Virtual reality is perfectly suited for horror, something which developers like Capcom are looking to take advantage of with the upcoming release of ‘Resident Evil 7’. The level of immersion it offers is like nothing standard TVs can produce, making jump scares a million times more frightening and bringing the level of fear up to the point where you’re afraid at what might be lurking around each corner. Weeping Doll, the psychological thriller from developer TianShe Media, tries to take advantage of this, but rather ends up as something that offers no scares, no tension, and worst of all no real atmosphere.
Weeping Doll tells the story of two sisters, one of which was born normal and the other with a facial deformity. The girl’s parents looked down upon the deformed sister and locked her away, whilst the normal sister got to live a perfect childhood. You play the role of a maid working in the household who comes to work at a time of disarray, with the house in a bad condition and full of creepy dolls. It’s up to you to find out what’s going on. Or something like that. In honesty, I got baffled so quickly that I stopped following the story. Let’s just say there are weird creepy dolls and a house that’s trying incredibly hard (and failing) to be spooky.
There are a few clues littered around the house as to what’s going on, whilst some story elements are given a bit more depth with small illustrated scenes that awkwardly play out in the middle of the screen. The problem Weeping Doll has is that everything is so poorly written and acted out atrociously – seriously, this is some of the worst voice acting I’ve come across in years. It sounds as though it’s been performed by someone who had no idea it that it was meant to be a thriller with their performances as lifeless as the dolls that litter your surroundings. Scenes that were meant to build suspense or have you feeling aghast were instead met with giggles at just how poorly it was all delivered. It’s a shame because Weeping Doll has the ingredients for something terrifying with the creepy dolls and long haired girls – it just simply doesn’t deliver.
The setting is fairly eerie, though there’s a severe lack of interactivity within the house. Horror games typically allow you to fully explore your environment and the objects within it, but Weeping Doll only allows you to interact with objects that are used for puzzles. It marks them with a glow too, clearly identifying anything that needs to be used.
These puzzles aren’t exactly taxing either, with enigmas that have been done so many times in the past that the solutions requires incredibly little thought to complete. Putting pictures together with puzzle pieces? Check. Finding a hidden code? Check. Put a cog in a piece of machinery? It’s all there. Nothing ever pushes your brain to its boundaries, instead acting as a simple hindrance that blocks progress. I wish the game just made me think outside of the box on at least one occasion but it just never happened.
The whole thing simply lacked any atmosphere or personality. When I first entered the house I was intrigued at what I might discover but was instead met with a series of boring rooms that barely offered anything different, instead simply forcing me to examine every nook and cranny in the hope of finding an object that glowed. Even the horror elements were poor, the only real tension coming when chasing a weird ghostly girl down a hallway. That never had a pay-off though, instead leaving me with yet another locked door.
It took me less than an hour to complete Weeping Doll and that included faffing around each room in the house looking for a little something extra to do. There was no replayability other than unlocking all of the game’s trophies, but most of those will come in one playthrough of the game anyway. Whilst the game isn’t incredibly high priced, many would still be disappointed by the short experience it offers. There isn’t even a real ending, the game instead allowing you to keep exploring the house with just the addition of a few photographs on the wall as well as a chalkboard that dishes out the game’s credits.
At least the game controlled well, with movement that took the ‘comfort’ approach by allowing you to teleport yourself around the environment with ease. This was assigned to the left stick, plus you could turn manually with the right stick. It was easy enough to do and functioned well, even if I could leave the main character seemingly floating on random objects in the environment. My acrobatic skills were wasted working as a maid; I shouldn’t have had to deal with this creepy doll malarkey…
In honesty I’d simply recommend multiple playthroughs of the ‘Kitchen’ demo to get your Playstation VR scares for the time being – those five minutes alone feature more tension and atmosphere than the whole of Weeping Doll. It simply offers so little with a poorly executed narrative, uninspired and boring puzzles, and an experience that’s over so quickly that you’d have barely noticed it had begun.
It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever played and the idea in itself was original at least. It just never did anything to scare, excite, enthral, or, most disappointingly, entertain me. At least you get to laugh at the ridiculous voice acting; that makes up for otherwise unentertaining forty five minutes, right?
Developer: TianShe Media
Publisher: Oasis Games
Release Date: 27/10/2016
Format(s): Playstation VR