Gregory Horror Show (PAL) box

What does the emotion of fear mean to you? Is it the feeling of dread when faced with a particular situation, or an adrenaline rush you actively seek? Being scared can be triggered by many means, though the most common example is a sudden shock like having a spider in your hair. Other kinds are more psychological in nature, such as an arachnophobic realising a spider is in their hair. Capcom have a long standing tradition of catering to the shock factor with the Resident Evil series. But in a rare move they created Gregory Horror Show, a game based upon a three dimensional anime. Instead of the normal action based route however, Capcom opted for a more psychological method.

You are an initially gender confused individual who happens to get lost in the woods. Finding the hotel, you are greeted by the strange rat featured proprietor of the establishment; Gregory. Once you have sorted out which gender you actually are, Gregory puts you up for the night. Sometime after this event you are confronted by Death, who has evidently gone to Sweden for a holiday recently. He informs you that you cannot escape the confines of the hotel, probably due to you somehow committing suicide in such a creepy place. Interestingly, he offers you a get out clause as long as you bring him lost souls. He also warns you that getting these souls will be hard due to the nature of the ones holding said souls.

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The first thing you will undoubtedly notice is the characters and that everyone resembles the Lego people, with a cubed head. It isn’t until you look at the source material to find that this is how they look normally. The rest of the game looks appropriately gloomy. Dark dank corridors combined with some subtle lighting instil an overwhelming sense of paranoia. A disappointing factor is that the visuals featured could have been replicated on past platforms. While there is merit for sticking to the resource material, it isn’t good to skimp out on the scenery. Having said that, the sound is superb, perhaps the most polished part of the game. Voice acting is remarkably slick yet creepy at the same time, while timely lightning and thunder increase tension.

As I played through the tutorial, it suddenly dawned on me just exactly what kind of game this is. Essentially what you’ll be doing is wandering around the mansion and spying on the guests. It is for lack of a better term; playing as a Peeping Tom. There are variations on the gameplay however which are interesting. Firstly most of the guests react when they see you or hear you. One of the first few guests to come through is an overly paranoid cactus cowboy, who reacts very badly to knocking on the door. Others such as Nurse Catherine actively seek you out to subject you to a “horror show”. I should explain that merely wandering around the dark gloomy corridors is enough to sap you slowly out of your sanity. Watching a horror show takes a large chunk and possibly inflicts you with an ailment. Each person has an individual game plan, and some even throw you into a rather fun board game in order to obtain the soul. Most of them will merely resort to chasing you around the mansion like a Slasher horror film victim. Not that that is a bad thing.

Pining for the fjords?!

There are a number of ways to regain lost sanity. The first is to get a good night’s sleep. The second is to eat consumables as this apparently focuses your concentration on the food/drink. Lastly, there are books scattered around the mansion which if read increases your maximum sanity and fully restores your gauge. Some items are an obvious nod to the Resident Evil series, namely the herb plants. You can also use collected items to purchase new ones at Gregory’s Horror Shop. Some of these are essential to your quest, especially the doll in the second wave of guests. Something about Gregory Horror Show though doesn’t seem to fit in place. There is a vague sense of achieving when you obtain a soul, but the build up towards it feels a little slow. It especially doesn’t help if you took about two hours to obtain a soul, only for it to be ripped from your limp hands after a subsequent horror show. It is also quite a short game, but I suppose the budget retail price was an indication of that.

Despite its name, it is only the atmosphere and when you run into harmful guests unexpectedly that you will get a scare from Gregory Horror Show. That isn’t to say that it truly fails at what it is trying to achieve however. With its unique presentation, it also maintains a claustrophobic feel as you skulk around the corridors of the hotel, attempting to gain the lost souls from guests and avoiding those who you pilfered from before. The fact you have no way of defending yourself other than running like a cliché horror victim is for once an endearing trait. Figuring out how to take the souls from the others is more attributed to point and click adventures of old, but unfortunately it is all too easy to lose progress by getting caught. It certainly has a lot going for itself, but alas the problems are all too easy to pick out. Gregory Horror Show won’t burn your wallet, but it might build up tension in more frustrating ways.