The Charnel House Trilogy

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Owl Cave

Publisher:    Mastertronic

Released:  April 2015

PC Requirements:  

  • OS: Windows XP SP 3 / Vista / 7 / 8
  • Processor: 1 GHz processor
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Integrated Graphics (512MB VRAM and above)
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 200 MB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible.

Additional screenshots

 

 

by flotsam

 

The Charnel House Trilogy Book One: Inhale

Owl Cave

At barely 30 minutes, itís a good thing that Books Two and Three are immediately available, although I havenít yet partaken. Just knowing they are there makes the brevity way more palatable.

The 30 minutes themselves though are rather interesting.

We start in an apartment where we meet Alex. She clearly has some family and relationship issues, but as yet doesnít appear to have noticed the apparitions which briefly and occasionally flash into view. Twenty-five of the 30 minutes later, and she decides to catch a midnight train for reasons I wonít reveal, and the book ends with embarkation and a startling and unexpected jolt involving the trainís porter.

A fair few of those 25 minutes sees Alex poking fun at quite a few adventure game staples, which is oddly at odds (is there any other sort?) with the Poe-like feel suggested by some of the goings-on. To me, this discordance added to the undercurrent, but some might find it grating.

There isnít a lot of puzzling you can pack into 30 minutes, and what there is revolves around a small number of inventory items. Alex I thought was well voiced, and the other characters were too brief in their parts to warrant serious consideration. I expect though we will see much more of a fellow train station traveller so will let you know more about him when I play Book 2.

The graphic presentation is that retro pixelly look that is becoming more and more prevalent in indie games, and which once again does not detract from the overall experience (albeit a very short one). I had no issues with not being able to discern relevant items, and the game plays full screen which is always a good thing.

A charnel house as we know is a building where human skeletal remains are stored, which suggests the Poe-ness will come more strongly to the fore. The book which Alex has on her bookcase and which she takes with her on the journey would seem to support this, and the porter jolt probably  cements it.

Apart from the trainís destination, I donít quite know where this is going, but think the ride has been intriguingly set up.

The Charnel House Trilogy Book Two: Sepulchre

So here we are on the train, this time with Harold, the fellow traveller I mentioned previously.

This is very much a ghost story, and a metaphorical one at that. Perhaps a little obvious, but only if you observe the detail. Which is worth observing and thinking about in terms of the metaphor.

Mood wise, it didnít ďhorrifyĒ, but it does on occasion unsettle. Or rather, there are some unsettling elements as Harold wanders the train, wondering. The overly large suitcases that he wonít look inside are just one example.

What Sepulchre endeavours to create does make the fun poking in Inhale seem more incongruous or out of place, but then this is Haroldís journey, not Alexís. It is one that is very much about getting to the destination, and to that end the mild puzzling in the first chapter becomes not a lot more than painting by numbers. There is also a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing, but the whole thing is again short, a little longer than Inhale but not a lot, so that aspect is over before it begins to wear thin.

Haroldís choices got him here, and his past ultimately lead him to where it all ends. Itís a measured build-up to that final point, and I rather liked getting there with him.

The Charnel House Trilogy Book Three: Exhale

I went straight on this time, and we are back with Alex. Itís the longest chapter, which is a relative concept given it probably wonít take you much over two hours to play all three, and itís a brasher, brassier contribution than Chapter 2.

A little too much perhaps, a little over the top, and a tad foul mouthed. But then this is Alexís journey, not Haroldís, and her unravelling reflects the events she is experiencing.

Like Harold, Alexís past is very much present, and she confronts it far more directly than Howard did. Again, the tale is the thing, and so puzzling takes a back seat. Inventory items remain to be found and used, but it is a very directed thing.

Telling too much about the tale would tell too much, so enough said. The end makes clear there is more to come, and while it left some loose ends it didnít feel unfinished.

The rest of the things that make up the three Chapters are generally well done, and the music needs special mention. As a whole, The Charnel House Trilogy is a little disjointed, and struggled a bit to hang together, but I didnít really mind. Think of it as three short stories around a common thread, and if a little Poe is something you enjoy, you might find these two hours to your liking.

Grade: B-

I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz

RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz

Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB

 

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