The developers aren't laughing with you, they're laughing at you.
This game forces me to drink. If that statement alone isn't enough to discourage you from playing the unholy abomination that is Ju-On, please read on... I need a drinking buddy. But perhaps I should explain — I am drinking as I write this because this review has given me writer's block. It's the good kind of writer's block, though; an ironic result of having just too many damn things to say and not enough space to say them.
[image1]Ju-On is such an orgy of fatal flaws, a smorgasbord of horrible design choices and hair-tearing frustration that I don't know how best to convey my loathing. Everything I want to say to tear this game apart is bottle-necked in my mind, so I'm hoping that the large bottle of scotch sitting next to me will force them out (and maybe erase some of my memories of this game too).
The controls suck. The gameplay sucks. The levels suck. The scares suck. The graphics are passable, but since you can only see about an eighth of the screen at any given time due to your moronic flashlight, I'll go ahead and say they suck too. This game is a sick joke of a product that insults gamers for being stupid enough to buy it.
This game will try to scare you, and depending on how skittish you are, it might pull it off a few times early on. But two creepy cat kids and one bloody arm into the game, and you'll have seen everything it throws at you. There's a two-player option where the second person can activate predictable “panic” effects that are just downright annoying. In fact, predictable would be the word of choice to describe all the scary elements here. After a while you'll find yourself knowing when shock moments are coming, and to expect either creepy sounds, a disturbing illusion, or a run-in with the ghost.
So you know how when a terrifying spirit of evil incarnate is chasing you, your instinct is to take slow little baby steps? What? It isn't? Funny, cause that's what all the characters in Ju-On seem to think. You move in this game like an inchworm on sedatives. It literally takes 20 to 30 seconds to walk down a short hallway. I'd understand if you were controlling an 80-year old woman — but no, these are normal Joe schmoes who just seem to have no sense of self-preservation whatsoever.
[image2]And the game only uses three buttons. Three. Fucking. Buttons. Adding a run button would not be hard here. Of course, that would turn this 4-5 hour game into a 1-2 hour one, and I believe the developers are trying to cause misery, not relieve it.
And while we're on the subject of sound logic, enough with the flashlights in video games. They just don't work. Whether it's Doom 3 and your dumbfounding inability to hold a flashlight and gun in each hand, or F.E.A.R.'s marvel of technology that lasts for 30 seconds on a charge — flashlights should never, ever be a central gameplay element. In this game, the flashlight is so poor that even when you shine it in the right direction, you're liable to miss something.
Case in point: I died in the very first room of the game because I couldn't find the stupid key to unlock the door in the darkness and my flashlight ran out of juice. That's right, the flashlight is a double-palmed slap to the face - not only does it suffer from “generic-brand battery” syndrome (where batteries inexplicably run out in minutes), but the batteries also serve as your life bar. Yes, finding a battery in a level extends your “life” that much longer for your stumbling-around-in-the-dark pleasure, and if the battery runs out, you get killed by the ghost.
And that brings me to another point, which I find curiously amusing in hindsight. Never before in a game have I experienced such an odd mixture of relief and frustration at finding more "life" (batteries) in a level. On one hand, the competitive gamer in me is happy when I find one. On the other hand, that means I need to slug through that much more of the level. Call me crazy, but when a player is disappointed that they still have more of the game to complete, the developers probably made a few mistakes along the way.
[image3]But what's the point of even completing these levels anyway? The whole point of the Ju-On/Grudge series is to show how people die from the curse. No one gets away; if you come in contact with the curse you die one way or another (by the way, this game has nothing at all to do with the plots of the movies). Each level in Ju-On sees you taking control of a random victim who unfortunately runs into the curse, and guess what happens at the end of the level: You die. So why exactly is it “Game Over” when I die because my flashlight batteries ran out? I'm just gonna die anyway, right? Oh, wait, I didn't die in the way you wanted me to. That makes a ton of sense. I'm sorry, I guess I'm supposed to please my torturers.
Now, the dung beetle to top off this turd sandwich: when you finish a level (or fail too, for that matter), the game “evaluates” your performance with what appear to be completely arbitrary measurements. And then it insults you. That's right — even when I completed a level quickly and efficiently after learning where to go, this awful game derided me with cynical jabs. My personal favorite: “You are like watching paint dry.” Seriously? The game that just made me tiptoe my way through three rooms for a good 15 minutes is calling me boring? Heh, real funny, guys.
Don't play Ju-On. If you're not a fan of the movies, you'll hate this game. If you are a fan of the movies, you'll hate this game. If you have eyes and ears, you'll hate this game.
For those of you that care, I've gone through an eighth of a liter of scotch since starting this review. And I'm certain that the number of brain cells I've killed is only a small fraction of the number that committed suicide from being exposed to Ju-On. They were lucky.