Saturday, June 23, 2007

Boo, I'm a ghost

Don't worry, I haven't died and I'm not a spirit walking on earth. I've just played two adventure games that deal with ghosts and demons and so on: "Delaware St. John" volume 1 and 2.

I bought those games in a package, for about 16 Euros - which isn't bad for two games, even though they are quite short. I'll replay them for sure and thus they will pay off. (I've just investigated, in English the two games are called "The Curse of Midnight Manor" and "The Town with No Name".)

And even though the graphics aren't that advanced (the games aren't that new either), the shock effects from ghosts just turning up seemingly at random - and a strange, cat-like creature suddenly attacking which results in a flight to certain places which are "safe" - are quite good.

Most ghosts aren't evil, but souls caught in two places which have become a prison for them. One is an old manor that was transformed into a hotel, the other is a town whose inhabitants disappeared overnight (and at the same time it disappeared from the maps). But actually the 'town' is just the combination of two houses, the local cinema and the local orphanage which were led by the two children of the town's founder. Those two also are responsible for the demon (one of the two cat-like creatures Delaware encounters in the two games, called hunter) that has killed every being in the town. And - as Delaware finds out - who wanted to sacrifice him as a child to bring an even more powerful creature into the world. But two other nuns (Helena, the daughter, was a nun and led the orphanage) exchanged him for another child and sent him away.

After the two games, not everything is clear (there's at least one more, as I have gathered on the website I found when searching for "Delaware St. John"). The real initiator of both incidents isn't found yet (as the siblings are not responsible for what happened in the manor) and why Delaware was chosen (although his ability to see and hear the dead does set him apart from others), isn't completely clear either. The third one has just been released under the title "The Seacliff Tragedy".

At first, the games look a lot like "The 7th Guest" and the many 'interactive movies' that followed it (and such games as "Myth"), but even though the movement through the rooms is the same, the game offers more than just a couple of simple puzzles. There's an inventory that gets filled and there's a lot to do, as well.

Admittedly, there's two situations which made me want to puke. The first happened in the second chapter of the first game (both games have two chapters, the second one can't be played before the first one has been finished) when I had to unlock the elevator of the hotel/manor in order to reach the second floor. The three-digit code necessary for it was coded in a way I just couldn't figure out (and still can't, I looked into the forum to get an answer - the same went for the situation in the second game - and I found an answer there, which means I wasn't the only person who couldn't find out). The second situation happened in the first chapter of the second game (the second chapter was easier there - or at least more fair). In order to open a hidden door that leads beneath the stage of the movie theatre, Delaware has to find a coin and play an arcade game (!). That's a bit far fetched, even for someone who's rather used to that sort of stunt.

Apart from that, the puzzles can be solved with looking around and thinking. And even though it's theoretically possible to 'die' in some situations, the game is fair there - if Delaware dies, because the player isn't doing the right thing, he's transported back to the beginning of the situation and can start anew. Sooner or later (and as there's always tips on how to do it right on screen) everyone can make it.

The whole surrounding is nice (in a very un-nice way, of course), though some of the places look a bit sterile (like the entrance hall in the manor). But once Delaware has reached the first floor of the hotel, it get's a bit more interesting. Actually, the two games remind me a bit of "The White Room", a freeware-adventure set on a derelict space station which also features ghosts and other scary incidents. And with the ghosts suddenly turning up, there's always some suspense.

On the whole the games aren't bad - although I wouldn't pay a full price for them (which, in Germany, is about 30 to 40 Euros per game). But even when I saw them for the first time - the first one, at least - they were sold for less. As far as such games go (and I wouldn't call them 'real' adventures), they are pretty good, a lot better than other games of that type I have played (although "The 7th Guest" was quite scary sometimes). I can still remember "Dragon's Lair" and "Brain Dead 13", two 'interactive movies' of the worst type, and "Delaware St. John" is much better.

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