When it comes to horror, there are certain things that you will always associate with the genre. Monsters, serial killers, and of course: dolls. When I first saw Weeping Doll and its signature logo, I was ready to be terrified. Creepy dolls and an empty house are a great start, that’s for sure.
Does Weeping Doll take this classic horror puzzles pieces and make something special for PlayStation VR, or are these dolls weeping actual tears? Now that I’ve finished the game, it’s time to find out.
A Promising Start
Weeping Doll is set in a Japanese home with classical decor and traditional elements. The antique furniture makes it seem like you’re in the past, but a cell phone in your inventory quickly brings you back to the present.
You play as a maid responsible for taking care of the house. She has returned to the house after being away, only to find that no one is home. Clearly something has happened here. As you explore the house, you’ll experience short tidbits of background story that reveal more about the family that lived in the house.
Specifically, you’ll hear about the daughters of the family and how one of them was treated, let’s say, differently. As you explore the house, there are moments where the tension gets high and the dolls certainly add to the mood.
The problem is that this tension never really maintains itself. There’s no sense of urgency to the story. It seems like you’re exploring something that’s already happened. That would be fine if the story was more involved.
Even the doll’s themselves never move. Even if they managed to sneak around while you weren’t looking, it would have added to the atmosphere. Instead, everything feels rigid and stiff, like the world around you is set in stone.
When the story does show itself, the voice acting can be questionable. The developers at TianShe Media are based in China, and a member of the team has expressed on the PlayStation VR subreddit that the choice in voice actors and the tone they took was a result of that culture barrier.
There are moments when the oddly cheerful acting can add to the creepiness, but in general it betrays the tone that the game is trying to achieve. While the story is interesting, the lack of any real horror beyond a few moments of tension makes it hard to really get excited about the events in the game.
The developer has plans to patch in an alternate ending, but as of right now, the ending is incredibly abrupt and it makes the game feel incomplete. It has the workings of what could be a really great psychological horror, but it’s missing crucial pieces in the story department.
Solid, if Forgettable Gameplay
Continuing with the trend the story set forth, Weeping Doll’s gameplay also hints at something greater. The “shadow-step” system of movement is reminiscent of the same solution other developers have employed to reduce motion sickness in VR.
You move by projecting a ghostly visage of yourself and then warping to it. You turn in short intervals, and you interact with items using the R2 and L2 buttons. Unfortunately, a bug in the game at time of release would cause these buttons to be displayed incorrectly, leading to some confusion in certain puzzles.
The majority of the gameplay involves solving puzzles that I enjoyed, but there were too few of them. The game itself can be finished in about an hour, and during that time I was intrigued, but never afraid.
Looking around and leaning into the environment works well, but if you go too far, you’ll suddenly see the outline of where your head should be. This was unfortunately the only time I jumped during my playthrough.
I also noticed that the inventory given to you has a lot of slots for items, but you’ll never even come close to filling it up. It’s elements like these that make me feel like Weeping Doll was meant to be something greater, and perhaps time or budgeting stopped it from realizing a full potential.
Barring some bugs in the button displays, and some frustration with dropped items disappearing, the game worked really well for me. I felt like the mechanics in place were solid, but underutilized.
Strong Style, Inconsistent Presentation
The setting for Weeping Doll is well-realized with interesting environments, but the graphics can come across as blurry from a distance. According to a member from the team at TianShe Media, this is a result of them focusing on antialiasing to make sure the graphics didn’t have jagged edges.
This was at the cost of resolution, which is something the PS4 Pro will hopefully remedy. The game uses the Unreal 4 Engine, which is a solid starting point. When you approach areas in the game, the graphics become clearer, but from a distant you can see the dip in detail.
As a VR game, Weeping Doll achieves a base level of immersion through the technology. Horror works really well on VR because of the way it places you into the game like other mediums of gaming fail to do. While I did feel a sense of presence in Weeping Doll, the gameplay and story didn’t capitalize on the possibilities that VR offers.
The cutscenes in the game are limited to semi-animated situations you find yourself in, but these are very sparse. The game’s price is $9.99, which isn’t too bad, but I feel like the short playtime could have been packed with more atmosphere, more story, and more horror.
Some additional patches or free DLC for the game to add in additional elements and give the story a worthwhile conclusion would certainly help. I really want to see what TianShe Media could do with a more complete horror experience, but Weeping Doll just isn’t that. It’s a lot of solid ideas that never really go anywhere in the short amount of time you play through the game.
Of all the launch titles Oasis Games has published for PlayStation VR, Weeping Doll is the weakest in comparison to the fun-filled Ace Banana and the excellent tracking in Pixel Gear. There’s a lot of potential for horror in VR and I would love to see TianShe Media expand upon the ideas here and really come out with a full, complete, and terrifying experience sometime in the future.
Final Score: 6.5/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 11/1/16