Calling Hands-On

No horror game is complete without creepy young girls with disheveled dark hair and vacant eyes.


At a Hudson event in San Francisco late last year, we had a chance to check out a guided demo of The Calling, a survival horror game that uses the Wii Remote as a cell phone. We were recently sent a demo build of the game, allowing us to play as one of the four playable characters to get an idea of how the gameplay mechanics work. Like in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, you aren't given any weapons, so all you're left with are your wits, a flashlight, and a cell phone.


The intro cutscene started off with the exchange of messages in a chat room, and we caught a few glimpses of the people typing at their computers. The discussion revolved around the rumors of a Web site where you can communicate with the dead. In our previous coverage, we mentioned The Black Page, a Web site that has a hit counter; if you see "something" on this site, you will eventually die, and your death will be added to the total. Samsara, an occult magazine, wrote an article about it, and it seemed like people were gathered online to try to figure out what the deal was. After that scene, the screen cut to multiple ringing phones until we saw a girl flip open her cell phone to answer it. Standing behind her was a freaky-looking girl with a death stare, similar to all the creepy-looking girls that we've grown accustomed to in horror movies. The screen went blank, and we saw more text appearing across the screen, which read like a conversation taking place between two people talking about a teacher whose husband recently passed away. Apparently the husband was a bit strange to begin with and had a bizarre fascination with dolls ever since his child died more than 10 years ago.

This intro set us up for the chapter called "Possession," where we played as Shin Suzutani, a young man who wakes up in a dingy room with no idea how he got there. Using the remote's pointer, we were able to scan the room and examine objects that were worth a closer look. The cursor changes to a magnifying glass, an eye, or a hand if you can interact with it. Depending on the object, you can enter a search mode, where you can rotate objects or interact with them by moving the remote. After a quick glance, the only thing that stood out was a cell phone sitting on the nightstand, and the only door out was locked. The flickering lights eventually went out, making it too dark to examine anything. The cell phone then started to ring, and by using the remote to answer it, we were greeted by a raspy voice on the other end who uttered a sentence that didn't quite make sense. After the one-way conversation, the door opened, so we were free to walk to the other room down the hall, hoping to find a light source of some kind.

Before entering the next room, we were attacked by a ghost and had to use the remote to shake it off. A horror meter appeared in the top left, which indicated how freaked out our character was. The screen will start to turn red if you can't get away fast enough, and the game will be over if you linger too long. We were able to shake this mean spirit off with ease, but not without feeling our heart rate increase along with Shin's. A flashlight was conveniently located on the ground in the other room, and we took our time to check out our surroundings, which seemed to be a storage room of dolls in various stages of completion or dismemberment, depending on how you want to look at it. At the other end of the room, there was a set of sliding doors that wouldn't open all the way, but we were able to peek in and see a person sprawled out on the ground. Before we could really see what was going on or get a closer look, a cluster of Japanese dolls suddenly appeared before us and we took off running without looking back. The demo ended shortly after we ran back into the room we had started in as we waited for Shin's horror meter to subside.

Hard to stay calm when ghosts are all up in your face.
Hard to stay calm when ghosts are all up in your face.

In this short demo we were able to get an idea of the kind of suspense the game has and see how the controls work. Using the Wii Remote as a cell phone is an interesting concept, and what adds to the suspense is that the voices sound fragmented and extra-eerie when coming out of the remote's speaker. Visually, the game right now doesn't look as smooth as we would have liked, but if you pay close attention, subtle changes in the environment can make your skin crawl. An example is walking into a filthy bathroom and noticing a tormented face in the window, but it disappears quickly and you wonder if it was even there in the first place.

There are three other playable characters in Calling, but we'll have to wait a bit longer to see how their stories pan out and how everything relates to this mysterious Web site. Look for Calling when it's released for the Nintendo Wii on March 9.

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