Review: Weeping Doll

Disclosure: A code for Weeping Doll was provided to VGBlogger.com for review purposes.

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Weeping Doll for PlayStation VR tells the story of a family with two daughters, one who has a large red birthmark on her face. Told from the perspective of a young maid, players move through the home of a well-off family revealing the history of the daughters and how their parents treat them, in particular the actions they take to hide the marked girl and treat her like an outcast. More of a psychological adventure than an outright scary game of horror, Weeping Doll tries to build a game of mysterious atmosphere combined with tense and spooky audio.

Using a mechanic called Shadow Step, movement within the virtual reality space is handled by moving the left stick forward so that a ghost image of the maid appears, and then pressing X to teleport to wherever the ghost image was standing. Viewing the environment is handled by looking around with the VR headset, but turning can be done by flipping the right stick left or right. Weeping Doll also allows objects to be picked up with both the maid’s left and right hand by pressing either L2 or R2. Square brings up an inventory system, where objects found in the house are stored in a large rotating menu. Strangely, I found the need to use it only once with one object, even though there are over thirty slots available to use.

What is interesting about Weeping Doll is the immediate immersion into the fact that something is clearly wrong in the house. A call to the maid’s cellphone (an old brick Nokia-looking device) from the mother asking for help sets events in motion. While exploring the expansive house, simple lock puzzles are the main interactivity for players. Finding a key to unlock a door into another room, or unlock a chest with photos broken into pieces so they need to be re-arranged to discover a clue about another part of the house. All the while, moving through the house reveals little nuggets of story. Some doors open to reveal furniture in a state of disarray or a kitchen abandoned in the middle of food preparation. Photos on the walls depict a family of three instead of four.

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Attempting to open the door to the room of the daughter with the birthmark on her face, an animated image plays out showing the mother’s distain for her own little girl. Complaining that her daughter should be put back in the punishment room for coming out into the family room, it is clear that the mother is an absolute monster. Finding another animated image in the kitchen reveals that the father at least feels bad that his wife treats his blemished daughter so poorly, and offers to bring her a meal separate from the meal served to the rest of the family.

A staircase leads to the second floor, where a young girl is eventually spotted peeking into a room at the player.  Nothing is more unnerving than hearing cries and giggles and then suddenly seeing someone else in the game world when at no point prior was there any sign of another person in the house. Following the girl down the hallway builds one of those moments where the fear of finding out what will happen when you do catch up to the girl is undercut by the desire to actually learn more of the story. By the time I was able to turn enough corners and follow back down to the main living room, the girl disappeared.

Opening another bedroom off of the main living room reveals a bright, warm, and inviting child’s room. A string of Christmas lights is hung around the ceiling, a train table is in the middle of the room, and a few pieces of a picture on the wall. Arranging the pictures provides clues on how to access a secret punishment room hidden under the stairs, which is clearly where the mother forces her blemished daughter to spend most of her time. In the room, is a doll sitting on the bed. A voice (presumably from the doll) asks players to sit and then narrates a series of drawings that are hung on a door, explaining further the poor treatment the family heaps on the blemished girl but also poses the notion that if she follows the doll’s directions, she will become happy.

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Eventually the story leads the player back up through the house to find other dolls resembling each member of the family. Interacting with them plays out a very sad and disturbing tale of exactly what happened. I can’t say that I was ever overly filled with dread during my time with Weeping Doll, but there are definitely some creepier moments. Seeing dolls in various poses throughout the house lets the imagination play out whether or not at any moment they could come to life. The horrible treatment of the blemished daughter fed my empathy and wanting a child to be loved as much as her sibling. It’s a strange thing to play a game and be completely immersed and have subtle points in the story suck you in more than the actual visuals or moments of interactivity.

While the story had me connected and invested, the game has a strange blurred, washed out effect throughout. Walking up to photos hanging on the wall, the textures don’t always come into a sharp focus. Or sometimes if they do sharpen, they aren’t as crisp as you’d expect. The effect reminds me of going to an optometrist for an eye exam and having the doctor flip between one lens and another and having my vision go from blurry to less blurry and back. Not being able to see anything with a clear eye removed all tension from the game for me.

Weeping Doll is a competent VR experience. Being able to move throughout the house and hear a child laughing or crying from a room you were just in is creepy and unsettling. Learning the truth of what happens to the family is also satisfying. Unfortunately, one brief session with the game provides all of the interactivity available, so there really isn’t any lasting appeal or replay value.

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Pros:
+ Interesting story
+ Some clever puzzles

Cons:
– Overall visuals aren’t focused well
– One time experience
– UI could be cleaner

Game Info:
Platform: PlayStation VR for PlayStation 4
Publisher: Oasis Games
Developer: TianShe Media
Release Date: 10/27/2016
Genre: Adventure/Psychological Mystery
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by publisher

Buy From: PlayStation Store for $9.99

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.