There was a time when Capcom were Survival Horror. Whether it be Sweet Home, Resident Evil, or Haunting Ground, Capcom was shovelling out atmospheric and creepy gaming experiences that were only available through them. Bumbling through a scary mansion armed with a useless knife and a bunch of keys? Only available from Capcom.
One survival horror game in Capcom's repertoire goes almost unnamed and unseen. I am, of course, referring to the legendary Gregory Horror Show. This game is terrifying, unnerving. Chilling right down to the bone. Unusual and creepy.
This game is based off an animated series of shorts which carry the same name, and a number of bizarre characters and scenes from the show are recreated in this third-person stealth survival-horror adventure game.
You play as a young man or young woman who has been walking through a thick forest in the dark, when you stumble upon Gregory House. What relief, a hotel! But upon checking in, you realize that the entire place is dangerous. The person locked up next to your room is Neko Zombie, a cat seemingly made of patchwork who loves chocolate and screams when the lightning flashes outside. The owner of the hotel, Gregory the Mouse, is a perverted lech who meddles deeply with the affairs of others.
When you sleep for the first time, you are visited by Death himself, who warns you that the hotel is a haven for lost souls. In order to escape, you must collect each soul that has been stolen by residents of the hotel and kept in jars. Thus the game becomes all about management; carrying a soul puts you at great risk, but doing so boosts your stats and health. Do you hold multiple souls at a time but put a target on your back, or drop the souls off as soon as you rescue them but fail to reap any rewards?
So I mentioned that the hotel residents are carrying souls, and they are batshit insane. Catherine the Lizard is obsessed with taking blood samples with her giant syringe, yelling "Time for a blood test!" whenever she sees you. Lost Doll is a poor young girl whose parents threw her favourite doll away, and who now searches for it indefinitely... not aware that she herself is the doll she is looking for.
Such a lovely place, such a lovely face...
Each resident needs to be somehow subdued before you can take their soul. Sometimes it is as easy as entering their room while they sleep and picking up the soul, but other residents need to be lured away from spots, forced to trip up on a banana peel or given some kind of item.
To know where the residents are, you must first observe their schedule and write it down, then use your map to see their location within the mansion. If you manage to gather all of the souls, return to Death to deliver them... then and only then can you leave the Hotel.
...which is easier said than done with all the guests out for your blood! And Gregory's mother, an ugly old mouse, is after you, too! It turns out that the souls were being gathered in order to make a youth potion that would restore Gregory's mother to her younger form. The Oedipus overtones are there, but the game doesn't shove them in your face, however.
Upon leaving, you realise that you yourself were a lost soul drawn to the hotel, because you were bored of your mundane life. Even after escaping the hell that is Gregory House, you'll always be welcome there again, when life becomes boring or stressful once again.
The presentation of Gregory Horror Show is blocky and bizarre, years before Minecraft "invented" the look. These almost papercraft-like characters are placed into a cartoony Scooby Doo-esque manor, where they vie for eachother's stash of souls. With its memorable and creepy soundtrack and excellent voice acting, Gregory Horror Show is quite frankly utterly terrifying.