, murky rooms. Holding B makes you take steps in the direction that your light is spilling. Tiny, shuffling steps. I can understand why this might frustrate, but the atmosphere is what is important in a game such as this, and the snail's pace means that you know inherently that you cannot just run away from scares; you must endure them. You might see something cross the corridor and go to follow it, and your slow walk, the extra time it takes to get to your destination, allows the tension to creep up inside of you, the anticipation building to whatever horror you might find. For me, it worked.

Screenshot for Ju-On The Grudge: A Fright Simulator on Wii

A lot of the scares are relatively predictable - many involve the main ghosts, the deadly vengeful ghost girl who wants nothing more than to rip your face off and the bizarre boy-child that meows like a cat, popping out of things - but the entire game has an air to it that is unsettling. You know when things are going to happen, but it doesn't stop you jumping if you're playing it in the right frame of mind, playing for the thrills in an appropriate setting and not just sitting half-arsedly messing about on it in a daylit room. Then, there actually is the odd moment that makes you jump and call the game awful names. It plays on your mind; very early on you get a lesson in the bad things that happen when you open doors, and the feeling of uneasiness whenever you touch a door knob never dissipates after these moments.

It would be wrong to say that Ju-On does everything right, however. For everything it gets right in terms of atmosphere, there are big faults with the pointer controls - it really doesn't feel as smooth as it should do. Your torch can become very jerky, resulting in cumbersome looking and turning around, often after direct encounters with the female ghost, wherein you have to shake the remote to match on-screen arrows to avoid a nasty end. It seems that the shaking occasionally mucks up the aiming. It doesn't ruin the game, but it shouldn't be happening and does prevent it from being all it could have been. It can be rectified very quickly by pressing the Wii's home button and then clicking back into the game to 'reset' the pointer, though the associated frustration takes you out of the experience, sometimes undermining any atmosphere that has been built up. At first I believed the game just didn't like my sensor bar's placement, but when the issues were still present after moving it around several times it became apparent that this wasn't the case.

Screenshot for Ju-On The Grudge: A Fright Simulator on Wii

It's also quite harsh in the placement of batteries. You are essentially timed by a meter in the bottom left corner that determines how much juice is left in your torch, and so a constant worry is in collecting up enough energy to keep the light shining. Let it go out and it's game over. Once you manage to get a spare battery pack in hand you generally have enough until you find one or two more, but getting started can sometimes be a little tough when you're not initially sure where you're going; it can be all too easy to waste your first precious energy cylinder poking at random doors in the new place you've plonked in rather than hunting out batteries. In addition, for a casual game it isn't friendly enough to explain the controls in-game, which is a bit of a must for the audience.

Ju-On is not the sort of game that is best played alone; it's a social experience, something to crack out with your other half or if you have mates around so that you can all laugh at each others' reactions. Developers Feel Plus have included a quick play Courage Mode, letting you skip into any level that you have unlocked without affecting your save game. There's also a two player mode of sorts to capitalise on this, wherein one player can carry on normally while another can man a second remote and deliver scares at random intervals by pushing buttons. The images or objects that burst up are never as frightening as the properly scripted bits, and usually end up more funny than anything, but with decent timing it adds a little something. It would have been nice to see more variety for the things that pop up, though, as they loop very quickly. Wisely, button pressing on the second remote has been restricted so that it can only be done every 15 seconds so that nobody can be irritating by spamming ghosts and slowing down the player's progress even further.

Screenshot for Ju-On The Grudge: A Fright Simulator on Wii

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Ju-On is a great example of something different. It doesn't always work as it should - the aiming can get out of control and scares can be missed as a result, leaving you wondering what's going on - but if you're after a game that's not the norm, have a few like-minded friends and play it as it is clearly intended, in the dark, you'll see what a casual horror game can do. If it's action you want, avoid; if you're a fan of The Grudge/Ju-On films on which this is based, or just have an open mind, it's well worth a bump in the night.

Developer

Feel Plus

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Horror

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I'll definitely be getting this at the beggining of next year once I've caught up with all of my purchases/lapsed games.

Smilie i play this at midnight when I have partys

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I really don't know about this one. There's Tales of Symphonia 2, Muramasa, NSMB Wii and Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles coming out this month. My budget is full already, i think i'll pass.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

actually, I suggest you guys who are thinking of getting this game to pass. I\'ve tried it and it\'s completely laughable. At one part a TV turns on, a drawer opens, and a hand comes out and turns the TV off, it just looks terrible and it took me forever to stop laughing at how bad it was.

I would give it:
Gameplay: 2, not really any gameplay other than walking and turning very very very very very very very slowly, most of the spooks are copy/paste throughout the game. Also, looking for batteries is just annoying.

Graphics: I agree with him here, multiplayer though would go about two steps under.... random screen effects caused by a button press looks terrible.

Sound: completely agree.

Value: -3, yes, it gets a negative, this game has no value as it is not a game but a failer at making a movie series interactive. Everything it attemps either is only scary the first time (more like a \"BOO!\" scary) and many of the other ones ar just so terrible it\'s funny.

Overall a 0/10, it should have never been made.

( Edited 13.11.2009 02:30 by edracon )

I think some of the appeal is that some of the scares ARE cheesy and funny, actually. Most of the ones involving the cat boy are corny, and it adds a bit of relief to proceedings - you know after you've had a 'scare moment' you're 'safe' for a few seconds, I guess.

I can see why some people don't like it, but I think many have approached it in completely the wrong way in thinking that it's this action game. It's not and it's not intended to be, it's like some kind of interactive fair ride almost.

Thanks for your comments. Smilie

Mason said:
I think some of the appeal is that some of the scares ARE cheesy and funny, actually. Most of the ones involving the cat boy are corny, and it adds a bit of relief to proceedings - you know after you\'ve had a \'scare moment\' you\'re \'safe\' for a few seconds, I guess.

I can see why some people don\'t like it, but I think many have approached it in completely the wrong way in thinking that it\'s this action game. It\'s not and it\'s not intended to be, it\'s like some kind of interactive fair ride almost.

Thanks for your comments. Smilie


The thing is, in an interview they said they were trying incredibly hard to make it incredibly scary. But it didn\'t work out that way. My comment I\'m going by the statements that is was meant to be scary, not funny, or cheesy. I know it\'s not an action game(it\'s not even a game, the full title is \"Ju-On: The Grudge: Haunted House Simulator\"... but you would expect to be at least able to run in the game or something, or even have \"boo\" scares that work for most people over the age of 10.

I like your review though.

( Edited 13.11.2009 21:31 by edracon )

Our member of the week

Basically you can't run in both Nanashi no Game for the DS (you just "walk faster"), but they're among the most scary games i've played so far.

I might be interested but given all the other games that are coming out at the same period, i can't afford buying this one.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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