Developer: feelplus ("Lost Odyssey")
Publisher: Xseed Games
Available on: Wii
There’s an inherent disconnect between video games and reality that prevent games from feeling like real life. Playing “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” for example, doesn’t make you feel like running around an insane asylum in your pajamas. And while “Ju-On,” which bills itself as a haunted house simulator, doesn’t make you feel like you're walking around a haunted house, it’ll still do a very, very good job of scaring the snot out of you.
Loosely based on the “Ju-On” series of Japanese horror films that inspired the 2004 Americanized hit “The Grudge” this is more of an interactive experience than a game. (“Ju-On” and “Grudge” director/mastermind Takashi Shimizu served as a consultant.) There’s no combat—you don’t fight any dead spirits or that creepy kid who screeches like a cat. Instead, you simply explore scary locations, armed only with a flashlight and your wits.
The simple controls involve looking around by moving the Wiimote, holding a button to move whatever way you’re facing, and hitting another button to interact with something, be it a doorknob to turn or a key or spare battery to pick up. Sometimes you’ll have to wiggle the Wiimote, but we’re not going to tell you when, lest we spoil the surprise.
Admittedly, the game startles more than it scares with a seriously creepy vibe—one akin to a “Silent Hill” game or the original “Ju-On” movie—packing frights mostly of the “LOOK OUT!” variety. That’s also incorporated into the two-player co-op mode, which allows one person to call the shots by hitting a button to make stuff jump out at the other player.
The biggest problem comes with the system “Ju-On” was made for. The concept wouldn't work on the 360 or PS3—at least until their respective motion controllers are released—but since the Wii lacks digital audio output, there’s no option for 5.1 surround sound. That means all the sound effects only come from in front of you—you never hear anything weird to the side, or behind you, which would've increased the fear factor considerably.
“Ju-On” won't hold anyone’s attention for very long. There’s just not enough to do, and the few things you do have to do, such as finding a key, aren’t very difficult. But maybe that’s for the best. The game is so freaky, chances are you’ll only be able to mess around with it for a few moments at a time anyway.
Bottom line: Fails as a game but still a scary good time.