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The Calling: Another Wannabe
Hudson Entertainment's horror-themed title, the Calling, is a mixed bag. There are some interesting uses of the Wii remote as well as effective use of sound that creates significant anxiety. On the other hand, a cohesive storyline is non-existent, the ghosts themselves are laughable, the point of the game is unclear and overall, the Calling feels like an unfinished demo.
The Calling will suit gamers who are already well-acquainted with other survival-horror franchises and with a few improvements here and there, The Calling could be the start of something significant. It is a slightly below average game but may be at least worth a rent if horror games are your thing.
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The Calling's Control and Gameplay Style
The majority of gameplay in The Calling, involves assuming the role of an alternating character who awakes in an unknown area. All the stereotypical survival horror environments are present: an abandoned house, a school and a hospital.
The words 'survival horror' are quite appropriate for this game as you survive by maintaining your horror /terror level. As the creepiness of the game accelerates, so does your horror level which climaxes when you come into contact with a paranormal entity. You can escape the ghost's grasp by shaking the Wii remote rapidly or following an onscreen button sequence.
By and large, the controls are responsive and decent. The major 'hook' of the innovative Wii controls in The Calling is using the remote as a cellphone. This use is similar to that of another Wii horror survival title in Konami's Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Though the use is similar, The Calling utilizes the phones as a larger component of the gameplay.
The game's control and action aren't revolutionary by any means, but are done well enough to be effective. One minor exception are the ghostly encounters. After the first level or two, it becomes apparent that the ghosts appear only at specific points as you make significant progress in the game. Eventually, this kills most of the suspense conjured up by the graphics and sounds. The anxiety would be exponentially increased if the ghosts were to appear completely at random regardless of where you are in terms of figuring out the fate of the victims who are tormenting your character.
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The Calling's Eerie Sounds
Usually, I'd start out with the graphics, but the sound is the strength of this game. The voice acting, at least on the 'phone' is eerie and among the most creepy aspects of the game. Eventually, whether you care to admit it or not, you start to cringe whenever it rings (especially if you got yourself a high-quality surround sound system.)
Typically, an effective music score can create another dimension of fear and anxiety, though Hudson Entertainment decided to go with a more simplistic style as the game is pretty much devoid of music. This enhances the other sounds as they stand out a lot more, whether they're a muffled voice from an unseen source or another noise which has no apparent cause.
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The Calling Presents: Casper's Revenge
The graphics are OK, though not overwhelmingly impressive, the ghost themselves look laughable and no more scary than a guy wearing bedsheets with two eye holes. Remember the CGI Casper movie with Christina Ricci? Well that's what they remind me of, sort of anticlimactic really. The environment graphics look better and set the mood along with the creepy sounds and voices.
The only issue I have is the darkness. It's not so much scary as it is frustrating. Oftentimes, your character won't be able to examine an object unless they obtain a flashlight, though most of the time you can readily see what it is but the character can't access it in order to advance in the game.
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The Calling: Creepy Yes, Scary No
The Calling reminds me of older PG and PG-13 movies, they manage to be scary or at least creepy and eerie without the need of gratuitous violence or excessive gore. This game is not a terrifying game, certainly not groundbreaking, but succeeds in creating a sense of foreboding and impending disaster through effective sound and occasionally decent visuals.
The game won't give you nightmares (at least not the way Hudson Entertainment would hope), but the suspense will get to you at one point or another, at least early on, then the game becomes more and more predictable. That said, the story feels non existent and you feel zero empathy for the characters you control, which in a game like this, is pretty important.
The controls are decent and the suspense is palpable enough to keep you engaged. Similar to the shark in the original Jaws film, its effective when you can't see the specter, but its almost comical when you do. Had the ghosts looked less cartoonish, this game could go along way to being one of the scarier titles for the Wii console.
For those looking for a just below average horror title, this is worth a look, though only for those who have played and enjoyed similar survival horror series: Silent Hill, Resident Evil and the like. Overall, you should probably just let this one go to voicemail.