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PC Game Review

Haunted House
Cryptic Graves


Format: PC
Publisher: Dreampainters Software
Developer: Dreampainters Software
RRP: £14.99
Click here to buy
Age Restrictions: TBC
Release Date: 25 November 2014

In Haunted House: Cryptic Graves from Atari, you play paranormal investigator, Anya Graves, heiress to Abaddon Grange, which until recently belonged to the departed Zachary Graves. Zachary turns out to be your long lost relative, which is weird as you're supposed to have spent a year trying to gain access to the Grange, without him mentioning this once. Zachary, it turns out, was secretive for a reason; the house is a repository of supernatural artefacts, the sort that should have your powers going crazy. The Grange and riches are yours, if you can spend a single night there, but in uncovering the house's secrets you run the rich of awakening a dormant evil.

Review imageSo, we crank up the game, and under the options we have the ability to change the quality of the graphics, its resolution, gamma and the choice to play the game in either a windowed or full screen format. Strangely enough, there is no support for a gaming pad, which may have gone some way to address the clunky mouse and keyboard interface. This is not just my personal dislike of playing games this way - it is a recognised, and in some cases a preferred, way to play for many gamers. What we have here is an interface which does nothing to enhance your gaming experience.

Review imageThe game opens with you arriving at the Graves Mansion, a building which holds many puzzles, cryptic graves, get it? For reasons never explained, you have the inability to look levelly at the old guy who has arrived with you. Maybe the slightly lop sided view is supposed to add to your sense of dread. I just presumed my character had started the game drunk, and as I played I wished I had started that way too. As well as the whole thing being a little lopsided I’m not sure why they made some of their stylistic decisions; the game has a slightly blurred, grainy quality, even at the best resolutions.

So your walk to the mansion is an opportunity for the old guy to go through an info dump to set up the game's premise. The only really good thing about this is his pretty funky walking style. So you discover that you are female, name unknown at this time, and that you are probably a paranormal investigator. It is only implied as you have been trying for a year to gain access to the house, with little success. And, lastly, Graves has died and, wouldn’t you know it, you're one of his long lost relatives.

Review imageThe house and wealth are yours if you can spend a night there. So you walk up to the door, which the game redundantly informs you is a door, that’s when the game's object recognition works, as I found doors which the game didn’t know were doors. Another aspect which is pretty irritating is that your companion randomly moves his mouth during his speeches and it rarely looks in time to the speech, which to be honest isn’t as big a problem as the laughingly dull voice acting.

Your interactions with the funky guys gives you the background of the house's construction and you get the horrible feeling that the main premise has been ripped off from 13 Ghosts. Even when weird things do start to happen, like discovering that Anya, you have been given a name by this point, can see beyond the veil (although at this point what sort veil and to where it points is a mystery) the game's poor mechanics detract from the attempts at an atmospheric scare.

Review imageThis is the central problem with the game, the narrative may have been strong in the writers mind, but the actual experience is one of a directionless experience where you walk around examining and interacting with objects without really knowing why. Sure you have to spend the night and apparently your reputation relies on you uncovering the house's secrets, but it’s difficult to translate that into a motivation to play as the characters are so poorly represented that it is nearly impossible for you to identify with them.

There are a few nice elements, but ultimately the game's problems become both distractions and detractions from the overall experience.


Charles Packer

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