A passion for ghost hunting and a tribute to the M.R.
James story “A warning to the Curious” come to life in this ambitious
screenplay from Jonathan Boakes. Past, present and future collide in the
surreal landscape of England’s fens, smugglers’ caves and standing stones,
as real locations merge with the legendary and fictitious in a delightful
tapestry which entices the game player on a romp in search of lost
treasure. Prospective ghost hunters will be thrilled with this how-to
guide, collecting evidence of the extraordinary utilizing “tweaked” modern
day gadgets -- all set into a very entertaining story (Boakes’ strength).
Fans of his game Dark Fall will not be disappointed with this long
awaited entry into their hands for many hours of gaming enjoyment.
From the first screen we are signaled that there is an
ominous undertone to the game, as crows circle and a tarot card can be
manipulated to begin our journey. What is to be our fate?
“Should we go looking for treasures we are not
supposed to find?”—The Lost Crown
Our character is Nigel Danvers (who looks like the game
developer and is voiced by him) in this third person presentation. Nigel
has stolen data from his employer and jumped on the last train out of town
to avoid ramifications of the theft. The train makes an unscheduled stop
when the flooded fens make the tracks impassable. Nigel finds his ways
through the dank waters of the Marshlands to the town of Saxton, where he
rents a seaside cottage in disrepair. Curiously, it would seem he is
expected there, as the people he meets already know him by name.
Nigel learns of a legend of lost treasure and eagerly
pieces together clues to discover its history and whereabouts. Through
traveling the town and its environs, he meets odd and mysterious
characters, both in the flesh and of a non-physical nature. The characters
all have compelling stories and secrets of their own, which combine in an
arc to flesh out the main storyline. Both positive and negative Spirits
lurk in many corners that Nigel travels, and even residual haunting
abounds for his investigation. There are also interesting side affairs
that add flavor to the story, such as crystal ball gazing, a palmistry
session and the reading of tea leaves. Beyond the paranormal, the sights
of the area are an added delight, as Nigel tries his hand at photography.
Even some history can be learned here and there.
“Not all of Saxton’s dead were pleasant souls in
life. So don’t expect pleasant souls in death.”—The Lost Crown
But ghost hunting gadgets take center stage as Nigel
makes his way through caves, mysterious graveyards, a haunted museum and
other chilling locales. At the ready he has a device that measures
electromagnetic fluctuation in the atmosphere (EMF meter), a digital
camera that detects motion and instantly prints out pictures, an analog
tape recorder to collect electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), and a night
vision camera that allows the person to see in the dark and outside his
normal scope, utilizing infra-red technology. One gadget may work in
obtaining evidence at one location but not at another, and Nigel will
comment to assist the player in choosing the appropriate method of
The use of the night vision camera is particularly
effective from a playing standpoint, as suddenly you are viewing the scene
from a first person perspective. Although I generally prefer third person
games, I think first person is usually more effective in horror games, as
there is no character between you and the action. And there are indeed
some scares in store for the player. The courageous will want to play this
game at night in the dark with headphones on. There is at least one scene
that is disturbing, whether it is played at night or by day.
“Not all is as it seems. Keep that in mind.”—The
The graphics in the game at first seem an odd choice in
black and white. It becomes more interesting with a splash of color here
and there, such as a cheery pink flower in a bland field, as if you were
walking a country lane at twilight after a spring thaw. Perhaps it adds to
the surrealistic nature of the story, as if time were distorted and only
partially recaptured on the screen. The screens are contained with no
panning, although they aren’t static, as there is movement within them—for
example fog drifts, and dragonflies are interested spectators to Nigel’s
progress. From cut scene to playable scene there is an occasional lack of
continuity. The character graphics are not as well rendered as the
scenery, and Nigel glides his way across the screen.
The ambient sound is well executed, with wind whistling,
waves crashing against the shore, and other immersive, realistic tones.
The music is generally non-obtrusive, and though mood heightening, doesn’t
resort to canned, scary music themes.
Voice acting is one of the least important
characteristics of a game for me. It’s a mixed bag, with most quite
pleasant and a couple less so. The main character tends to speak as though
he were in a play before a live audience.
“Just believe, and look deeply.”—The Lost Crown
There are small symbols which appear when your cursor
hovers the screen to indicate where you can move to go to the next screen,
or when it is possible to interact with an object. At the same time, the
interaction area is quite large, so I found myself clicking several times
in an area, thinking because of the distance on the screen that I was
clicking on an interaction with a second object. The game is quite linear
and persnickety about items being clicked upon before progress can be made
on occasion. Since the inventory will often be accessed, it is handy that
it is always within reach at the bottom of the screen with a sweep from
“What will be there, on the other side?”—The Lost
The puzzles are of the inventory or logic variety, and
well woven into the storyline, as are a liberal sprinkling of clues. It
may only be on a second playing of the game that one can truly appreciate
in retrospect how obvious the clues were and how well the story flows with
an excellent use of foreshadowing. Since the game world is large, it was a
welcome feature that Nigel won’t leave an area until all the investigation
possible has been completed there, minimizing a lot of back and forth
There are three timed puzzles, but if you fail you are
given unlimited opportunities to succeed. There is a maze of sorts through
the caves, but because of different landmarks it isn’t difficult to
navigate. There is also a sound puzzle, but written clues are available,
which makes it playable for those who are hearing-impaired.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”—William
For such a lengthy game it was notable that there were
few glitches. I did run into an aggravating glitch at one point, where you
suddenly find yourself out of the scene you were in and instead in a
previously played sequence. The developer almost concurrently with the
release of the game released a patch to correct that problem. In addition,
the game consistently gave me a problem at one point (through several
playthroughs of the same location), where the cursor disappeared. Whether
this is a problem specific to my computer, I have no idea.
Although you can save at will, there are only eight save
slots. These will indicate the time of your save and a picture of the
location in the game. I would like to see more in a game, especially of
this length. The use of the tarot card to save, load and begin or exit the
game was a nice touch.
Subtitles are the only option one can elect once the
game is being played, although there is an additional graphics option
“What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly
half-brained things peering out at the infinite, with the aspirations of
angels and the instinct of beasts.”—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
To summarize, a third person game that also utilizes
first person perspective through a night vision camcorder. Point and
click. Inventory and logic puzzles with plenty of clues throughout the
game to help in their solution. Occasional, very mild profanity. Save at
will, but only eight save slots.
A lengthy well crafted adventure horror game with a
strong storyline that is sure to delight many adventure game players.