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|17 JUL 2005 at 2:20am|
Posts : 4459
Joined: 7 JUN 2003
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|(I held off on this review for a week thinking I might have been overly harsh. Tried to get some other opinions by questioning those who liked it and seem to have gotten myself into a pickle instead. With that, here's my review...time to play another game.)|
Being a big supporter of independently developed games, news of Delaware St. John by indie developer Bryan Wiegele had me purchasing my copy as soon as it was available. I LOVED Inherent Evil, so my confidence was high that this would be another great game by that same author.
The game is broken into 2 parts, Book 1 and Book 2. Since this is 1 of a planned 10 games, if the others follow the same pattern, there are 20 potential episodes.
The graphics are slide-show 3d rendered and were a cut above most other indie titles and did the job well.
The beginning of the game has you going to Midnight Manor with your flashlight and your first task is to get the electricity turned on. If you played the demo, you've played the first 5-10 minutes of the game. If things look familiar, they should - this is the same building as the one in Inherent Evil. The author stated that this game is what he wanted Inherent Evil to be but was never able to do, hence the same building - although this one has no ties to Inherent Evil and takes place somewhere else.
The interface is straight forward.  irectional arrows for navigation, a hand to manipulate things, and an eye to examine closer. With the graphics and gameplay style, I couldn't help but feel like I was playing a scary version of a Nancy Drew game. An early Nancy Drew game, but Nancy Drew none-the-less. The engine works and does the job well.
The object of the game seems to be releasing restless spirits trapped at the manor. Recently released Hauntings of Mystery Manor had the same theme. In this one however, you are electronically linked to a partner who will analyse data (Pictures taken, sounds, etc.) for you. That's pretty much it.
Since you are freeing restless spirits, this becomes a game consisting of mini-quests. There's nothing to really hook you into the 'big picture'. The one unlying thing tying this together is a cat-like spector that periodically chases you around. I can only explain this further by saying it was pulled off in a way that can only be considered as brilliant and it cranked up the scare-factor tenfold. It's truly a nail-biting event and unfortunately, this games only note-worthy experience.
This is sad because the game had SO much potential and a great premise, but it never really took off and went anywhere. It's also very short and contains an odd way of ending book 1 - the game seems to bump you out and drop you at the main menu where your options are to start a new game, load an existing one, or exit. Clicking start a new game gives you the option to play book 1 or book 2. Click book 2 will take you to the next half of the game - let me rephraze that. The next episode of the game with nearly no relation to the first other than that you free more ghosts. I can foresee many players thinking the game is INCREDIBLY short because of this and not realizing they are only half way through. Not sure if this was a very good tranisition method. To me it seemed a little confusing.
Gameplay-wise, I couldn't help but feel like I was either wandering around waiting for something to happen, or being led by the nose. I'd free a ghost, then have no clue what to do next. So I'd wander around until I encountered another cutscene that would lead me to my next task. This forces you to have to wander around the same places over and over again effectively lengthening the game time. Oops! Freed another ghost, time to go through the entire mansion again to see what event is now active. Yep, it's pretty linear. So how does the big story start to unfold?  o you find numerous clues that lead you to some conclusion? Nope. You find a few clues, pass it on to your sidekick, then she comes back and tells you the story, sort of, there's no explanation as to why these things are happening.
|17 JUL 2005 at 2:20am|
Posts : 4459
Joined: 7 JUN 2003
Status : Offline
|Based on the placement of objects, it seemed like they were just a way to lengthen the time of the game by making you have to go from one end of the manor to the other, then back again. Considering you couldn't go straight from the basement to the top floor and instead had several different paths to go through (You have to use the stairs to get from the basement to the lobby, but the stairs are missing from the lobby to the first floor and you need to solve getting up there which was pretty easy, the stairs are then blocked going to the second floor so you have to take the elevator to go from the first to the second and third floors - even though the elevator is supposed to go all the way to the basement but the doors are broke on those levels), it becomes a pretty clear that it was set up that way to lengthen the game time. |
You're also cruising along then get these mountains dropped in front of you in the form of 2 really tricky puzzles. It's not like the game built you up to this in a way that puts you into the proper mindset. For example, in Aura, you were faced with these same types of challenges throughout and your brain was in the right mode to think it through. DSJ had you basically doing simple inventory based puzzles ( I counted maybe a dozen objects, none of which you ever have more than 4 or 5 at a given time) and then suddenly dropped in a really big logic-based one in the form of a maze. An ugly one at that where everything looks virtually the same. Probably 90% of the people playing this will run for the walkthrough - I know I did after struggling for an hour with it and getting rather ticked off in the process. It's not like you can work on something else either and get back to it. BAM! You are in it and stuck.
This also underscores one of this games main problems. There is no flow to it. You have easy to solve tasks, then have a real brain teaser on your hands. It doesn't build up, it's just dropped in front of you. I felt like I was playing a game on easy mode, then suddenly it switched to expert, then back to easy. There is no major plot that gets resolved at the end, you run around freeing people with uniquely different stories, but stories that never really develop because you manage to free them pretty quickly and the only thing tying them together is that they are, well, ghosts.
There were many areas that could have been examined in more detail, but this wasn't done. You could look closer at a nightstand with a lamp, but you couldn't look inside the drawers. You could look at a desk full of papers and objects, but could only look at one item. The basement was full of stuff you could see, but you couldn't go look through it. I think this would have been a much more effective way of lengthening the game instead of the methods employed. It would have greatly increased the enjoyment of the game and created a richer experience for the player. It would have also had the potential to greatly enhance the character's (aka, ghosts) stories.
Since this is one in a series of 10 planned games and was supposed to be complete in itself, I can't say it felt that way. It felt very short and incomplete to me and left too many unanswered questions.
I REALLY wanted to love this game. One because of it's theme, but also because it's an indie title. But this one left me feeling a bit jaded. There's just too many things we are expected to overlook - same building as before, this is 1 of 10 planned games and hence incomplete, numerous teases about the 'big picture' but no resolution to any particular piece of the big picture, characters that have not been developed and you really don't care if you release them, and the obvious 'tricks' to lengthen the playing time. Separately you probably could overlook these things, but taken in combination you can't. I probably seem overly harsh especially since this is an indie title, but the the developer has one published game under his belt and worked professionally on others including Command and Conquer so I expected a bit more to this game than what I experienced.
I really hope the developer focuses more on the story, character development, and flow of the games challenges and less time focusing on marketing schemes on his next title. Some gamers may like this, but on a JA ranking system, I'd have to give it a C- to a C. :-[
- Eerie setting
- Easy to use interface
- Excellent mood music
- The HUNTER
- Decent voice acting
- Under-developed characters
- Small game setting
- Lack of completeness and resolution
- VERY Linear, having to trigger events
- Game lengthening 'tricks'
- Unbalanced puzzles
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