I felt like it was a little too late to bother even talking about Calling, but IGN just posted their review yesterday, so I feel there’s no reason I can’t follow suit.
Now I pride myself on being honest with all 4 of our readers, so I’ll come clean, I flat out paid money for Calling, and not just rental money, full purchase money. I know right?! But come on I loved Silent Hill Shattered Memories and I thought this might offer up a similar experience. It does not. It doesn’t come anywhere close to reaching the heights of SH:SM. Thankfully it doesn’t go as far in the opposite direction of quality as Ju-On The Grudge did. It’s just stuck there in the realms of mediocrity.
Calling does not make a good first impression. It doesn’t make a terrific second impression either but it’s still a step up from that opening. You get a slow paced opening story sequence with no voice acting. Instead you’re just reading chat room dialogue. That right there took me out of things. I’ll buy the ghosts and the cursed website stuff but you can’t sit there and honestly tell me teenagers still sit down and use chat rooms. I just can’t accept that video game, nice try.
Following the riveting opening (have a friend act it out with you, eerily fun) you’re whisked away to a run down house and are introduced to the game mechanics. Everything is in first person, and you walk around opening closets and looking at things. That’s is the core idea behind most of the game play. Well, that and wandering around aimlessly. Get ready to do a lot of that. If mindlessly walking around an area wondering where the hell to go is your thing, then Calling is so your game.
So after a few minutes of this you finally encounter your first ghost. Horror games always employ the creepiest tactics to introduce the enemies. Remember the first Silent Hill when you got attacked in the alley? I’ll never forget that. Or the zombie’s slow head turn in the first Resident Evil? That’s classic. Calling does not get to join the ranks of the elite however. What maybe could have been a startling reveal is ruined by one simple fact – the ghost is barking at you.
I don’t mean barking like yelling, I mean barking like making sounds like a dog. Actual barking. I’m sure that’s not what the intention was, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t immediately think “is this fucking spirit barking at me like a dog?” The first time this happened I had to pause the game because I was laughing so hard. I was just really not expecting those sounds to suddenly emanate from my Wii remote speaker.
The way you actually do battle with the ghosts doesn’t help matters much. Once a ghost grabs you, you just start shaking the Wii remote back and forth until it goes away. That’s it. I guess it’s realistic in a way because if a ghost grabbed you in real life you probably really would just start flailing around wildly until it got fed up and took off. So the game does get some credit for realism on that. Too bad it’s not a fun feature to have a video game.
Things do get a little better after the laughable first 20 minutes. We’re heading a little further into spoiler territory now so if by chance you really don’t want a single aspect of Calling ruined for you, I would turn back now.
There’s a sequence in a school where a ghost continuously calls you on your cell phone (aka Wii remote, the feature is done in a similar fashion to Shattered Memories) to update you on her location as she comes to get you. That shit is terrifying. It reminded me a story I heard as a kid that used to freak me out. Turns out it still does.
It’s moments like these that I feel make the game worth checking out. The game does employ a lot of cheap scare tactics, mostly of the sudden loud noise variety, but there are a few genuinely creepy moments such as the school sequence that I found to be pretty effective. Plus the story is just interesting enough to keep you going, at least I thought so.
However if you do play Calling, I recommend doing so in small chunks of time. Play a half hour or so every now and then. Any attempt to play longer and boredom will no doubt start to seep in. Much of the game is spent wandering around various hallways, most of which look completely identical to one another. The game also does a pretty piss poor job of letting you know just what the hell you should be doing. So quicker play sessions will lesson the impact these flaws can have. Oh and also be sure to only play at night, and in an environment with no lighting, otherwise there is just no point.
As I said in the beginning, Calling is nowhere near as bad as Ju-On (at least in this game you can actually run) but it is certainly no Silent Hill. It’s a highly flawed title that I imagine most people will despise, and the other critic reviews seem to support that. I personally found there were some effective moments that made the title worth a look. Just please don’t hate me when you try it based on my review and absolutely hate it, because you will.