Relics: Dark Hours

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Bryan Wiegele & Subdued Softwares LLC

Released:  November 2011

PC Requirements:  

  • OS: Windows XP/Vista
  • CPU: 600 Mhz
  • RAM: 256 MB
  • DirectX: 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 1266 MB




by flotsam


Ever seen Warehouse 13? Two secret service agents scour the earth to recover and neutralise  “artifacts”, items with special powers that generally lead to no good. In Relics: Dark Hours, Mathew Hunter learns that items collected by his grandfather and sold by his father were in fact cursed, and possessing them generally leads to no good. He is determined to rid the earth of every last one of these “relics”.

A series of disappearances and a fatal accident lead Mathew to Ridgecrest High, convinced a relic is involved. Pretending to be the new janitorial assistant gains him/you access, where you spend the next three or four hours wandering the three floors of the school in search of the relic and a solution to the disappearances.

The Subdued website says that Relics “brings point and click adventure games to a new level, utilizing live-action footage to immerse you into a real world environment”. True, this approach is not the dominant force in adventure games, but full motion video, which is what this is, is hardly new. It’s been around since the early 90s as far as adventure games are concerned, and is responsible for some of the classic characters of the genre (e.g., Gabriel Knight and Tex Murphy). We have seen it used more recently in games such as Yoormujak's Ring and the sci-fi romp DARKSTAR, and nothing in Relics raises it to a new level.

The same website describes the game as a “horror adventure”, and if a school decked out for a Halloween dance and the occasional ghostly vision constitute horror, then I guess it’s an appropriate description. Someone does get hit with an axe, and the dead girl does appear in a body bag during one vision, but it fell way short of horrifying me. To each his own I guess.

Subdued is in fact a rather apt description for the game itself. It’s fairly short, not terribly challenging and never reaches any great heights. It’s not a bad game, just not a very interesting one.

The setting is somewhat drab, but then it is a school, and it’s at night which explains the limited number of characters on the premises. Three corporeal ones, plus two incorporeal ones, are reasonably well acted, although the dead girl doesn’t have to say anything and you can’t interact with her in any way.

Interactions with the others are limited, in the sense that there might be a cutscene in which you have a conversation or are handed an object, but you don’t drive that interaction like you do in some such games. There are no extensive dialogue trees, or choices to make about which way to take the events. On a couple of occasions you click on a character to start an interaction. But more often a specific interaction will be triggered by something you have just done in the game. Successfully accessing a computer, for instance, may result in the security guard running into you when you leave the room, and a particular scene will follow. You essentially watch and listen, and when it’s over you continue in the game.

Most of what you get to do is navigate around the three floors looking for hotspots and items to trigger these events and move the story forward. There are a small number of inventory items to locate (maybe a dozen or so), which are used to complete certain situational puzzles. There are also a few out-and-out puzzles, predominantly consisting of key codes or passwords, the clues for which are generally (though not always) close at hand.

Much of the challenge for me was involved in navigating around the school. A map helps you know where you are, and assists when you want to get back to the locker room or the library. But moving about is a little messy. You don’t have panning, but can turn or move in the direction indicated by the cursors. It isn’t always easy to get to where you want to go. I did miss a door or two and, even when I knew where they were, it was sometimes difficult to find them again. The map turned out to be my bestest friend.

The “think” button was helpful, providing a musing from Mathew as to what he might do next, usually based on whatever he had just done or learned. He also jotted down things in a notebook, and stored various notes and letters in the book as well. This, plus the map and think buttons, are accessible from a toolbar at the bottom of the screen, which also holds the inventory. An additional button accesses the menu screen from which you can save or load games, and the "escape" button on the keyboard also opened the menu. From the main menu you can tweak a few settings, and choose to have subtitles or not.

Ambient sound is limited but realistic and a soundtrack tries to add to the spooky factor. The game played full screen -- which is good for these sorts of games -- and resolution was reasonably sharp, if a little shimmery.

I watched the credits when it was all over and noted that Bryan Wiegele was involved. I have come across his work before in the Delaware St. John games, and much earlier in Inherent Evil. To my knowledge this is his first foray into live action adventures.


I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb


Relics: Dark Hours is available from Big Fish Games as a download.


December 2011

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