Don’t you cry tonight, I still love you baby
If there’s one thing I like, it’s a good haunted house game. I’ve always been a sucker for ’em. Ever since I first cut my teeth on the likes of haunted house classics like Uninvited on the NES and The Mansion of Hidden Souls on the Sega CD, I was hooked. Suffice to say, when I found out Chinese indie game publisher Oasis Games was bringing the eerie horror/adventure Weeping Doll to the PlayStation VR just in time for Halloween, I was very excited to see what all the fuss was about.
Billed by the developer as a “dark, story-driven psychological mystery”, Weeping Doll’s story puts players in the frilly dress of a maid as she explores an eerie Victorian-style manor in Japan. As you explore the manor, various storyboard sequences will appear to shed light on the home’s former occupants, which included a lord, his wife, and two daughters. While the family’s eldest daughter was beautiful and well cared for, her younger sibling was born with a large, red birthmark on her face. Ashamed of her, the family treated her poorly, often leaving her alone and confined in a “punishment room” due to her disfigurement. Though the occupants of the home are nowhere to be found, we quickly discover the estate also happens to be occupied by a vengeful doll whose sole purpose seems to be to scare the living daylights out of our hapless housemaid. Your main goal is to uncover the mystery behind what happened to the family who resided in stately home, solve its various puzzles, and ultimately escape.
It’s a decent enough premise, but Weeping Doll’s scares come more from technical issues than the killer cabbage patch doll that calls the manor its home. The most offensive of these issues comes in the form of the pervasive juddering that permeates the entire experience. As someone who has played the vast majority of the PlayStation VR’s launch lineup, I can say without hesitation that this is the only game that’s made me feel deathly ill from the constant shifting and phasing of the world around you. The problem isn’t just confined to when you glance around the environment either, as even when standing as still as a statue I’d find the walls of the house lurching back and forth as if I were in a ship on stormy seas.
While the juddering is certainly frustrating, it’s certainly not the only gremlin haunting this little shop of horrors. The storyboard sequences that I mentioned before show up as giant projection images in front of your character. The thing is, they appear entirely too close. The thing is, if you attempt to lean back or to the side, your field of view actually becomes separated from within your character’s head. It’s completely jarring and awkward, and instantly kills any sense of immersion you may have felt.
If you were hoping to rummage around the estate with your Move controllers, you’re out of luck. Weeping Doll ditches Sony’s orb-topped waggle sticks in favor of the good old-fashioned DualShock 4. However, this decision seems a bit bizarre, as locomotion is handled via a teleport system, which simply has you point and warp around each room to appear wherever you desire. You can also tap the sticks or shoulder buttons to snap your perspective in 45 or 90 degree angles. It’s simple and effective, but with how often the game requires you to grab and manipulate objects, it’s a shame the game doesn’t offer the option to use the Move controllers to interact with the world around you. It really feels like a missed opportunity.
Honestly, a missed opportunity sum up most of the time you’ll spend with Weeping Doll. Everything feels unfinished and rushed, like a proof of concept project that was suddenly thrown onto the marketplace long before it was ready for prime time. In fact, the game doesn’t even feel like it has an ending, as there’s no actual game over screen. You simply walk into a room you’ve been in countless times before to find the credits and staff photos adorning the walls. I actually had to back out the PS4 dashboard and check my trophies to verify that yes, I did indeed finish the game.
Ridiculous? I sure thought so.
A single play-through of Weeping Doll will last you about 45 minutes tops. And the puzzles that you’ll come across in the dozen or so rooms of the mansion never really require more thought than combing two obvious items together, placing color-coded objects in their corresponding places, or solving a simple jigsaw puzzle. There are a handful of objects scattered about the environment that shed a bit more light on the game’s backstory through voice-overs, but they’re scarce and do little to expand on the game’s already paper-thin narrative.
If you’re dying for a horror game to experience on your PlayStation VR, you’re probably better off diving into Here They Lie’s surreal nightmare world instead. Weeping Doll starts out interesting, but a serious lack of polish, mess of technical problems, brain-dead puzzles and a ludicrously short story suck all the fun out of this virtual reality haunted house simulator.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed) ; Publisher: Oasis Games ; Developer: TianShe Media ; Players: 1 ; Released: October 27, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Weeping Doll provided by the publisher.