Calling Preview

Might wanna let this one go to voicemail.

Creepy-ass games. We love ’em. We love even just thinking or talking about the scariest bits in “survival horror” games over the years (in a spoiler-free way, of course): the first creature you see bobbing just outside the window in the original Alone in the Dark; the part in the first Resident Evil when you realize you’re seeing a POV shot of the hallway You just went down—which means some Thing is right on your ass; and, pretty much any randomly-selected five minutes of gameplay you care to pluck from Fatal Frame, Silent Hill, or Siren. Ah, the greats: Konami, Tecmo, Capcom, Hudson… wait, what?

[image1]Yes, friends, it seems that the cute little Hudson mascot bee finally has a creepy little somethin’-somethin’ for your punk-ass bonnet… and it’s named, simply, Calling. Notice the little signal-strength bars in the letters of the game logo? That child, clutching what looks like a stuffed kitty-toy? That’s right, mina-san: J-horror, creepy little girls with hair hanging in their eyes, and cell phones—baaaaaaad shit, even before you’ve taken the cellophane off the box. Can’t imagine that cute, non-threatening Hudson has the keitai-fobs to enter the creepy-games ranks? Take a loot at this gameplay video before you decide.

Made exclusively for the Wii, Calling is a first-person survival horror game very much in the J-horror vein of the lauded Fatal Frame series. Players take the role of male protagonist Suzutani Shinichi and female protagonist Kagura Rin. They both make the unfortunate choice of visiting a website known only as “the Black Page”—displaying nothing but a counter of the number of people who have died after visiting the site (clearly, these two did not spend their formative years actually residing in Japan—where they would have been hip and smart enough, by age eight or so, to stay the hell clear of this sorta thing).

Foolishly entering a chatroom that is said to sometimes appear on the site (there’s another red flag, right there, FYI), our two protags hear a strange signal… and shortly thereafter find themselves caught in a dismal void between the normal world and the afterlife, an unpleasant un-place crawling with the manifested memories of the dead. The pair must use their cell phones, and their nerve, to try to return to the normal world. And you thought your New Year’s sucked.

Calling presents a first-person world to explore, and players will use the Wiimote as a pointer/flashlight—at least, when they’re not using it as a cell phone to receive Calls from the… departed. The content of these Calls from the dead (issuing forth from the Wiimote’s speaker) can yield clues as to how our heroes should progress—and hopefully, ultimately escape—the void. As is the case with Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the in-game phone in Calling is also equipped with a camera to take photos of the void-world and, presumably, to occasionally see things the unaided eye fails to or refuses to see. (By 2010, you’d think that no halfway-sensitive person in Japan who has ever seen a scary movie would ever have the slightest desire to own a camera-equipped cell phone… but then, we play these sorts of games for fun, so what do we know?)

[image2]When the restless dead aren’t blowing up your phone with helpful (?) 411, they’ll feature prominently in scare-intensive ‘events’, which oblige the player to make special gestures with the Wiimote while executing button-pressing actions. Successfully clearing such events opens the way to the next chapter of the game.

Calling is slated to ship sometime in 2010: The sooner, the better, if just to scrub the disappointing, awful residue of the Ju-On “Haunted House Simulator” from the disc-slots of our Wiis. From what we’ve seen so far, Calling looks like it is smooth, straightforwad, and spooky: There you are, poking around the dimly-lit childrens’ classroom with your flashlight, using the Wiimote to look at and manipulate objects and occasionally ducking down to look inside or under desks… and then there’s suddenly a young girl’s wall-shadow in your flashlight beam—where no shadow should be.

[image3]Did you leave that sliding door open when you entered? Or did some thing just open it for you? What is with the sepia-toned photograph laying on the desk just ahead of you… and do you really want to examine it more closely? What in God’s name happened to the creepy little doll that you are SURE was just sitting on that bookshelf a few minutes ago? And what—oh, wait: There’s something moving out in the hallway. And now that phone is ringing.

It’s for you.

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