In 2010, Hudson Entertainment developed and published “Calling” for the Wii. This horror adventure featured four playable characters as they explored an abyss in hopes of solving the mystery of how they got there and how to calm the angry spirit that haunts it. Calling features great motion controls from the Wii and an innovative way of using the controller but does the confusing plot and jump scares pay off? Pick up the phone in this Calling review!
Calling’s plot revolves around four separate characters who are all sucked into a purgatory-like dimension called the Mnemonic Abyss. These people have been brought here by the “Black Page” an internet rumor site that is cursed. Are you familiar with the term “Creepy Pasta”? It’s the dark rumors and spooky superstitions that originate on the internet. That’s a real term but it perfectly describes the vibes of the Black Page in Calling. On the Black Page, visitors can connect to a chat room and speak to strangers. Some visitors to the Black Page are transported to another dimension as they are called to the darkness for various reasons. Calling features four main characters who have been sucked into the Mnemonic Abyss. Let’s take a look at the characters in the Calling.
Rin Kagura – A 21-year-old responsible and confident college girl. Some might say she is overconfident at times.
Six years ago, she made a promise to a girl she met in a chat room. She promised that no matter what, they would meet in person. Before they could meet, the mysterious girl vanished. Rin has searched for her ever since. She thought “The Black Page” might give her some clues about the girl’s whereabouts, and accessed the page.
Shin Suzutani – A 17-year-old high school student who loves anime and the occult.
Learned about “The Black Page” from an article in his favorite occult magazine, “Samsara.” His favorite anime is “ARMED SOLDIER MAKO” and he loves collecting action figures and other goods related to the show.
Chiyo Kishibe – A 67-year-old grandmother who likes to surf the web.
Seeing her struggle after the death of her husband 5 years ago, Chiyo’s grandson gave her a laptop. While exploring the internet, Chiyo heard rumors about a website that lets you “meet the dead,” bringing her to “The Black Page”.
Makoto Shirae – A passionate 34-year-old man, unafraid of danger.
An editor at “Chinami Publishing.” After his colleague mysteriously died, he started investigating and his research led him to “The Black Page”.
You’ll play as all four, although Rin is the main character. Calling can become confusing if you don’t pick up all the pieces to the plot but let me do my best to give you a short summary with an opinion on the overall tones of the game. Reiko is a little girl who has a terminal illness and is placed in the hospital. Her mother gives her a cell phone so they can keep in touch throughout the day but as the weeks go on, her mother stops visiting and taking her calls altogether making Reiko depressed and unwanted.
Reiko begins to visit online chats and starts a friendship with Rin. The two chat regularly and Rin promises to meet Reiko in person. Reiko’s nurse, Kayoko is a motherly figure to the sick girl and worries for her overall health as it declines due to the depression from the abandonment of her mother. Kayoko does her best to comfort Reiko but it’s no use, instead, Reiko takes comfort with an elderly man at the hospital who turns out to be Chiyo’s husband who ends up passing away. Again, this upsets Reiko and causes her to count on Rin’s visit to cheer her up.
Rin makes her way to the hospital to see Reiko but a block away from the hospital she’s hit by a garbage truck and is put into a coma. Reiko believes Rin stood her up and Reiko commits suicide by jumping out a window and is transformed into an angry spirit. Shin, Chiyo, and Rin are sucked into the Mnemonic Abyss and are haunted by Reiko as they try and find a way out. Makoto enters the Abyss to search for his detective partner who died mysteriously. He’s much less afraid of everything and is only concerned about discovering the truth behind his partner’s death. Makoto ends up finding his partner but is killed by him and stuck in the abyss. There are two endings to Calling, one has Rin and Reiko becoming stuck in the abyss together in Reiko’s angry state and the other has Rin calming the spirit of Reiko and returning to the real world. You’ll need to play through Calling twice to get a better ending.
The overall theme of Calling is an obvious overtone of loneliness and the crippling feeling it can inflict on people and the desperate measures they go to avoid it. The super nerd was looking for friends online to share his passion for anime with as he clearly didn’t have real friends. The elderly woman missed her deceased husband and wanted to reunite with him in the afterlife. Makoto searches for his fellow detective not wanting to continue his career without him. Many of the users who log onto the Black Page seek friendship through chat. The little girl was abandoned by her mother in the hospital and wanted attention and companionship. When the promise to meet between Rin and her is broken, she passes away in an angry and hopeless manner as her spirit haunts the hospital. Calling deals with serious emotions and the natural feelings that humans go through. It just goes to show you that we all feel lonely from time to time.
As a Japanese horror game, you can expect a few tropes in Calling. First, there are plenty of jump scares which can be a lot for my heart to handle. There wasn’t an overabundance of them but they kept me on the edge as I explored throughout the game. Japan loves school girls and they love creepy dead school girls almost as much. You’ll see plenty of ghosts and spirits of young girls who have decided to haunt the school.
To help see these spirits, and explore your way out, you’ll have a flashlight. This tool is a must as it’s far too dark to explore without it. The controls for the Wii handled well as the motion of your controller guided the direction of the light as you walked forward. Some motion control games are garbage, but Calling on the Wii worked well. The controller also acts as your cell phone and to answer you’ll have to hold it up to your ear. I loved this aspect and thought it was clever as there is a built-in speaker to the controller. Throughout the game, you’ll take calls from ghosts who will tease and haunt you via the phone as you make your way through the game.
Ghosts can grab ahold of you and increase your heartbeat meter. This is essentially the “scare” meter and if it goes up too much you presumable have a heart attack and die. You can decrease the meter by running away and hiding from ghosts but I didn’t struggle too much to keep it down. When the ghosts grab you, you are supposed to shake the Wii remote wildly to “shake them off”. It works, but sometimes you really have to work it to shake those clingy ghosts. There was one section where the ghosts grab you in a mandatory part to end the level. You need to shake free of them while pushing numbers into a cell phone and calling out. It was the most difficult part of the game and took me a few tries to complete it. The key was memorizing the number to dial instead of constantly looking at the note and then the cell phone. Overall, it was about a 3-minute portion where you had to be near perfect.
To help move along the plot, there are typical cut scenes which were little treats between the horror adventures. Complimenting the scenes were text messages depicting more of the story. Sometimes it was long to read but I didn’t mind it as it gave me more insight into the plot.
While there are ghosts and spirits to haunt you, there were other spooky elements to keep your heart racing. One instance was a complete ripoff of the “Saw Puppet” on a bike. It slowly peddled toward you before running out of batteries. There were also creepy dolls that would line up around the walls. I’m not scared of dolls or puppets so I wasn’t too spooked.
Most elements surrounding the plot of Calling are creepy but one aspect was bittersweet and sad. When you play as the old woman, it’s clear that she just wants to be with her husband again and is wandering around trying to find him. There’s a section where she’s in a forest full of spirits walking and she spots her husband. She desperately tries to chase him but can’t quite keep up. It’s a sad moment and made me feel for the character and her love for her spouse. Not all things in Calling are sinister.
Voice acting is not a strong suit for Calling. Some characters are fine, but others like the male doctor borderline on cringe and comical. The character arcs are for the most part adequate but some characters like the super anime nerd don’t have much of an impact on the overall plot. You’ll play as four different characters but for the majority of the game, you’ll be Rin. I didn’t have much difficulty progressing. Either a new door would become unlocked or I’d find a key item by thoroughly exploring a room. You’ll need to find certain items to trigger the next events. If you do get stuck there are numbers you can dial on the cellphone to give you hints or direct you to a certain area to go to. Save points are scattered throughout levels in the form of black cat statues. They have glowing eyes so they are easy to spot. Whenever I’d see one, I’d rush to it eager to save my progress.
Calling can be played multiple times and you’ll need to in order to receive the true ending. I enjoyed my time with it, but I didn’t seek out the true ending as it was a lot of work to get although I did watch it on YouTube. It’s a nice option for those who seek another playthrough with some new elements.
Calling Wii Review Score:
Calling has received a lot of negative scores, but I don’t think they are warranted. There are solid horror elements to this game including classic Japanese horror tropes. When I played this there were times I gripped my controller in fear of what was going to pop out behind a door or window. Overall, Calling offers a lot of replayability but a confusing plot hinders what could be a great horror game. Definitely give it a shot if you’re up for some creepy gameplay but go in with low expectations and you’ll find yourself having more fun than expected.
Calling scores a 6.5 out of 10.
What would you write in your Calling review? Who was your favorite character from the game? Did you understand the plot? What are some other hidden gems for horror games? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Calling, I’d love to read them.