Gamestyle Archive intro: a very distinctive and brave game from Capcom that with a little more effort could have become a hidden gem on the system.
Published: December 2003
Video games that set themselves apart from the rest of the pack through their onscreen visuals start with an immediate advantage. The whole industry practice of previews, video footage and latest screenshots enhances this head start. However upon release games such as Auto Modellista soon hang on to such features (for dear life) as their only saving grace. The emphasis on graphical individuality quite often comes at the expensive of game play. And so the Gregory Horror Show arrives with a fresh cartoon visual style, but the reduced price perhaps hints at what truly awaits as Gamestyle checks into Gregory Hotel.
This hotel potentially offers happiness for those who have become lost in life, unhappy, distraught or just disturbed. Time spent within the confines of the hotel walls should resolve any aliments, as the staff aim to please. However the stay is such that most guests eventually forget why they wanted to escape the real world. They reside at the hotel, becoming slaves to the daily routine and guarding their precious soul, or what remains of it.
You find yourself trapped (like so many) in this time vortex with only the owner of the hotel being approachable. Next door (in chains) sits Neko Zombie, a bizarre fusion of pet cat and T-virus. Although mildly helpful, this freak of nature is prone to mood swings and the only salvation from him (and other horrors) is in your own hotel room. Soon enough the realisation that this hotel does not allow guests to checkout easily comes all to suddenly. However Death is never one to miss an opportunity, and by striking a deal you become a soul collector – collect enough and you will be shown the way home.
Based upon a popular Japanese series this accounts for the unusual chunky styling of the characters in Gregory’s world. Think Lego crossed with the palate of Trapdoor and this should provide a firm visual identikit. Yet this is indeed a horror show, as there is something far more sinister at hand, lurking underneath floorboards, and around each corner of the dimly lit hotel. The character designs are extremely varied and memorable. This is certainly no ordinary children’s series as the blood crazed Catherine and Angel Dog prove without question.
The hotel itself is shrouded in darkness and only contains a couple of floors, ensuring that this horror show does not outstay its welcome. Exploring the whole layout would not take too long, however this is not a game of exploration, leaps and combat. Rather the whole purpose of the Gregory Horror Show is time, which can be your friend and enemy. Just like the Spectrum classic The Great Escape, you have to memorise character routines and locations. Once you have built up a picture of someone’s routine, then a certain action is needed to capture a soul, normally a puzzle. The mental task is made easier through an automatic notebook that you can refer to, ensuring that you are in the right position at the right time – and avoiding any previous victims. Progression through the characters and hotel floors is unfortunately linear and tailor made for children of a young age. This comes as a bitter disappointment, and it certainly lacks of fun factor of the aforementioned Spectrum classic.
At times Gregory Horror Show can become extremely dull as you wait for that pre-judged moment to arrive. There is little else to contend with in the hotel, and the lack of an amusement arcade (or games room) makes for solitary confinement at times. Capcom has thrown various ailments into the game mix that require herbal concoctions to cure, but it’s all a little too simplistic and predictable. Do nothing and soon your enthusiasm begins to wane, your mental gauge evaporates and you become a permanent resident. The game does possess an unusual atmosphere, but beyond the excellent characters and voiceovers there is little else to recommend.
Things do improve when your victim tally mounts, as the opportunities for problems increase fourfold. Your only option to avoid capture is to run and this can disrupt any well-founded plans, as you stumble across another guest. Yet if you do not enjoy puzzles, or sneaking around corridors then this horror show is certainly best avoided, which is unfortunate as there is a potentially wonderful game inside. The controls are well grounded, avoiding any of the fundamental problems of Resident Evil. However those Playstation 2 owners who have missed the Gamecube series will find little solace here.
And so Gamestyle returns to the visuals, which are indeed delightful and can be fully appreciated in a first person viewpoint, if you so desire. Strip these away and you are left with an average game at best. Gregory Horror Show is a quirky release that fully deserves its reduced retail price and fails to live up to expectations.
Gamestyle score – 5