Delaware has returned, and in the best of his adventures
to date. The Seacliff Tragedy is more polished in story line and
graphics and much lengthier than the preceding volumes. This development
team appears to be maturing at a most satisfying rate, while still keeping
the family friendly style that is immensely comfortable to play.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Delaware St. John
games, this is the third installment in a proposed series of ten games.
Each volume is self-contained and can be played without the necessity of
playing the other volumes. However, there is an overarching story line
that runs through the series, and it adds that familiar touch of
background information to play the volumes in order.
Delaware is an ordinary kind of guy with one glaring
exception. He receives extrasensory visions of the dead. To quiet those
pleading whispers, he feels compelled to solve mysteries in an effort to
put the spirits to rest. To aid his efforts, he has technically savvy
friends, Kelly and Simon, who are both familiar with the world of the
There is creepiness and darkness to the games, but it is
an usually comfortable thrill rather than a painful one. These are games
for the whole family. They are reminiscent of sitting on a sofa and eating
buttery popcorn watching a thriller together, rather than “can’t ever
again turn off the lights” shockers. There isn’t any objectionable
language and there are no mature themed scenes.
THE SEACLIFF TRAGEDY:
“The running theme is clowns. Couldn’t they have
chosen anything less creepy – like vampires?” – Delaware
Delaware’s extrasensory vision draws him to Seacliff, an
amusement park that was closed years earlier due to a horrible accident in
which over a hundred people perished. Caves beneath the back half of the
park caused it to shake and buckle, sending the roller coaster into the
sea and demolishing other areas in a twisting collapse. The owner of the
park hanged himself that very day.
But this calamity was not the first time misfortune had
haunted the park. For years children had gone missing.
The amusement park is wonderfully rendered, and you can
almost imagine being there in the midst of its dilapidated glory. The park
stands empty and silent, oozing a strange kind of menace. Statues of
clowns seem to watch your passage as you traipse over cobblestone paths,
with a particularly eerie one as the hub to a Ferris wheel. Paint is
peeling away in great flakes from walls, and a layer of grime and rust has
set in from abandonment. Faded maps indicate passage through the
I had worried prior to starting the game that it might
be dark and difficult to see, but I believe the screenshots didn’t do the
game justice. Even though your character uses a flashlight in his
progress, the game screen never appears distorted. Each scene is clearly
visible, with a masterly touch of artwork that has further areas steeped
in darkness and patches of ambient light until your arrival. A delicious
utilization of shadows makes this a feast for the eyes.
My first impression in walking around the park was that
I knew why those children were missing – they were still walking around
the park trying to find their way out. There is a clear-cut method to make
your way across the park, but it took my directionally challenged self
some time to realize what it was.
GAMEPLAY AND OTHER PRACTICAL STUFF:
“Hey, a crowbar! Or as I like to think of it, a key!”
This first person game’s movement is point and click
using directional arrows, with an eyeball icon to indicate that a closer
observation is available or an interaction possible. There is also a hand
icon for obtaining an item or performing an action.
The inventory panel and the voice imagery communicator
(VIC)) are part of the main screen, and it is a simple matter to access
inventory items with a click and transfer them to the main screen, where a
red glow will indicate an item can be placed. The VIC communicates with
Delaware’s office, where he can receive information about his case, and
even occasional tips. However, unlike the first Delaware game, this time
around there did not seem to be an abundance of hints. The VIC is also
capable of recording and photographing paranormal activity, but this
function was not utilized in this game. Perhaps a future volume will make
more use of this feature.
The escape key is used to access the main menu, where
the traditional options exist. The game can be saved at almost any point
in the game (not during timed sequences or cut scenes). There are ten
allocated save positions, and the saves can be overwritten. Each save
shows a time and a chapter indicator. I’d like to see a picture to know
where the save is, or at least be able to name the save myself for easier
differentiation if I want to replay a particular scene.
The aforementioned controls are explained in a much
improved tutorial that one can elect from the main menu. This should make
the game attractive to even a newcomer to adventure games.
In a departure from the first two Delaware games, the
player acts as both Delaware and Kelly in turn. This adds a new
perspective to the game that makes it even more interesting, with the two
characters’ different attitudes and equipment.
VISUALS AND SOUND:
“Thank you Captain Obvious!”-- Delaware
As I’ve already mentioned, the graphics are well
rendered. The scenery is atmospheric and compelling, drawing the gamer
into an eager exploration of this abandoned park. The visions that
Delaware has are also very nicely done in a motion blur. The animations of
the characters are sometimes quite good and sometimes a bit awkward --
such as when Delaware is shown walking.
The musical score is once again tremendous and
energizing in orchestral fashion. Todd Kinsley, composer of the music CD
“Emerald Shadows” (with the exquisite songs “Twilight” and “Chromosphere”)
adds an additional professional touch to the game. There’s a minimum of
ambient sound, but I would suppose that it is in keeping with the vacant
park. Footfalls here and there, the crack of a ladder breaking or shadow
people hissing are somewhat startling in the stillness. The primary voice
acting is well done, and the rapport between the actors makes the roles
believable. The friendly banter and the witticisms are a fun part of the
“If this is anything like my frig, I’m better off not
opening it”-- Delaware
Those that hate sliders won’t find any in this game.
There are also no sound puzzles. Most of the puzzles are inventory
oriented, and a few are logic type puzzles. Inventory items are way too
small, and I found myself running the mouse over many a darkened spot to
see if I had missed something.
You can’t die, although you can lose consciousness.
Shadow people appear at various points in the park, and have to be scared
away with the flashlight (cursor). If you don’t do this in time, the
screen briefly goes dark. There is no further ramification from this,
although the game does keep a tally of the times you were knocked
unconscious and at the end recognizes you accordingly. These shadow people
are rather amusing on occasion.
In addition, there are three timed scenes, but the time
allowed is very forgiving. If you are caught, you are simply returned to
your starting point for another try. In the first timed scene I went back
and forth several times in the path required to escape without being
caught, so I know the time allotted is generous. The other two are also
very ample with time allowed.
There are two mazes, both in keeping with the
surroundings, rather enjoyable and not terribly difficult.
I had only one real issue with a puzzle, which required
locating the correct map in a sort of treasure hunt style. At one
location, only one map is visible in your wandering through this area, but
there are actually two. The two never appear in a scene together and they
are close in proximity; to my reasoning there should not be two. Selecting
the incorrect map ruins the puzzle and necessitates a saved game.
Most of the difficulty in the game may simply be in
finding a particular trigger so the story line will continue. I was
aggravated at one point because the game requires you to look at an object
that you had more than likely already observed closely in order to trigger
a cut scene. If you don’t carry out that action, you may wander aimlessly
in a sort of Twilight Zone trying to find something to do to compel the
game to go forward.
On the other hand, kudos to the developers for their
design in those puzzles requiring the player to select numbers for a
solution. The numbers appear in blocks to be selected by clicking on them.
Not having to fiddle with finicky dials (such as on a safe) was a welcome
BITS AND PIECES:
“You’re the kid no one wanted to play with, aren’t
There is an install disc and a play disc. The play disc
has to be in the drive while playing the game.
Subtitles can be elected from the main menu. They are
not the default setting.
I encountered no bugs or crashes, and the game installed
easily and played smoothly.
SO SUM IT UP ALREADY:
“You know, for a second there I thought I was dealing
with someone normal.” – Delaware
A fun, family oriented detective adventure that is much
longer than the previous volumes, with considerably more polish and a more
detailed story line. This game was actually developed independently prior
to the agreement with Lighthouse to publish it, which shows once again
that a small dedicated team can make a very good adventure game. With the
rate of progress that this developer is showing, I very much look forward
to the next Delaware St. John game.
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