Weeping Doll PlayStation VR Review
Publisher: Oasis Games Ltd Developer: TianShe Media Genre: Horror Players: 1
Age Rating: 7+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
Dolls in any sort of horror media are creepy, full stop. Whether they are comically running around and knocking themselves out cold in Layers of Fear or are trying to transfer their soul into a child, what was once an innocent toy suddenly takes on a more sinister appearance, no matter the media platform.
Weeping Doll is the latest horror game to feature creepy dolls, an atmospheric game that manages to crank up the tension thanks once again to the immersion capabilities of the VR headset. What I can greatly commend this game for is the fact that it has some of the best controls yet in any game that I’ve played on the VR to date. As someone who experiences motion sickness, the comfort controls here are excellent. To move about, you teleport yourself to your chosen area – a ghost model of your character appears as you move the analogue stick, and you can choose where to teleport to, and it gives you the freedom to place yourself wherever you would like; it doesn’t restrict your movement.
You can also turn around in the game, but instead of being one fluid movement like in some games that will make your brain feel as though you are drunk, the camera clicks into position in a sort of stop and start motion. This gives you the freedom to look around without making you feel nauseous, and the camera movement still feels just as fluid as a more free moving camera. The controls here are the best if you suffer from motion sickness as they give you the freedom to move about wherever you would like without causing you to feel unbalanced.
The game itself can also be commended for not resorting to jump scares. Upon starting the game, it felt like the type of game that would resort to cheap jump scares, and although I have said in a previous feature why jump scares work better in games, it was refreshing to play a horror game that didn’t have something jump out at you every few seconds and instead lets the story and creepy atmosphere build the tension. Jump scares are definitely not needed when using the VR headset as the immersion alone is enough to put you on edge anyway.
Set in the ‘olden times’, you take on the role of a maid of a rather peculiar family that has two daughters whom they treat very differently, thanks to one of them having a large birth mark over one half of her face. Whilst the prettier daughter is treated well, the other is cast out and kept hidden away in a bedroom that looks more like a prison. This daughter befriends her doll that seemingly has a mind of its own and looks uncannily like her, and then poop hits the fan, with your job being to uncover the mystery of what happened to the family.
Weeping Doll comes across as nothing that you haven’t seen before, with simple puzzles to solve and a mystery to uncover, all set within a creepy old house, and while it is a paint-by-numbers horror game with some cliches, it is all thanks to the VR that adds an extra level of immersion. Once again it doesn’t fail to pull you in to the games world, the creepy old house set out before you effortlessly transporting you back in time. The graphics are decent enough, though are rather blurry – a lot of games that feature realistic graphics tend to have this problem on VR – but it isn’t bad enough that it distracts from the gameplay; you’re still very much absorbed in the world.
The story can also be commended for not relying on any strange twists or weird turns to invoke fear. In a lot of horror games the protagonist can become anxious or blackout, or the environment twists and bends, like Layers of Fear, or there is some sort of voodoo magic/virus/curse at fault, but Weeping Doll never takes that much of a drastic turn. There is a pivotal part to the plot that is disturbing, though it never veers away from its realism and that all adds to the creepiness as you’re left wondering what is going to actually happen. Everything looks ordinary – by olden times standards – with you walking around an upturned house investigating strange goings-on.
This is where the game becomes slightly Resident Evil-esque, in which you must solve puzzles in order to move forward. The puzzles the game offers aren’t very taxing so there’s no need to worry about using too much brain power, though they don’t make you feel as though you have achieved much. To complete some puzzles you have to combine items that will, upon completion, grant you another item to use elsewhere, which mostly consists of you finding and using keys. As items in the environment can be picked up and carried about, your character does handily come with inventory space, and even though at times it has its uses, it is laughable the size of the inventory compared to how much you’ll actually be storing away, unless you enjoy pointlessly carrying around potted plants and other useless tat.
The music in the game also gave me a Silent Hill vibe and I was surprised to learn the soundtrack here is actually award-winning. The music is okay, and I am sure the composer, Henryk Ivan, worked very hard on it, though it sounds like any other generic horror game music. The music does help set the tone of the game and does enhance the creepy factor, but its nothing particularly memorable. Conversely, it is just as equally creepy when there isn’t any music, and while you can hear the hissing and crackling of the roaring fireplaces, rattling of the door handles and the jingling of the keys, the sound design in the game is also a bit lax.
Weeping Doll can still be praised for a number of things, including not resorting to strange twists and turns and jump scares, having great controls and for telling a story that is grounded in realism, but the game isn’t without its faults, and there is quite a few of them.
Firstly, there are a few timeline clashes that someone didn’t research properly – I’m pretty sure they didn’t have cordless phones in Victorian times, yet the game clearly shows your character using one. Another problem is with glitches. On my first run through, everything was fine up until one section that forced me to have to play the entire game again. When I had to play through the second time, even at the start of the game I began to experience some glitches, one that included keys disappearing through the floor, or just suddenly disappearing out of my hand, even though the character looks as though she is still holding it. This caused me to have to restart the game from the previous checkpoint a couple of times and, needless to say, it did break the immersion quite a bit.
The game also has some very poor voice acting. At one point your character is listening to a child retelling the story for the umpteenth time, albeit with a few more added details, and the child sounds like the ‘little girl’ at the start of the film Jack Frost, the 1997 horror film. It is very poor voice acting indeed, not on the same scale as the cheesy dialogue from the earlier days of gaming, but poor enough by today’s standards.
The ending of the game also finishes rather peculiarly and is very unsatisfactory. Once you have completed the story, your character is left to aimlessly wander around the house, with your only reward being that if you go back into the hallway you start in, you’ll see pictures of the development team and publisher, the end credits merged into the houses design. The game made me feel as though I didn’t get any proper closure, as your character can wander the house aimlessly for ages, and this made me think that I had missed something when in fact I had completed the game.
And probably the biggest problem is the fact that it is a horror game and it isn’t even scary. It’s creepy and atmospheric, but not at all scary. You do find yourself wondering if something is going to pop out at you, but as the game progresses you begin to realise that nothing of note is going to really happen and it does feel disappointing. As mentioned, I commend the developers for not resorting to jump scares, and I like that the story is grounded in realism and that it is what drives the creepiness throughout, though the game never reaches its full crescendo.
Thankfully the game is on the short side and can be completed in under an hour, though I would say it is rather overpriced at its current listing of £6.39 – if you are curious or would just like to see how a horror game can be played on VR, definitely buy this one when it comes down more in price.
Overall, Weeping Doll can be put under the category of yet another ‘experimental VR game’, a simplistic horror game that again shows off what the VR is capable of doing, but in focusing on placing you inside the games world, everything else takes a backseat and there’s only so much time that can be taken in the world fawning over the environment until you realise that this is actually a very shallow horror game.