Shadow Corridor – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Regista/Space Onigiri Games and published by NIS America, Shadow Corridor is an independent horror experience that takes place across several traditional Japanese locales. Immerse yourself in randomly generated maps that vary with each playthrough, all while be hunted by cursed spirits. This title is available on Nintendo Switch, with a link to the game at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Shadow Corridor that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own. Please note that all images used are taken from the eShop and official NIS America press site.

Now with the introduction out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be omitting the story segment as I feel it should be experienced first-hand. However, I will give minor details during the gameplay segment.

Gameplay – Shadow Corridor is a first person dungeon exploration horror title, taking place in traditional Japanese environments. The core focus of this title is survival, with a stealth or hide and seek feel to the overall experience, since cursed apparitions are roaming in the shadows. These spirits take many forms and will hunt the player throughout the game, trying to eliminate them at all costs. The game is split between the exploration stages and more linear puzzle focused stages.

The exploration stages are randomized, with the distribution of items and overall layout of the areas changing with each playthrough. In these stages, the player must collect keys to open doors to locate special items called Magatama. These mystical gems must be collected in order to open the exit for each stage, while avoiding the wandering spirits in the shadows. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds to complete the objectives in these mazes.

It can be very difficult to safely navigate the mazes of Shadow Corridor, as walking, running and the lighter (a permanent plot item) can alert the spirits nearby. The player can crouch and use stealth to navigate rooms quietly, allowing the ability to sneak behind and around spirits. Be warned though, as the cursed spirits are also able to see the player even when sneaking. When an apparition is alerted by the player a chase will ensue, in order to survive it is important to escape at any cost.

Unfortunately, the apparitions aren’t the only hazard to the safety of the player in the labyrinth. There are traps that can damage the player, sapping life away by making contact or intentionally attacking when triggered. If the life counter on the screen is depleted or the player is caught by a spirit, then death will occur, but the player can revive at the cost of a Magatama(this is based on difficulty, discussed more further below). So it is very important to stay alive.

However, running away from spirits and traps is not the only way to combat the darkness. There are items scattered throughout the stages that can be used defensively, including firecrackers and a camera which can prevent death. As well as the defensive items, there are items that assist exploration, such as the flashlight and the compass. Effective use of items can increase the chances of survival, but be careful as some are limited in how many can be carried.

Not only are there the defensive and exploration items, but passive items that give the player different effects. The effects include the ability to run for longer at the cost of life force, protect the player from traps and prevent sudden death at the cost of life force. Only one passive item can be carried at any time, which means that knowing how each passive item functions is very important, as incorrect usage can lead to a fast death.

The puzzle styled stages follow a more linear progression, with a singular objective of getting to the goal alive. The requirement for collecting Magatama gems is not needed here, as it is replaced with more dangerous chase segments from unique Apparitions. New gimmicks are also included into these segments, like gate switches, tightrope style precision movement and attacks from the spirits that drain life force.

Unlike the exploration stages, the linear stages don’t have the same punishing death stipulations to them, with generous checkpoints throughout. The inclusion of checkpoints removes some of the stress that comes with death, but it does not lessen the stress that the encounters with the cursed can cause. The spirits in these stages are called the Murderous Presence, which will chase the player relentlessly and the pressure of it knocks the tension up a notch.

Speaking of tension caused by the spirits, there is a horrifying sense of suspense and dread that this game manages to create. Since most of the areas are shrouded in darkness, the player must rely on the items that produce light and the resources in the environment itself. This combines with gimmicks that alert the player to the presence of the cursed, with simple audio cues, visual touches and even rumble features on the controller.

When an apparition is approaching in the darkness, a light may appear in the distance, a distinct sound may play that is unique to them and the controller will pulse like a heartbeat. These work well to show that danger is close by and can be very unsettling, disrupting any plan that may be in place and forcing the player to hide while exploring. On the other hand, when being chased by a murderous presence their sound will play constantly and has the potential to induce panic in the player.

The last part of the gameplay I want to discuss is the achievement and collectable system. Scattered throughout the world are items to collect called Kokeshi Dolls, a special wooden doll that resembles a shrine maiden. There is a set amount of dolls in each stage, with special features and secrets to be unlocked by collecting specific numbers of dolls. The dolls aren’t the only collectable item is hidden in the depths of the shadows.

In the different areas that the player explores, special archive items are hidden in different rooms. Each of these items can give additional background details on the events surrounding the cures, building upon the mysteries that unfold over the course of the story. There are many more secrets to uncover in the darkness, with new challenges to uncover and more, all of which are recorded in the archive and proof of achievement sections.

Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.

Controls – the control system for this game is very easy to get to grips with. Shadow Corridor uses a basic twin stick set up for movement, with an action/item buttons, a crouch and a run button. The layout is easy to learn, fitting comfortably on all controller methods that are supported. The only issue I have is the inability to modify the sensitivity of the camera, which does negatively impact the game at times. But the other elements work well and the inclusion of vibration was a nice touch.

Difficulty – this release is very tough on the standard Challenger difficulty, as the random dungeon element can make it easy for players to get lost easily. The monsters will hunt the player relentlessly and if the player is killed, using up a Magatama if the player wishes to revive. However, if there aren’t any gems in the players possession the stage must be restarted, with both punishments for death being a significant set-back. There is also no map in Challenger, further adding to the difficulty.

There is a way to alleviate the challenge for those who may struggle. There is a second option to select titled Novice, which allows revival without using a Magatama, a mini map to aid with exploration and the clear condition for the goal is relaxed slightly. The enemies are also a little easier to escape as there are fewer in the easier setting, but they are no less deadly. This means that both difficulty options provide a solid survival horror challenge for players to experience.

Presentation – the visual style has a low res style to it, feeling like a once lost game that has recently been discovered. This graphical style is a positive for the game, adding to the atmosphere of the darkness that the player must explore. The overall presentation of the monsters has an unsettling look to it, with eerie human like faces on the cursed abominations. The performance is pretty solid, but there are occasional frame rate issues that can be jarring during play.

The sound is atmospheric and creates a great sense of tension, especially when you have the game in handheld mode. This is most effective with the sound cues for monsters, when hearing the sound of bells or the shuffling of a monster in the distance. Unfortunately, there are some issues to the sound design when it comes to Murderous Presence chases. During these segments, the voice samples used for the monsters are repeated over and over, becoming quite grating over time breaking the tension.

The cutscenes and voice work for the story segments are done very well, making transitions between sections flow well. The use of pre-rendered black and white alongside in-engine cinematics contrast together well, allowing the scenes to flow and tell the story in cohesive way. The overall presentation is fantastic, with the traditional Japanese aesthetic giving the title a distinct tone that is reminiscent of horror cinema like Ring and Ju-On (the Grudge).

Final Thoughts – I was unsure what to expect from this title, but I am happy to say that I had a good, albeit stressful time while playing Shadow Corridor. The atmosphere is tense, giving a sense of imposing dread when walking through the darkness, with nothing but the sounds of the cursed and my footsteps keeping me company. There were moments where the scares made me jump with surprise, but weren’t like the overused jumpscares used in modern horror games, which added to the enjoyment.

The anxiety inducing combination of darkness and sounds work well together, especially with the aesthetics of classic Japanese horror titles. This is an excellent budget horror title from a small independent developer, although it does have a few small flaws. However, I can happily recommend to everyone that is looking for a game to play at Halloween. The challenge may be a little too much for some, but it isn’t unbeatable with secrets that reward the player with lots of replay value.

In the end, I give Shadow Corridor a final score of 4/5. This very challenging title is a great throwback to classic survival horror, with a traditional Japanese aesthetic reminiscent of classic horror cinema like the Ring and Ju-On (the Grudge). If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to the game will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: