Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:  Midian Design

Released:  July 2012

PC Requirements:  

Windows XP/Vista/7,1.0 GHZ processor, 1 GB RAM, 1.5 GB HD free space, 128 MG Direct X9.0 video card

 

 

 

by Becky

 

Oz Orwell is a professional ghost hunter who films haunted mansions across the globe and posts the (computer enhanced) results on his "Ghosts and Mansions" website. Okay, he's a fraud but, hey, it's a living! When he visits the Angst Mansion in Italy, video camera in hand, he stumbles across the ghost-hunting opportunity of a lifetime -- starting with a front door that disappears as soon as he enters the mansion, trapping him inside.

The Hunter becomes the Hunted

This is an old style, point-and-click, third person horror adventure with an H.P. Lovecraft sheen (or, more accurately, an H.P. Lovecraft murk). It thumbs its nose at the pixelated graphics found in many retro adventure games, and instead features naturalistic, sometimes grainy visuals with a surreal, collaged effect. Some of the graphics are in black and white, from the hand-held camera footage to the misty, shocking scenes encountered past the portal of the Door of Dreams.

Wearing jeans, a bright red shirt, and a glowering expression, Oz explores the Angst Mansion the old-fashioned way -- something he's forced to do when most his ghost-hunting gadgets are mysteriously smashed to pieces. He talks to himself to burnish his courage, revealing a morbid sense of humor. He converses with a trio of ghosts. These conversations aid his quest to find out what's happening in the mansion and help/ hinder him in discovering a way out.

This game clearly is an Indie production -- it contains no voiceovers except for the opening sequence, where the music is so loud that it's difficult to distinguish anything that's being said. Non-player character movement is rudimentary, though Oz's walking and posturing animations are lifelike enough to not be distracting.

Oz Orwell's claustrophobic ambiance is generated mostly by the background graphics, the moody music, and the story as it unfolds. I was drawn into the Angst Mansion's eerie atmosphere and felt a mounting curiosity as to the dread secrets that Oz was bound to unearth.

Can this Creepy Nightmare be Solved?

Oz Orwell features an extensive inventory. Left-clicking on a hotspot will cause Oz to pick things up if they can be removed; right-clicking will elicit a description of the object (right-clicking on the object once in inventory sometimes reveals additional information). Oz manipulates or "reads" certain items within the inventory if you click the item on Oz himself. Occasionally his figure blocks access to hotspots and you need to shift him to the side.

There are a few riddles where you type the answers using the keyboard, plus an interrogation scene where you guess the correct responses. Other puzzles require you to place or access objects in the correct order -- the most creative being the whimsical tuning fork challenge.

The hardest part of this game is the pixel hunting. Be prepared to "paint" the screen for objects that are nearly invisible and tiny hotspots that are snuggling atop the laps of other hotspots.

Oz Orwell doesn't always cue you as to what to do next. At times, after significant plot progressions, I wandered through the house, clicking on everything to try to see if any hotspots had changed,

Technical Stuff

I purchased this game via the Midian Design website (using BMT Micro), resulting in a download link received via email (no activation code required). The final product is a .rar file. Gamers will need file archiving software to unpack the file, and none was provided with the game. If you work with computer files frequently, you may already have WinRAR -- or you can download a free program such as 7-Zip.

When I clicked on the "oz" file on my desktop and allowed Windows to browse the internet for the appropriate "unzipping" software, the first choice on the list was a free version of WinZip that, according to Malwarebytes, contains malicious adware. It's strange that the developers didn't provide an installation program for this game -- or at least a link to where archiving software can be safely downloaded.

The Nitty-Gritty

Oz Orwell isn't fancy and it isn't expensive ($3.93 in US dollars). It's not especially polished. But it haunted and challenged me with its otherworldly, quirky atmosphere. It's an engaging way to draw the gamer into a spectral space and tell a story with an unexpected twist. I feel I got my money's worth.

Quick List for Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos

A strange, spooky story with a twist. Naturalistic graphics with surreal environments, some of which border on the horrific and the bizarre.

Third person, point-and-click. Dialogs with ghosts and brief interactions with odd creatures. Indie production values -- no voiceovers after the opening sequence, stiff animations. Dialogs can be clicked through. Occasional spicy language and references to the occult. The game is not appropriate for children.

Inventory challenges, pattern and sequencing puzzles, riddles, some difficult pixel hunting and wandering about looking for invisibly triggered changes. No sliders, no mazes, no color or sound based puzzles. No timed challenges. About five hours of gameplay. You can't die.

An optional tutorial. No problems with installation; no glitches. Unlimited save slots. You will need to select and download 7-zip or a similar program before you can unpack the game file.

Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos is aimed at gamers who enjoy old-fashioned horror adventures in the company of a hero with an attitude.

Final Grade: B-

What I played it on: 

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor

6GB DDR3 SDRAM

1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi 

Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos can be purchased via download from the Midian Design website.

 

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