Cliffhouse is the
third adventure game from independent developer Cindy Pondillo.
In this atmospheric, ghostly
puzzler, the player assumes the character of Sarah Blake, a recent and
young widow who finds herself in dire need of solace and distraction.
Sarah reads a brochure advertising the tempting Cliffhouse Bed &
Breakfast, situated close to Washington's sea and forests, and decides
that this will make the perfect getaway. Upon Sarah's arrival she finds
herself surrounded by a host of apparitions, a troubled family history
and many secrets to uncover and put to rest.
Welcome to Cliffhouse
I played the developer's second
adventure, Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation, when it was first
released, and I rather enjoyed it. I am pleased to report that the third
game, the subject of this review, is even better and technically much
improved from its predecessor.
Playing in first person point
and click, with directional arrows to move the player from one screen to
the next with no panning, the interface is a simple configuration. A
right-click will access your inventory, while the space bar reveals the
basic menu of Save, Load, Quit and Play. There are no separate options
for sound or graphic tweakage. The cursor turns red at active spots, and
blue when there is no further information to obtain. Dialogue can be
fast clicked through if desired, and there are full subtitles. The game
has unlimited save slots.
The Cliffhouse is an imposing
building from its exterior. Sprawling and turreted, it comes as a relief
once you are inside and beginning to explore, to realise that the
likelihood of finding yourself lost in a labyrinth of corridors or a
myriad of oubliettes is really rather slim. For once an area or room has
been thoroughly inspected there is rarely a need to return unless, of
course, there might be a box that is missing its key or one puzzle (or
two, or three) that has temporarily bamboozled you. Doors are
conveniently labelled when you move your cursor over them, to help avoid
hapless wandering. (I haplessly wandered for a short time only.
Boathouse, oh boathouse, where art thou? I know you're here somewhere.)
There are pleasant ambient
sounds, and the graphics are well drawn and warmly detailed, if entirely
static. Characters' lips do not move when they speak. Their limbs remain
in defiant rigor mortis. The voice acting in general is done well. Of
the characters themselves, we meet with the current owner, Amanda, and
her adult son and daughter. We are briefly acquainted with a few of the
guests and a beach-dwelling eccentric, but for the greater part of the
game we are left to our own devices. Save for the occasional long spiel
of explanatory dialogue, there is little that gets in the way.
The in-game bookshelves offer
optional reading on regional history and folklore, if the fancy grabs
you and the interest tweaks you.
Haunting at Cliffhouse
offers no jump scares to throw you backwards out of your chair. It won't
chill you or leave you afraid to look in your bathroom mirror after
midnight, but rather it carries a misty melancholy and poignant scenes
between the various spirits you encounter. It's a quiet, thoughtful game
that offers a surprising twist at its conclusion. A conclusion that will
come after (approximately) five hours playing time without reference to
A Plethora of Puzzles
Puzzles! Lots of them!
Seriously, now. If you are a puzzle fan then you will be in puzzle
heaven. If you can't abide the little stinkers then this game is likely
not the one for you. Because they are copious. Let's run through a
tally: There is an enjoyable scavenger hunt to begin with, which runs
throughout much of the adventure as you explore the Cliffhouse. Then
there are matching games, a spot the difference, a slider (which can be
skipped), picture and word puzzles, a jigsaw, a logic conundrum, and a
maze (with a gesticulating fairy to help guide the way should you find
yourself turned about). They are all well explained, non-timed and
exceptionally good fun. Even the slider. Kind of.
The Mist, The Mist
For every burst of sunshine a
little raindrop falls. The in-game music is initially pleasant enough,
but can grow repetitive. The plinky solo piano that follows the player
around the Cliffhouse had me whining after a while, and with no way to
switch it off. The piano, that is, not my whining.
The night-time music at the
Japanese garden and the chapel, on the other hand, was quite lovely.
I found the game's ending
somewhat abrupt; it could have perhaps been drawn out a touch further
from its end line of dialogue.
Haunting at Cliffhouse
installed and ran without any issues.
To conclude, I would recommend
this as a most enjoyable and satisfying mystery for puzzle lovers.
I played on:
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1
AMD A6-3650 APU @ 2.60GHz
4.00 GB of RAM
Radeon HD 6530D Graphics