First Impressions: Calling

One call you might want to take.

For those of you who love a good scare or just enjoy a playful romp through the latest survival horror title, Hudson's got just the game for you. In fact, they were even kind enough to send us over a preview build of their upcoming horror release Calling to check out and we have to say, this is easily one of the spookiest titles to hit the Wii console to date.

As the game begins, you'll see an internet chat playing out with various people talking to each other about a mysterious black web page that will supposedly allow people to speak to the dead. The next thing you know, you're waking up in some abandoned and rather rundown bedroom with no recollection of how you got there, or even where there is. You know, your typical survival horror storyline kicking into action.

You're quickly given a tutorial on how the various gameplay mechanics work in the game, along with a cell phone that you'll be using on a fairly regular basis. You move around using the analog stick on the Nunchuk attachment. You can hold down the "Z" button to run or give it a quick double-tap in order to turn around quickly. The "C" button will allow you to crouch, although you cannot run while in the crouched position, something to keep in mind as you're creeping through the many dark hallways in the game. You pan around using the Wii Remote pointer that appears onscreen as a red dot. You can look up, down, or side-to-side, and once you have the flashlight in your hand, you can point it around to help you see in the many darkened areas you'll find yourself in.

When the red dot is placed on certain objects, it will turn into a magnifying glass that will allow you to examine them in more detail. You can also use the pointer to open doors, even having to shake the Wii Remote back and forth in order to pry open some of the doors that are stuck and don't want to open upon first inspection. Of course you can give a quick press of the "-" button for times when your cell phone rings, something that plays a very key role throughout the game, at least if you want to survive.

The main goal of the game is survival. You won't be carrying around any type of firepower to speak of, rather you'll be forced to rely on your wits and some very crafty Wii Remote wielding in order to survive. As you roam around the areas in the game, you will be attacked by ghosts and spirits. Your character has a Horror Meter, closely resembling that of a heart monitor, displayed on the screen. Each time you're attacked by a ghost, your Horror Meter will begin to climb. If it turns red and reaches a certain level of horror, it's game over.

There are two ways to get away from a ghost. You can press the "A" button at a specific moment when an icon appears onscreen, or if you miss this, you'll have to shake the Wii Remote from side to side repeatedly in order to scare the spirit away. Of course, you'll have to hurry before your Horror Meter climbs too high. You can make your Horror Meter go down, but you'll have to stop moving and rest in order to do so. Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done once the ghosts start coming at you more frequently and aggressively.

The control of the game is very intuitive and easy to pick up, even with only the basic tutorial at the beginning of the game. You'll be running around the various areas of the game in no time, and the challenge ramps up quite smoothly as to not overwhelm you with too much too soon. There's also never a shortage of things to examine and areas to explore, so don't expect much downtime throughout the adventure. There's definitely a deliberate pace set by the game and it aims to keep things moving along, and that includes you.

Visually, Calling is a bit streaky. There are some areas that look very detailed and others that look a bit bland. As weird as this might sound, given the game's setting, it tends to work quite well to display the dismal and dimly-lit areas of the game quite well. Truth be told, you're not going to have too much time to sit back and admire the surroundings anyway, so it's certainly not really anything to complain about in the overall scheme of things.

If there's one area of Calling that truly stands out, it's the audio presentation. Not only is it some of the absolute best Dolby Pro-Logic II surround sound available on the console, but it's also some of the spookiest. The thundering bass and rear sound effects will make you just about jump out of your seat every time the game tosses a surprise your way. And when you couple this sense of surprise with the quiet and creepy ambience of the game, it can make for a rather nerve-wracking experience and one definitely not for those who are easily startled.

Calling is a game that's flown under the radar for the most part since its announcement by Hudson, but after a few hours with the game, it's safe to say that this game will likely be quite popular among survival horror game fans and those who can appreciate a scary, but rather gripping adventure. About the only thing we could find to complain about was the fact that the preview build eventually had to end and we found ourselves left wanting more. Now comes the grueling wait for the March release, but one that will likely be well worth the wait if this preview build is any indication of things to come. It's definitely an upcoming Wii release to keep an eye on.