Team GrisGris's Corpse Party began its miserable life as a fan-made RPG Maker project, and while it's been updated since then, it retains the look of a 16-bit RPG (and the gameplay of an adventure game). It also relies on mostly stereotypical characters, of the "anime" variety -- like the inappropriately upbeat "genki girl" and the aloof cool guy.
Those familiar elements are then dropped into an inescapable nightmare dimension where small groups of people occupy the same space but can't see each other (and thus can't find each other), where doors don't work and windows are often blocked by thick walls of human hair, and where evidence of horrific murders is absolutely everywhere. As you try to find your way out of Heavenly Host Elementary, you won't only find bodies of children (!) everywhere, you'll find mysterious buckets of congealed mystery substances, bloody scissors, and scratchy notes about the inevitability of killing your friends.
Those likable characters are literally put through hell. Team GrisGris, assisted by XSEED's localization, did a really great job of making a lot of the characters seem interesting and fun to be around ... only to make it more heartbreaking when they're subjected to the physical and psychological torture of a ruined elementary school where, you're told repeatedly, your spirit will continually relive the pain of your death.
Even more clever than the writing (aside from/especially because of one infamous exchange about "ass cream") is the design. Since it's a deadly nightmare world, your actions can frequently lead to death, even when it seems like you're acting carefully and logically. This triggers one of dozens of "wrong ends," and ends the game. However, save points are fairly frequently placed, and even better, the game is divided into disparate chapters, with separate save files, and the ability to restart from any chapter. That way, you're encouraged to seek out these "wrong ends" instead of being punished for making the wrong move.
I thought I was going to be breezing through a cute novelty, and instead, Corpse Party turned out to be genuinely unsettling. Whether that's a recommendation or a warning depends on your constitution.
Corpse Party is available on the PlayStation Store for $19.99. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.