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Like patchwork quilt of awesome!

  • Marcus
  • 07/05/2012 04:21 PM
If a player went into this game without reading the synopsis, I think they’d be able to work out through play that every map was designed by a different person with only a vague outline of the story. THAT IS NOT A BAD THING. If you downloaded this game after reading the synopsis, this is what you were hoping for. It achieves exactly what it set out to do. Every map has been lovingly prepared by a talented mapper and they’ve all had the time and interest to make their own room shine. This means there are no uninteresting little broom closets: someone spent ages on that closet and it's the best you'll see.

Walking around the manor is pretty standard RPG Maker 2003 fare. Since it’s an atmospheric horror game, there are no random encounters or boss monsters around: the challenge comes from puzzles and brain teasers. One or two of the puzzles might be a little too much without the walkthrough, but generally it’s not too flow breaking and the puzzles are pretty cool. Discovering hidden rooms tells us more about the people who lived in the manor house and solving these puzzles feels rewarding at first, if a little lacking in direction.

Plot and Characters
The rooms are so varied and the elements of plot in them so self contained that the main hall of the manor feels sort of like a mission hub, from which you can access multiple mini-games. Again, I have no real problem with this; it adds to the surreal feeling but as a player I felt like I was just experiencing each room and achieving their objectives individually and removed from everything else, not knowing whether it would build to a conclusion or even tell me when I’d finished. Looking at the game and saying that the narrative is incoherent or that it feels schizophrenic in atmosphere is like complaining that your salad is cold. This is what we wanted. The game doesn’t shine in its story telling or characterisation. It shines in atmosphere and technical proficiency.

What might have been nicer is if each mapper was told of a central plot to allude to, so at least there was more to tie it all together. If there were clues to a murder spread through the various surreal and different rooms, then they would still feel like part of a whole. Or each room could be a reflection of a different resident’s psyche and they all had something to say about the manor. As it stands, experiencing a number of short, self contained episodes - all with a unique atmosphere - is quite fun. There’s a bondage queen, a young werewolf and, of course, ghosts!

If there was one big recommendation I’d make to improve this game it’d be to give us something from the main character. Our protagonist is a young girl with dungarees and heterochromia, and that is ALL we know and all we shall know. Even the barest bones of a reason why she’s there or what she wants, how she feels, or a name, would help. Something for the player to project onto is absent. I had to look on the game page to find out that she was a girl. I wanted to know who the character was and how they felt about the scenario, because that would have added another layer of horror onto the scenario, knowing that it wasn’t me experiencing it but a lost little girl.

Some of the ghosts are nicely characterised through gameplay (the best way to do it): we are shown who they are rather than being told with expository dialogue. It’s done through brief snippets and through scraps of information discerned from the ghosts' belongings or through the glimpses we see of them when they appear between lightning strikes. What we know about the characters comes from the personal flavour unique to their maps.

Technical Aspects
This has already been talked about in some of the other sections, but so central to the game is the importance of its maps and graphics. Everything about the plot, characters, narrative and situation is taught to us by the maps in this game. Experienced users of RPG Maker 2000 and 2003 have gotten together and divided up the responsibility of making maps for a horror game, and they have all achieved success. The maps have all had time poured over them and custom graphics made for them, with most having filters and lighting overlays. Sometimes we have flashing images of ghostly apparitions and sometimes we have beautiful scrolling vistas visible through Gothic windows. The maps themselves are either huge, lavish halls (as you would expect from a creepy manor house) or dingy, claustrophobic back rooms. All are accompanied by a suitably eerie soundtrack and nice horror “sting” sound effects to make players jump at the appropriate moments.

To round up, I have nothing negative to say about the game. I have feedback and things that I feel would make it better for sure, but that doesn’t mean that what is there is not solid gold. This is the best work of a whole bunch of people, put together to make something brilliant. The areas that are left lacking were done that way through conscious design decisions as part of this experimental process, so no one can be faulted for that.


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I'm a dog pirate
I recommend splitting the review in sections based on graphics/maps, gameplay, music, story, etc. You can also combine some of your shorter paragraphs that way.
Ok then, dude I'll get on that. I'm not yet used to writing for the format of this website. Ha ha, it's quite wide isn't it. Those paragraphs are a normal thickness in word but over here they just look like one line of text out on their own.

Yep, that edit made it look better.
I'm a dog pirate
Thanks for the feedback and for the vivid descriptions, but I am curious as to your 5-star rating. I noticed you had some legit constructive feedback that would usually lower the rating.

Not that I'm complaining...or...anything...since, you know, I made a room...

Yeah, thanks for the review! I found it very well written and pretty much spot-on; but I'm also curious about the five start ratting...

My main gripe with this kind of games is that they are not really games. There's nothing in them that engages you in the same way an actual game would do, nothing that drives you to get better at it, or that feels rewarding for finding clever solutions to problems. You just walk around and do stuff. It's like a story in 'game' format or something...

I mean, that's nice and all. You may like the intention of the game or its message, if there's any. (Some people just love to fill in the gaps with their imagination and whatnot.) And it's Ok if you want to reflect this in your review and overall score, but only to a point... A five star ratting kinda puts into question the objectivity of the whole thing, imho.

"Not that I'm complaining...or...anything...since, you know, I made a room..."
Hm... I'm pretty sure the first two minutes of the game tells you the girl's name - Emi. That said, I did try to add a bit of a story (using what I had at my disposal), of course, it wasn't as spelt out as stories in RPGs, but it was (barely) there.

All that aside, I'm glad you enjoyed the game too, but was also wondering about the 5 star review since the version you played should still have quite a few bugs through-out. (I got caught up in real life shenanigans and have yet to finish the other ending/upload the new version.) But thank you for the review. :D
I was also wondering about the 5 star score...
I'm lying, I wasn't.
From this game, the thing of "different people doing their rooms" (levels) is pretty good. Gives variety. Although given the nature of the mansion being entirely open for you (not counting the chapel and some keys), sometimes is hard to feel a properly formed difficulty curve (some "cutscenes" are obtained just by passing, some others need some thinking -the "human nature" puzzle is harder than others IMHO -don't ever think that the chapel is one of "those", the chapel is great where it is--).

The main hall as mission hub, it's something really good too. If it were not like that, today I would had been still wandering ='D, just because developers wanted rooms to be randomly located. Unlike real mansions, where things are neatly organized!
Also I like that 'The Garden' was for me some kind of final dungeon C:!. I took a glance of it from the armoury, and said "I want to go there". And later, I found the entrance and was like "YEAH! Garden!". That was pretty enjoyable for me .-.

So, I find this game a good one, cheers,
Orochii Zouveleki
To tell the truth, the locked doors and 'progression' were last minute additions. Initially you could access the garden from the Armoury and none of the doors were locked. Every room was an open one. Giving a last second bug check I figured it was a bit too straight forward so threw in a few locked doors.
I'm kinda glad how it all worked out, though. I'm sure everyone who worked on this project is pretty happy with it too. ^.^
I'm happy with it, yeah, but it's no five star game. It's hardly a game.

I really wish I could review this, actually.
I gave it a five star rating despite the things that I would have personally changed because it seemed completely realised. There are things which I would have added but they haven't been left out through laziness but because they conflicted with the creator's vision. The addition of more in depth character development might make it more interesting for me but on reflection I thought that would be changing the goal of the game and making it into something different, not necessarily better.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
I'm happy with it, yeah, but it's no five star game. It's hardly a game.

I really wish I could review this, actually.

Agreed. Although I am very happy with it.
I give it four sandwiches. But you can get extra beverages for free C:.
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