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Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator on Nintendo Wii

Developed by XSEED Games and Rising Star Games, with oversight from series creator Takashi Shimizu, Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is a 2009 horror game for the Nintendo Wii. Made to honor the originally direct-to-video series' 10th anniversary, the game tried to be what most modern horror games aren't: scary. Using various unique gameplay and presentation techniques, along with influences from the classic Japanese franchise, Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator attempts to stand out. Luckily, it does. Even with the bad luck of movie-based games and lack of horror in modern horror games, Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is a fun game, and even more so for fans of the classic films.

The presentation in Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is really good. Graphically, the game looks pretty good for a 2009 game. With it being on the Wii, it obviously doesn't look as good as other games, even ones from the same year. This is, of course, to be expected. Special attention has been given to the environments and models for Toshio and Kayako Saeki. The environments look dirty, run-down, or otherwise abandoned in some way. One level in particular sticks to the actual layout of what it is. This will give Ju-on fans a bit of an edge in beating the game, as it's just like the source location. However, even non-fans can see how the environments could fit into a Ju-on story. Sound design is excellent, with sounds of real buildings used in the locations. Also, it still sends shivers down my spine when I hear the death rattle of Kayako. Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is made to be played with surround sound (or headphones) in the dark.

The story, rather than follow a story established in previous films, is new in the universe. The story follows the Yamada family, who has just moved to Nerima, Japan. With brother and eldest child Ken at work, Erika is stuck walking Ivy, the family dog. Somehow, Ivy breaks free while they're walking, and runs into a factory. Erika runs in to find Ivy. While searching, she runs into the ghosts (or onry?) of 8 year old Toshio Saeki and his 28 year old mother Kayako Saeki. Now, according to the story of the ju-on curse, the Yamada family is now cursed and, unless they can all face their separate challenges, will all die.

Those who have seen the film will love this new addition. Not only does it follow in the tradition of Ju-on (various vignettes and characters), but it feels like a new story that fits in the universe that started with the short films Katasumi (called In The Corner for the US release) and 4444444444. Those who haven't seen the films shouldn't fret. The only knowledge really needed is of the origins of the ju-on curse. Additional knowledge, including stuff about the house and characters outside the Saeki family, is good to know, but not necessary.

Gameplay is decidedly simple, which works for the Wii. A simple control scheme is in place. Hold B to walk, down on the d-pad to go backwards, press A to pick items up and interact with objects, and move the Wii remote to aim. These controls work for the most part. The aiming can have a mind of its own at times. This may lead to some frustrating deaths, and can get annoying. The Wii remote's speaker even has a part, playing sounds that come from phones.

The game's five levels are fairly open, and require exploration for items needed to move forward and the hidden items necessary for unlocking the final stage. So the moving and aiming are the focus for the majority of the experience. All of the characters you will control move pretty slow. This will undoubtedly frustrate many. However, this does allow you to fully look around for interactive objects and items.

Like many horror games, the player's only real source of light is a flashlight. But not only is the flashlight necessary to see, but it is your lifeline. As you explore, you will come across batteries used to power your flashlight. Once the batteries go out, it's game over. Considering the source material for this game, many will want to avoid a game over just so they don't have nightmares.

Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator also tosses out the occasional quick-time event (QTE). There are, luckily, only two kinds: shaking the remote in a direction shown by arrows on the screen and holding a cursor in a circle. These are used when escaping or hiding from the ghosts, as Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator does not contain combat. Should you fail, it's game over.

The game's five levels, each one putting you in the role of a different family member (except for stage five), take about 25-30 minutes per stage. This means that the game is roughly 2-3 hours long. However, there is a bit of replay value in two ways. The first lies in the profile creation of the game. When creating a new profile, you are asked for your gender and zodiac sign. This, along with the intensity the Wii remote is shaken during gameplay, will affect the results at the end of each stage. The second lies in the Courage Mode, in which you can play the game without saving a profile. The real joy of Courage Mode lies in the ability to have a second player jump in with another Wii remote. While player one tackles the game, player two (and anyone not player one) can trigger scares with button combinations. This mode, if you can't already tell, is exceptionally great for parties.

Of course, a horror game must be scary. Otherwise, it's not a horror game, but an action game with weird enemies. Most of the time, Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is be creepy and scary. While some scares are predictable, the levels are somewhat randomized, with some scares occurring and others not at all.

Despite the occasionally bad controls, Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator is a real blast of a horror game, and a great movie game. Fans of the film series should buy this game, if only to add to their Ju-on collection. If you're looking for a horror game with a unique setting, unique gameplay, and fun "party play", then Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator may be the game for you.

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