Title: Corpse Factory
Developer: River Crow Studio
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: River Crow Studio
Genre: Visual Novel
The wonderful thing about narratives is that there’s always more to the story than you may initially think. What may appear as a simple concept can suddenly unfold into a web of complexity. With Corpse Factory, you get encapsulated into a dark and twisted narrative of love, revenge, death, and morality. Though there are plenty of hyperbolic scenarios and outcomes, the core of this horror visual novel is both captivating and gruesome.
The prologue to Corpse Factory is strong and intriguing, capturing your attention to the narrative quickly and effectively. You start off as Emi Katsuno, a girl working at a retail store in a shopping center. Within minutes, your malicious coworkers plot a devious scheme to get you fired and profit off your firing.
Unsure of what to do, Emi conveniently runs into a former colleague who mentions the Corpse Girl website–a website that allows someone to enter the name of someone they want dead. If you provide the necessary information, the recipient will receive a picture of their own corpse before ultimately succumbing to their demise. By following Emi’s decisions, the novel introduces us to the Corpse Girl and we follow her story afterward.
At first glance, this premise may seem reminiscent of Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl), but the direction of this narrative steers off into new territory. Though there are marginally slight supernatural influences, the majority of the chaos and pandemonium stem from the excessive greed and malice shown by humanity. The horror atmosphere of cruelty and death emanate more from the desires of people, as we delve into the psychotic mindsets of the characters.
Speaking of which, the characters are crafted wonderfully, bar a couple of minor exceptions. Despite the majority of them having deranged thoughts running through their mind, you get a deep character analysis and development throughout the novel. Though the focus is primarily on Corpse Girl, you get plenty of insights and even some chapters analyzing the perspectives of the other major characters.
Seeing the growth of some characters had me greatly invested in the narrative. For example, there’s Tomoe, the office coworker initially portrayed as the rude and violent “gal girl” stereotype. At first, it’s easy to find her repulsive as she lashes out at you for unnecessary reasons. Yet, the more involved she becomes in your life, the more you realize that they have a lot more to them that changes your perspective. Sure, you can question some things, but ultimately, you warm up to their personality.
The performance of the voice actors adds a lot to the characters. With a notable cast, their portrayal of each of the characters was superb. I felt like I was getting to understand their mannerisms and behaviors in great detail, bringing more immersion into this unhinged story. Even with some of the silly dialogue and writing the game has, the actors do well to carry the novel on their backs.
Complementing the immersion are the illustrations and the soundtrack. The art direction is clean, mixing bright and colorful 2D character art with a 3D background. All the characters fit the aesthetic and match the haunting atmosphere. The music is spot-on, enhancing the reader’s experience. The opening theme that encapsulates the tension is sung by Emi Evans of Nier fame, and it is both gorgeous and chilling. Throughout the novel, you get suspenseful tracks to elevate the moments of panic and chaos.
Regarding the narrative, the plot brings a level of entertainment that I was not expecting. One of the recurring feelings you’ll experience throughout is utter disbelief and surprise. Most of the time, it’s due to a swerve that catches you off-guard. Certain pretenses make you believe you know what to expect, only to be confronted with a completely different scenario. This made for an exhilarating read, but it does come with some faults.
While the build-up and the climax were filled with engrossing, albeit ludicrous, plot points, there was a sizable lull in the middle of the story. The pacing was a big issue in this novel, as the tempo for moving the overarching tale forward felt scattered and disembodied. One moment, you’re feeling exhilarated with the plethora of events unfolding. The other, you’re clicking away, gathering more exposition that puts things at a halt. It’s a bit jarring, giving you moments of dissatisfaction.
The narrative dives in heavily to how Corpse Girl comes about and what unfolds with the expansion of her website. As mentioned, the situations that arise can be quite wild. While most work to engage the reader, there are a few notable coincidences and conveniences that leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. They become almost nonsensical in the grand scheme of things, giving you the impression that they were included solely to make some sort of progression. It doesn’t help that you have only three choices within the game, limiting your control of the direction.
The visual novel also delves into heavy topics and themes, such as mental illness, depression, and imposter syndrome. The writing pulled these themes off pretty well to counter the chaotic nature of the story. Though they can be considered the fuel to the fires within the plot, they also manage to retain some realness while keeping the story grounded. This acts as a nice balance, keeping things structurally sound whilst maintaining a compelling chronicle. The descent into utter chaos and madness feels more believable as we delve deeper into the fragility of the characters’ psyches.
Corpse Factory is one of the most memorable stories I’ve read in a long time. It is a wild ride that provides substantive shock value and a compelling psychological horror experience. Just like a rollercoaster ride, it has plenty of downs, but those get outweighed by the thrills throughout. With true finesse, Corpse Factory winds us down the path of delusion in a fun and lively manner.
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