Shades of Black
Shades of Black is the 11th game in
the Carol Reed series. For those unfamiliar with the series, Carol is an
Englishwoman living in the Swedish city of Norrköping. She is a writer
and aspiring novelist who investigates mysteries. Like all the Carol
Reed games, Shades of Black is first person, point-and-click, and uses
photographs of real places as backgrounds.
Carol is trying to get her novel
"Blue Madonna" published. She receives yet another rejection letter.
Then she receives a phone call from the publisher that just rejected
her. Have they changed their mind? No such luck. The publisher has the
gall to hire her to solve a mystery -- the recent disappearance of one
of their bestselling writers, an eccentric whose wife was killed six
years ago, and who hasn't finished a book since that time.
Coincidentally, a woman was murdered at the same time as the writer
disappeared. Is there a connection? Carol receives the keys to the
missing man's apartment and gets to work searching for clues to his
As with previous Carol Reed games,
backgrounds are made up of photographs, mainly places in and around
Norrköping. It is amazing how many interesting places are to be found in
the area. Some of these locations include a furniture museum, a brick
water tower with a giant chessboard nearby, a sun cannon, an elaborate
treehouse where you can pay to spend the night, a suite in a former mine
which can be rented for weddings, a deserted house, a rhododendron
garden, and various parks, nature trails, and farmlands.
Carol always seems to be having
something going on in her apartment. In her 10th game, Carol's apartment
was all decked out for Christmas, with gingerbread houses, lighted
stars, and seasonal flowering plants. In her 9th game, she was having
her bathroom renovated. In Shades of Black, it's her computer room
that's being refinished. You can still get a good look at her computer
and console games in their temporary location, and perhaps recognize a
few adventure games.
Carol's old friends are back. Stina
is now running a fruit stand and Carol visits with her long-suffering
boyfriend Jonas long enough to pump him for information. Bigge is back
too, currently working as the caretaker of a house while the owners are
away. Other characters include the publisher, an unexpected victim who
manages to escape the culprit, and the writer (though you don't see a
whole lot of the writer).
Shades of Black is classic
point-and-click adventure. The inventory bar runs along the top of the
screen, and appears when you move your mouse over it. You can get a
close-up of inventory items by right-clicking on them. Some items can be
turned over, and this is indicated by an arrow. If you get stuck, there
is a very helpful Hint feature that will tell you what to do next. The
Escape key takes you to the Main Menu, from which you can save, load,
and exit. In case you forget to save, the game will automatically save
when you exit.
The Options Menu allows you to
toggle subtitles and provides separate volume controls for voice, sound
effects, and music.
The game starts with a tutorial,
which you can skip if you want to. The instructions show you how to use
inventory by having Carol pick up a paintbrush, use it on a paint can,
and apply a single stroke of paint to the computer room wall. After
that, Carol apparently gets bored and refuses to do any more painting.
At this rate, it's going to be a long time before she finishes
renovating her computer room.
Most puzzles are inventory based.
Some puzzles involve gathering clues or objects before being able to
solve a puzzle. When you find a code or number that you need for a
puzzle, Carol will generally collect a piece of paper with the
information so you don't have to write it down. Some of the puzzles take
the form of riddles left by the bad guy.
Sometimes Carol has to figure out
how to get through locked doors or into locked boxes. A variety of
methods may be used. Carol may find or steal a key, or she may
impersonate someone in order to gain admittance. Though she generally
finds non-destructive solutions, she isn't above using brute force when
the situation warrants it.
Shades of Black is the first Carol
Reed game that will only be available by download – no DVD version. In
the words of developer Mikael Nyqvist, "Unfortunately, due to new and
complex EU regulations regarding digital sales, I don’t think we’ll be
able to sell the new game on both disc and as a digital download."
There will be cover art provided, so
if you have the equipment, you'll be able to create your own DVD-cased
game. Unfortunately I'll be stuck with a basic silver disc with black
Sharpie scribble that looks pretty much like every other disc I've ever
There are two versions of the game,
an HD version with high resolution graphics and a version with a lower
resolution. Those who purchase through the mdna website will have a
choice of downloading either or both versions. The one with higher
resolution is recommended if your monitor has a resolution of 1920x1080
or higher. The low resolution version is for monitors with a resolution
between 1280x720 and 1920x1080. There are demos for both versions. Since
my monitor is 1920x1200, I played the HD version.
According to the mdna-games.com
website, "The game contains no graphic violence or swearing. It has no
action sequences, and is suitable for ages 15 and up. You can't die in
the game." This is all true. However to be more specific, and since some
people objected to the religious paintings by Hieronymus Bosch in the
previous game (which contained Bosch's unique depictions of Hell), I
will mention that there are several paintings (and photographs of
paintings) of nude women by Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920).
There are also suggestions that the bad guy was into bondage as well as
I don't know if this game was easier
or shorter, but it took me less time to complete Shades of Black than
the previous Carol Reed games I've played. I still had fun following
Carol around on her latest case and would recommend the game to any
Carol Reed fans who aren't put off by any of the things I mentioned in
the Comments section.
Windows 98, XP, Vista, 7, or
Pentium 1000 or higher
512 MB RAM
128 MB video card
monitor with a minimum
resolution of 1280x720
I played the HD version of the game
on a computer with:
Windows 8.1 Professional,
AMD Phenom II X4 905e
processor 2.51 GHz
8 GB RAM
AMD Radeon HD 7770 with 2 GB
ATI High Definition Audio
Device (onboard sound)
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