JU-ON: The Grudge: Haunted House Simulator  - Review

JU-ON: The Grudge: Haunted House Simulator
Ages: Mature

OK - you are going to get two extremely different reviews of this game. The fact that it was unusual is why we spent so much time trying to figure it out. JU-ON: The Grudge is presented as a "haunted house simulator". Its inspiration comes from the JU-ON/Grudge movies that are cult attractions in Japan. They are heavy stuff, with the innocents that have ever so slightly touched the curse die in grisly ways.

In the game, four members of a family are touched by the curse and they wander into different venues - decayed houses, apartment, factory, hospital. All are uniformly dark and rendered in a grunge texture. Your single illumination is a flashlight (not the first time that this has been done), and as you move excruciatingly slowly you find things, open doors and then a hand grabs your arm and you have to shake it off by waving the remote. Your life depends on shaking off the demon Kayoko and finding enough batteries to keep your flashlight on. Fail in either one of these and you are sent to the beginning of the level - which is not too bad because they are short. The game's design doesn't allow the player to get enough batteries in a single play through. The player must reenter the game, remembering where they have left off and using that knowledge, proceed further into the game.

If you make it to the end of a level - I believe you die, but then the player can proceed to another venue with another character. The game does not give any indication whether you are alive or dead, and if we know something about the movie - essentially everybody dies. The game is not really scary and things that might have been ominous are not explained - like hair. I don't know how it qualified for an "M" rating.

I think that the terror in the movies come about because the people killed are innocent of any wrong doing or involvement with the original crime. In the game, you have no empathy with the victims - all you know are their names and see the hand that opens doors which always looks like a woman's. It's hard to stick with the game because of its overwhelming dark and ponderous mood, but then - in spite of not liking it - I still am trying to figure it out. There will be another review.

Fun Factor: Not
Female Factor: Killer ghost
Player Friendly: Game is too obscure

Reviewed by: Editor - 11/09

Ju-On - The Grudge looked promising at first. It's based on a popular movie series (which can be a mixed blessing, believe me) and the first scenes are spooky and mysterious (especially if you haven't seen the movies). The option of taking a "Courage Test" appeared as a clever way to learn how to use the controls and to see what the game is all about. It was kind of interesting; it took place in a monochrome grey factory building with some silly scare scenes of the jump-out-and-shout-boo! variety, and you had to search around and find batteries for your flashlight and keys for the doors that you obviously had to go through (no subtlety there -- the batteries and keys blink in the dark, and you can't get your character to go in any direction but the "right" one).

So having had my courage tested I was ready for the real thing. Guess what? The real thing is the same thing! Yup, back in that deserted factory, following my foolish dog into the dark. And when I finished that "level" -- which means dying rather arbitrarily in the correct place -- I'm then able to access another similar monochrome gray building (a hospital this time) as another character, but the only way I know what character I am is because it tells me my name at the very start, but I never see myself and I don't act any different, so I assume my character name is just a vague tie-in to the movies. And so it goes for the 3 relatively short levels that I finished in one dark monochromatic grey environment after another, searching for batteries and keys and occasionally having to shake the Wii controller in a fairly undemanding way to survive the "fight" scenes. The most demanding part was trying to figure out what to do when the game stopped responding to the Wii controller, sometimes leaving me spinning out of control or simply unable to turn when I needed to.

So, in brief; it's an exploration game, but a weak one. The horror aspect is merely a reasonably creepy sound track and the occasional pop-up of one of two dead children. The whole game is short; probably playable in two hours and not really any fun to replay. There's a lot of arbitrariness in where you have to go and the fact that you die to end each level and despite the fact that you've been fending off death quite successfully up to that point, the end-of-level death is gratuitous and unavoidable (I assume it's dictated by the movie, but that's not made clear). The player control mechanism is buggy and ignores the controller at random times. The point of view and angle (i.e. the camera) is only slightly controllable. The fight scenes are pretty simple, but I consider that an advantage since my main interest is exploring. Unfortunately the goals are very linear and the time limit set by the battery mechanism discourages exploration. There's no checkpoint system, so any failure (e.g. running out of battery) means doing the whole level over, which is annoying even though the levels are unusually short. The subtitle, "Haunted House Simulator," seems entirely spurious in that the gameplay is so linear.

All in all, I'd say this game could use more development and if I had to guess I'd say the developers weren't given enough time to make the gameplay complex, the controls consistent, and the movie elements comprehensible to people who haven't seen the movies.

Reviewed by: Peter Langston - 11/09

  • JU-ON: The Grudge: Haunted House Simulator
  • © XSEED
  • Platform(s): Wii
  • To Order: WII http://www.amazon.com/ 27.99