“//TOKYO, 20XX: Whispers and rumours are spreading through the streets of metropolitan Tokyo like wildfire. Murmurings of a bizarre website have started to pique the interest of more than a few people—people willing to take extreme risks in order to fulfil their darkest desires.” — Corpse Factory
The Australian Gaming Industry has been flourishing in the last year with wholesome titles such as Unpacking, Webbed, and Grow: Song of the Evertree. However, Melbourne developer River Crow Studio have instead embodied the disturbing, the gory, and the gut-wrenching with their newest visual novel Corpse Factory.
Corpse Factory is cut from the same cloth as visual novels fans have come to love with its mystery, twists, and abundant amounts of gore. Setting it apart from its genre brethren, however, is that Corpse Factory puts you in the shoes of its antagonist. You play as Noriko, a 20-year-old woman living in Tokyo, who is a temp worker by day and Corpse Girl by night. Corpse Girl runs a website where people can request the death of another through a photo and mobile number alone. Morbid enough as it is, Corpse Girl takes it one step further by sending the victim a photo of their gruesome death with a timestamp in the future.
Does Corpse Factory take the story to the supernatural or is Corpse Girl just a meticulous and creative murderer? Well, I’ll save the answer for your own playthrough because Corpse Factory reels you in with its questions and their unveilings are even more surprising.
Corpse Factory begins with a harrowing death at Corpse Girl’s hands, and yet, despite its intensity, the next 3 hours are spent outlining Noriko’s mundane life in the office and those around her. The contrast between those brutal killings and Noriko’s everyday life creates a conflict for the player because by humanising the antagonist you start to empathise with their personal struggles. And while Noriko treads the darker path set out for her by the story, Corpse Factory surprises you with an in-depth exploration of all its characters.
Corpse Factory creates characters that are multifaceted. They are each flawed, struggle with insecurities or mental illness, and each have admirable traits that make them feel human. Their complexity makes it difficult for you to label them as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which, I think, does wonders for a game primarily set in the villain’s point of view. Take Tomoe for example, a young woman who works in Noriko’s office and is portrayed as brash, rude, and unlikeable in the first few hours of your playthrough. She bullies Noriko because she sees her as competition for the other men in the office, however, if Tomoe doesn’t become your favourite character by the end of the game, I will be surprised. Tomoe is gradually revealed to be a head-strong and loyal companion, who, yes, does suffer from loneliness and insecurity, but is immature in her attempts to hide it.
Additionally, all the characters in Corpse Factory are brought to life by a team of voice actors, who not only make the game immersive, but make the characters personable. Being able to hear the characters’ anguish and sincerity instead of just reading the text means players can form a closer connection with the characters. It also adds another dimension to the visual novel, because reading swathes of text at times can be fatiguing and with Corpse Factory’s limited interactivity, the voice actors are able to keep you invested longer.
Don’t let the characters fool you though, because just as you’re getting comfortable with the harmless day-to-day story, Corpse Factory reminds you how grim and disturbing the game truly is. Mass murders, copycat killers, torture—Corpse Factory uses the psychological degradation of the characters to push the gore and thrill to the limits. As Noriko’s obsession with prevailing as Corpse Girl increases, she thrusts herself and her friends into more dangerous situations that they might not be able to overcome.
The story picks up a fast pace in Corpse Factory’s final act but considering the short amount of in-game time that passes for these events to unfold, the game feels rushed into a climax that hasn’t had enough time to develop. The set-up of the characters and setting makes for almost half of the 12-hour playthrough, but the pace shifts dramatically to introduce an opposing antagonist that throws off the flow of the game.
“Corpse Factory presents well-placed bodies, murders, and traumatising situations for both you and its characters, that it is at all times compelling and mysterious.”
The small beginnings of Corpse Girl and her horror-fuelled website quickly become a full-scale operation that doesn’t have enough time to develop before it all comes crashing down. Despite the listless adversary that Noriko and her friends must overcome in the final act, Corpse Factory presents well-placed bodies, murders, and traumatising situations for both you and its characters, that it is at all times compelling and mysterious.
However, don’t settle for a single playthrough because there are three decisions you can make that will change the ending of Corpse Factory and believe me, you’ll want to see all of the brutal and satisfying endings.
The twists and shocks of Noriko’s decent into villainy and her surprisingly likable and dynamic sidekicks makes Corpse Factory a visual novel that is hard to put down. Melbourne-based River Crow Studio has developed a stunning and immersive world for the daunting events of Corpse Factory to take place. And do be warned that Corpse Factory will explore dark and disturbing themes that aren’t for the faint of heart.