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Posted by on Jan 24, 2014

Review: Ouija Party

Review: Ouija Party

Title: Ouija Party
Platform: Android / iOS (reviewed on Android)
Developer: Pataphysics
Publisher: Pataphysics
Release date: Out now!
TL;DR: Spooky app that really tries but, sadly, flatlines
Family Friendly?Click here to skip the detail and see if this game is right for your family!

You know that type of sleepover that every group of girls has at least once? No, not the vaguely-sexual-Animal-House-pillow-fight type, the one where they stay up late, play “Light as a feather, stiff as a board”, and then inevitably somebody gets a Ouija board out, and it’s all just harmless giggly fun when you get right down to it. You know that? Okay, now imagine that their Ouija board is downloadable. That’s Ouija Party.

ouija party startThe concept is a pretty solid one: ask a question in a clear, loud voice and Ouija Party will connect to the spirit world (via Wi-Fi) and give you an answer in a creepy semi-robotic voice.  The voice is, in fact, extremely creepy, and the audio and sound effects are probably the best aspect of Ouija Party. The androgynous, emotionless drawl would blend easily into any one of the numerous Paranormal Activity films, and the echoing background noises are what provide the app with some finger-down-the-spine vibes.

Mecahnically speaking, Ouija Party definitely loses some of its potential on a phone, so if you’re going to pick this up then it’s best played on a tablet. The touchscreen Ouija board and letter-ticker combo need a bit of room to really get going, because it’s pretty hard to fit several fingers on one moving circle at once when it’s that small (as any teenage boy can tell you). Having said that, the interface, though simple, is slick, and works well for the app’s purposes. It’s easy to imagine our 21st century slumber party gathered around, faces aglow from the screen as the letters are traced out… So far, so spooky.

ouijaparty keysThere are a couple of bugs that arise every now and then (the Ouija board can occasionally stop mid-sentence) but they aren’t game-breaking and are, one imagines, easily fixed in future patches. Real problems start, however, when you actually begin your communication with the dead in earnest, and it almost totally wipes out the good will you might have built towards this multiplayer app so far. Pataphysics may have given the speech recognition the good old college try, but it falls a little short of giving the “mysteriously fitting” answers it claims to be able to deliver.

Many of the responses you get are ambiguously spooky enough that they work against the traditional questions you’re supposed to ask dead people – “Is anybody there?” “Can you here me?” and so on and so forth are all perfectly acceptable questions to ask if you’re looking for a semi-coherent answer. Start getting at all specific and you’re in for a bumpy ride.

At one stage every question we asked was met with the name of a different deceased famous person, as if either the app was struck with schizophrenia or the Very Important Dead were all taking turns on the line. I’ll concede that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi were both pretty cool dudes, but I’m not buying that they’re elbowing each other out of the way to talk to me.

ouija party boardEven questions where a straight yes or no answer would suffice run into problems. Asking, for example, whether “anyone truly enjoys the music of Black Flag” will leave Ouija Party totally stumped – though this of course may or may not be related to the accuracy of the speech recognition. Given that the app’s selling point is the ability to offer answers to the questions you ask it, falling short on this is a pretty major flaw.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t still wring some fun out of this unbeating heart. If there are enough of you gathered around Ouija Party can be unintentionally hilarious even when it screws up, but you need to be the ones drumming up most of the atmos. It’s easy to see that Pataphysics has thought seriously about what it’s trying to do (and it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on what they serve up in the future) but unfortunately Ouija Party is let down by it’s own tech, and ends up more Shirley Ghostman than Most Haunted.

In the end the imaginary sleepover we’ve been talking about is a fitting metaphor for Ouija Party itself – everyone means well, a lot of work probably went into it and you can see a lot of imagination and creativity in play, but ultimately to get any fun out of it you have to put in most of the work yourself. As an adult it can be an exercise in frustration; if you’re a bit of a gothic teen with an evening of entertainment coming up then there are definitely worse things to spend a quid on.

Is there anybody there?

  • Well designed creepy audio.
  • Simple but effective interface.
  • Solid concept.

Turns out no, there isn’t.

  • Has a couple of little glitches.
  • Real problems with the speech recognition aspect
  • Seriously, it kind of doesn’t work.

Family Focus

Ouija Party doesn’t have an age rating attached, and technically doesn’t have any NSFW aspects, but the audio (and concept) can be creepy as all get out. Not recommended for younger children, but older kids could definitely get a kick out of it, and the whole family can potentially get involved in playing.

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