Scratches: Director's Cut

 
 

 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Nucleosys

Publisher:    Got Game Entertainment

Released:  May 2007

PC Requirements:   Windows XP, 800 MHz CPU Processor, 16 MB OpenGL-compatible video card, 24x CD-ROM drive, 128 MB RAM

Walkthrough

Additional Screenshots

 

 

 

 

 

by Becky

 

In the tradition of epic movies, Got Game recently issued a Director's Cut, or improved edition of Scratches. The new Scratches: Director's Cut (the DC) consists of the original Scratches game with visual and auditory enhancements, plus the addition of a Hint System and a Diary. There is also a brief end sequence called "The Last Visit," in which a reporter explores the Blackwood Mansion, scene of the original game, to find out what actually happened during author Michael Arthate's ill-fated tenure there.

If you have not yet purchased and played Scratches, you should consult Inferno's review of the original game. If you do decide to try the game, I recommend that you buy Scratches: Director's Cut, rather than the older version because the DC's enhancements do make the experience more rewarding.

From this point on, this review is addressed to gamers who, like me, purchased and played the original Scratches months ago.  These gamers have experienced the terrors and amusements of the original, and this review aims to help them decide whether they should also buy the Director's Cut version.

Visual Enhancements

The gameplay in the DC is almost exactly the same as in the original, so the DC's added value lies elsewhere.  For example, the graphics in the DC are significantly improved. The resolution is sharper, making details more vivid. Everything seems more real. For instance, you can now clearly see the many surfaces of the crystals in the chandeliers, the distinct patterns of lace in the curtains, the nubby texture of the altar cloths, and the way light lingers in the wooden grooves of the parquet floor.

The sky in the original Scratches was always grey.  In the DC, the exteriors reflect the time of day. Dawn and dusk are particularly memorable, with brightly colored skies. When the clock in the entryway to the Blackwood Mansion shows that time has advanced, you can wander around the grounds, admiring the variations in the light. There are many places where you can gaze at the intricate shapes of leaves and branches as they are framed against the constantly changing sky.

Auditory Enhancements

The sounds in this version of the game are more distinct. Footsteps echo more ominously. The eerie metallic sounds in the greenhouse jangle more nerverackingly. The human voices chanting in the chapel have an increased intensity. I could distinguish a whispered word from a disembodied voice that, in the original game, was unintelligible.

The Hint System

There is a Hints feature in the Main Menu, which I turned on at the beginning of the game. However, aside from a comment at the beginning that explained the game's interface, the hints were so subtle as to be almost undetectable. 

In both the original Scratches and the DC, you can explore large portions of the house and grounds from the beginning without having to solve many puzzles. The gameplay itself becomes quite linear, however.  Progress is achieved by accomplishing certain tasks at certain times. Time on the entryway clock advances when you hit important "triggers" -- by solving puzzles (most of which are inventory based) or by having a telephone conversation, or by reading a key piece of information. Despite having played the game before, I found that at times I wandered about not knowing what to do next or what trigger I had failed to activate. The Hint System did not help me get on track or identify the missed triggers.

The Interface

Movement is greatly improved in the DC because the game now uses central cursor panning. The movement from node to node -- and particularly the 360 degree panning -- is much less awkward than in the older version.

Inadequate save game slots were a downside in the original Scratches; the deficiency persists in the DC.

Notes on Gameplay

Except for the new content in "The Last Visit," the gameplay in the DC is the same as in the original game. Although I did remember some puzzle solutions from last year's playthrough, there were plenty of challenges I had forgotten -- especially inventory items that I didn't remember how to use. I found the game to be plenty challenging after several months away from it.

Scratches features many hotspots (some hard to find) that permit the player to take a closer look at things.  In an improvement, at least two of these important hotspots were much easier to find in the DC version.

However, as in the original, some hotspots are too close together. A couple of times I used an inventory item on a hotspot, found it didn't work, and wandered around wondering what else to do. I finally consulted a walkthrough...only to find that my original idea was correct, and that I must have somehow clicked on a neighboring hotspot, which gave a non-response to the item. Further, a few shadows may have been "over-enhanced," making it tougher to distinguish items or features in them.  This posed a particular obstacle with the puzzle box in the DC version.

Diary

The Diary is an excellent addition to the original game. You gain insight into what Michael Arthate is thinking.  The diary explains some of his motivations, and occasionally notifies the gamer that something is particularly important. Other than the Diary and hints, the writing in the DC is unchanged -- conversations on the phone are the same (as far as I could tell), as are Michael's comments when he examines things.

Atmosphere

Scratches, before the DC enhancements, was already a tremendously atmospheric game. This is due not just to the environments and the music, but to the way the story unfolds. The visual and auditory upgrades enhance the atmosphere, making the old Blackwood mansion a richer, more colorful place to experience.

However, playing a game like Scratches a second time necessarily diminishes the dramatic tension somewhat because the gamer already knows where the scary bits occur. I found the replay in the DC version more relaxing, as I wasn't terrified every time I opened a new door. But I did miss that almost constant heart-skips-a-beat feeling. On the other hand, I looked at the approaching sequences where I knew I was going to be terrified with an extra dollop of dread, knowing that the inevitable was approaching. I even tried to avoid one frightening dream sequence, but the game drives you there relentlessly, each mouse click like a step towards doom.

Stability

The game installed beautifully. I had purchased the version that later required a patch and an update. The patch was a bit tricky, as I had to unzip it into the correct file directory, and the necessity of doing this was not immediately obvious. (For those who do need to apply the patch, install it to C:\Program Files\Scratches Director's Cut, which is the default setting when you first install the game.) Since then, the publisher (Got Game) has released the full version that ships on two disks and includes the patch and update. If you do find that you need the patch, information about it is available here.

While playing the DC, I experienced several jarring crashes to the desktop. Halfway through, I updated the video drivers on my computer. After the update, I experienced only one crash.

The Last Visit

Now we approach the portion of the game that is all new -- "The Last Visit." This new content contains two multi-step puzzles and shows you the Blackwood Mansion several years after the events of the original game. It also answers some of the questions raised by the original game's ending.

I didn't find any plot surprises in "The Last Visit." What I did find was a surprising insight into my own soul. I cared much more about what had happened to the house in the intervening years, than for what had happened to the characters. When I played Scratches I felt more "at home" in the Blackwood Mansion than in any other virtual domicile I've inhabited. It was disturbing to view the changes to it in "The Last Visit." The new content in this part of the game is relatively short, involving about an hour's worth of exploration and puzzling.

To Buy or Not to Buy?

As I noted at the outset, if you've never played this game, I strongly recommend purchasing the DC. Scratches is a classic horror adventure that shouldn't be missed, and the DC is the classic game, only better. If you've already played the original game and enjoy replays, I would recommend buying the DC -- particularly if you have questions left over from the plot of the original game, because you will find some answers in "The Last Visit." However, if you don't have an appetite for replays, the brief new content in "The Last Visit" may not be sufficient to justify its purchase.

My Computer Specs:

Windows XP Professional

Pentium 2.80 GHz

2046 MB RAM

Direct X 9.0c

512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

SB X-Fi Audio

July 2007

design copyright 2007 GameBoomers Group

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