The game has a few gimmicks worth talking about. The first is the cell phone, which pipes all of the conversations through the Wii remote's little speaker. The game tells you that you should pick the control up like a phone and hold it to your ear. This works for the most part, offering an incredibly clever way of incorporating the many Wii functions into one game. As I progressed through the game I was pleasantly surprised by how much you did with the in-game phone. It's the way you record supernatural sounds, transport you from one area to the next and, of course, speak to other game characters. All of these things hint at a better game, too bad it's wrapped up in this dud of a survival horror experience.
Unlike the Resident Evil games, Calling never switches gears and becomes an action game. This is a game about investigating and avoiding the ghosts as much as possible. The game does feature combat ... kind of. From time to time a ghost will get up in your face, forcing you to shake it off as fast as possible. You do this by shaking the control around and pushing the "A" button when prompted. It's not the deepest combat I've ever seen, but these segments are few and far between and aren't meant to be especially detailed. If you fail to hit the "A" button your "horror meter" will drop. If that stupidly named meter drops too much it's game over for you. It's also worth noting that some ghosts will kill you without much warning, so make sure and save often.
When you're not searching around in the dark waiting for something to happen, you're stuck in one of the many unskippable cut-scenes. Had these cinema sequences been full of action that might have been one thing, but instead this is a game where you're reading line after line of boring chat room dialogue. There's no voice acting when people are typing on the keyboard. Heck, there isn't even the sound of people typing on the keyboard, let alone a "beep" or something when the message appears. It's just a lot of silence while you read one line after another. None of these conversations go anywhere and they last far too long. And really, how can somebody make cinema scenes this boring and not let you skip them? Oh the horror!
At this point it feels like I'm unfairly beating up on Calling. It's not that this game doesn't have potential; it's just that it doesn't do anything with the intriguing (albeit derivative) set-up. The game isn't even good at making you solve puzzles. When you're not waggling the control or searching in the dark, you're giving random puzzles that make Resident Evil's crate pushing feel like Professor Layton. Do I really need to solve this math problem in order to advance? Who thought this was a good idea?
At times it feels like the developers did everything they could to keep me from having fun. This is a game about a deadly chat room and a deadly cell phone monster, yet the game never quite gets its footing. Even though it has more cheap scares, Calling pales in comparison to mediocre games like Obscure II: The Aftermath and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. It's not that there isn't any good to be found in this game, it's just that it's hidden in all of the darkness.
Visually the game looks pretty good. While much of the actual design is draped in darkness, there are occasional glimpses of brilliance. Unfortunately the game's good looks are not immediately clear. Many of the cut-scenes undermine the good looks and there are a few too many repeating textures in the corridors. However, once a ghost shows up you can really see where all of the attention to detail went. It's hardly the best looking game on the Wii, but it's a definite improvement over Escape from Bug Island
I'll be the first to confess that I don't expect much out of a horror game. I hope for a few genuine scares, an interesting premise and maybe a couple of gruesome deaths. Unfortunately, Calling fails in every possible way. Even if there was an interesting idea driving this game, I still can't get past the slow pace and unclear objectives. Stumbling in the dark looking through identical rooms for who-knows-what is not my idea of a good time. There's not an original idea in Calling, which is probably why I wanted to hang up so quickly.
Companies: Hudson Soft
You've seen Calling before. Even if you've never even heard of Hudson Entertainment's newest horror game, you have still seen its inspirations in The Ring, The Grudge, One Missed Call and dozens of other movies. If stumbling around in the dark not knowing what to do sounds like the kind of experience you want to have, then Calling is definitely one game you will want to track down. Everybody else should just let this call go to voice mail!
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