|PC, Switch (Reviewed)
|3/8/2019 (PC); 10/22/2021 (Switch)
Shadow Corridor is the first horror game I’ve played that is set in a traditional Japanese environment. The horror elements also are all taken from Japanese culture. Those aspects felt fresh to me after seeing so many zombie games with the horror label slapped onto them. The setting drew me to the game more than anything. It is quite a ride, so let’s get into this.
Violence: There are notes you can find that give backstory information about the game’s world, and most include grisly details of violent acts that occurred. The environment later in the game has blood covering the walls and doors everywhere you go.
Language: From what I saw, the game has mild language. I only encountered a few uses of d***, but as I did not have the time to finish the game, there could be more that I missed.
Alcohol/Smoking: The player character lights a cigarette for another character.
Spiritual Content: The game’s story is centered around mysterious powers behind Noh masks. All of the enemies are spirit beings conjured by the masks. There is also discussion of psychic powers, and an evil spirit offers eternal life in a Faustian bargain. Most levels require you to collect magatama beads, which are Shinto talismans of good fortune. One of the apparitions is called “Kagura Bell,” and it resembles a Shinto shrine maiden. Additionally, the bells it rings are a part of rituals for entertaining Shinto deities.
Other negative themes: Some notes discuss children bullying another, to the point of causing a violent psychic reaction from the bullied.
This game is rated T for Teen
The first thing I want to mention is the music. For most of the game, the soundtrack is decent. It’s nothing spectacular, but it fits the mood of the game, so it isn’t poor either. The main menu’s theme, however, is incredible. It’s on par with Hollow Knight, and is easily one of the most beautiful themes I’ve ever heard, especially for an indie title.
The basic setting for the story is nothing new. Similar to games such as Silent Hill, the protagonist finds himself in an alternate universe and is trying to find a way back to the real world. Still, there are enough unique twists to set it apart from other games; specifically, everything surrounds the mystery of Noh masks. There are strange powers behind them, and all of the spirit monsters you encounter are wearing them.
The layout of each level is randomly generated, so it’s different every time you start a level. Thankfully, it appears to be the same between deaths, but returning to the menu or closing the game both mean you’ll see a completely different layout next time you play. It adds an interesting dynamic to the gameplay that you don’t often see.
Evil spirits roam throughout the halls and tunnels. If they catch you, it’s game over, so you need to outrun them—if you can—and hide. The game over screen says, “darkness has consumed you.” It’s much more creative than the “you died” screen so prevalent in indie titles.
There is a large variety of apparitions to avoid. For example, one kind is a hulking beast that charges through the halls, and won’t hear you even if you’re running. It can only see you. Meanwhile, another one takes the form of a weeping woman who will hear you—even if you’re sneaking—if you get too close, and can be distracted by firecrackers.
When a spirit is near, the lights flicker and the controller vibrates rhythmically like a heartbeat. Most of them are always on the move, so typically you can wait them out if you are hidden from sight. However, just because the warning fades, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe to continue, as the spirit may turn around and head back that way. The AI is intelligent, so it can be easy to get a spirit’s attention if you’re careless.
A later section of the game takes a decidedly Silent Hill-esque turn, aesthetically. All of the walls and doors are drenched in blood, and there are new monsters to avoid and multiple floors to explore. That is as far into the game as I’ve managed to get, so I don’t know what horrors lay ahead.
The most outstanding part of the game for me is how frightening it is. Frankly, it is not a good looking game; character models—including monsters—look rough, and the environments are very basic. Granted, it looks much better than Outbreak: Epidemic; however it doesn’t have the polish of a game like Those Who Remain. That said, the game rises above those obstacles, and proves that a game doesn’t need to have AAA visuals to have the quality of a AAA game.
Every minute of the game is designed to make you tense and focused, and I suspect that contributes to the success of the jump scares. In my experience, jump scares almost always fall flat in other games. I take note every time a game manages to startle me with one. Shadow Corridor is exceptionally noteworthy in this area. It seems like there are jump scares every few minutes, whether it’s because a spirit saw you and is giving chase, or because said spirit is two feet to the side and is about to grab you. Either way, it hardly ever fails to surprise. I had to stop after an extended session because I was sore. Being tense for so long coupled with over a dozen jump scares is exhausting.
A psychological thriller story involving an alternate world combined with well-executed horror elements is a near-perfect storm for a game. The biggest flaw, unfortunately, is the most important part: the gameplay. The gameplay isn’t the worst ever, but it’s the weakest part of this game when it should be the strongest.
Shadow Corridor is a survival-horror game at its heart. I found a ton of health items, but it’s uncommon to actually need them. Bugs are the only enemies that I found that actually decreased my HP without killing me, and that was uncommon. The only other way to lose health is to fall too far, the opportunity for which is also uncommon. The spirits roaming the halls kill you instantly when they reach you, so the health items are mostly useless.
The only item that can be used against some spirits is the firecracker. However, the enemies it works against are uncommonly found. The only items that work against any monster are the camera and crystal ball. The crystal ball is not found until a bit later, and the camera is a rare find. Survival is almost always based on sneaking past enemies, and that is the biggest flaw.
Each level’s map is considerably large, and there are a bit too many spirits wandering around. The best way to avoid being spotted is to crouch and sneak, but that makes the level drag on a little too long. Most levels require you to collect a certain number of magatama beads in order to complete the level. If you die having collected at least one, then you can spend it to revive and continue. But then you’ll need to find another bead to replace the one you spent. If you have no magatama when you die, you are sent back to the beginning of the level, having lost everything.
By the third level, I had to switch the difficulty to easy mode. The normal setting was getting to be a little too frustrating, and I was making no progress. Easy mode was still difficult, especially in the later levels that I played, but it was more doable. One of the greatest boons is that it comes with a minimap, whereas normal comes with nothing. Most of the apparitions are also a lot slower, so it’s a little easier to escape. However, that isn’t necessarily the case for all of them.
If you’re searching for a good horror game, look no further. If you have the patience and intestinal fortitude, Shadow Corridor is a terrific choice. Even with its drawbacks, it has all the scares and tension any fan of the genre will appreciate.
The Bottom Line
Despite its flaws, Shadow Corridor may be the finest experience the indie horror genre has to offer.