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Ju-On: The Grudge

You never make me scream.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Does the name ring a bell? Ju-On: The Grudge is based on the cult Asian horror movie series of the same name, where a curse is spreading like a virus and once people encounter it the effects are a bit like swine flu, except with more drooling, cackling and bumps in the night. Nope, nothing? It's the sort of thing your trendy friends watch and then instant-message you about, but you never actually watch yourself because you're too busy tweeting about Jedward.

Even if you have seen a film or two, however, the game needs putting in a bit of context. Here you play as Erika Yamada, a young girl who gets in on the grudge when she enters a rundown factory to chase after her dog. The idea, as in the other four episodes that make up the game, is to explore every nook and cranny of an assortment of typically dark and deserted survival-horror environments, snatching up anything not nailed down.

Armed with a mere torch for company, you pace around, shallow of breath, looking for anything glinting in the darkness. The game plays out entirely from first-person perspective, where pointing the Wiimote doubles as both the player's torch and a means of adjusting your viewpoint, pointing it in the appropriate direction moves the camera accordingly, pressing the B button allows you to move forward, and pressing down on the d-pad moves you backwards.

Billed as a 'Fright Simulator', each overly cautious step is presumably meant to emphasise Erika's trepidation about evil things emerging from the inky gloom and murdering her, since they try to do that very often indeed. But rather than build tension, the clunky movement and bizarre pace conspire to murder the game's chances instead. Erika is the slowest-moving person in the history of feet.

Sorry, you're just not my type.

The movement speed is so torturously ponderous that a Dalek pumped to the gills with ketamine could probably beat these sloths in a race. The movement system also forces you to point to the left or right of the screen to turn, meaning that you'll frequently find yourself turning suddenly while looking around. As well as this idea works in a fast-paced game like Metroid Prime, in a game as slow as this it quickly proves to be one of many irritants.

Even if you do manage to summon up the strength of character to tolerate the movement and camera system, the gameplay consists almost exclusively of terminally dull exploration. Shambling gamely through dismally dull corridors, you'll methodically check every door, scouring every empty room in the vain hope of stumbling across a discarded key. It's all part of that curious condition known as Survival Horror Syndrome, where your OCD tendencies force you to check everything in case something kills you later because you didn't have enough herbs.

A rare moment of excitement: a door to open.

En route, the game always tries to throw in a few obligatory scares in a feeble attempt to approximate the desired "interactive horror experience" that developer Feelplus was shooting for. What it seems to have hit upon, however, is a neat approximation of a half-cut, close-up shot of Lily Allen's face at 3am.

These bizarre encounters with Lily generally coincide with the black-haired lovely croaking something inaudible (hooray, someone took out her voice!), while the game wrestles control away from you for a few moments. As your character's viewpoint lurches wildly around in protest, directional arrows appear at the edges of the screen to instruct you to flail the Wii remote. Get it right and you're punished by being allowed to carry on to the next section, but fail and you're rewarded with a merciful Game Over. A rare moment of relief.