Reviewed: March 11, 2006
Released: March 2, 2006
Last year I got my first taste of what an adventure game was really like when I played Return to Mysterious Island. Since then Iíve played Obscure and Indigo Prophecy. Iíve really gotten into the adventure genre and Scratches is another great reason to be an adventure fan.
Scratches is a full fledge adventure game with little action that was developed by Nucleosys and tells the story of Michael Arthate (you). As a novelist that specializes in horror and mystery youíve just completed your debut novel. The money and fame are starting so you decide that itíd be a good idea to buy an old Victorian style house which is located in the Backwoods village in England. It is here that your character hopes to find the inspiration for the ending of his latest novel. The very one you hope will launch your career to new heights.
The game features very linear gameplay with a point and click interface. Its inventory based and there are puzzles found throughout the game that complement the games eerie story. So if this style of game appeals to you (it does me) then youíre in for a treat.
After arriving at the mansion youíve purchased you notice that itís in a pretty deplorable state. Fortunately, it has the odd charm you were searching for. Being inquisitive (like you are), you begin checking the place out when you come across some journals and other various materials. After reading them and checking out some other odd things it dawns on you that some very bizarre things had taken place before you arrived.
Thatís the opening that sets you up for the entire game. If one things for sure itís that adventure games are interactive stories. And in order to tell a good story you need to have a strong presentation to back it up. Scratches succeeds in both these categories, but the same old PC adventure gameplay mechanics are still in place (clicking, finding and item, clicking again and again and again). Theoretically you could put the CD in the drive and installed and play the entire game without ever having to use a keyboard. In fact you donít even need one to name a game save.
I canít say it enough; itís a good thing the storyís good because it supports the gameplay entirely. Itís not unlike most other games in this genre, simply find items then combine them and figure out where they go. Itís a sequence of trial and error and doing so will tell you how everything related to the story as well as keeping you involved. If they didnít do this you would sit there and watch it like a movie.
This rather dull, simple, but somehow effective formula isnít always used in every Adventure game. Some are in full 3D with action like Obscure, but for the most part Scratches is a linear game. The only reason itís classified as a non-linear game is that you can click on items in any order you want and figure out the end result.
The problem with most non-linear (mainly linear) adventure games is that they give you items that donít make sense. They expect you to figure out a certain puzzle with them, but the majority of the time they are confusing or you havenít been given enough assistance to know where to put it/use it. The developers realized this problem and made sure it wasnít the case in Scratches and they succeeded. Throughout the entire game you will rarely have any doubt where something goes or what to do.
Unfortunately the gameís not perfect and its greatest fault is its locale. You never once leave your mansion property. This creates for a lot of repetition and youíll soon master the layout of the house since there are only a few other (small) buildings outside of it to visit. I realize this sounds bad and trust me, it gets old, but the story makes it all worthwhile.
The graphics are surprisingly well done for a budget title. Itís just too bad they used the same general area for the entire game and youíre limited to viewing the same places over and over.
One of the cool features are the disguised load times which are done much like the famed Resident Evil series with the implementation of slow, creaking doors. Itís a creative way of doing it and Iíll gladly take it over a standard ďload screen.Ē In fact, it helps maintain the gameís pacing at a nice consistent speed.
The pacing might be there, but the animation is not. Thereís no animation in the game besides the CG opening and the door opening. This shouldnít detour anyone because fans of PC adventure games are used to little or no animation. In fact, we get most of our satisfaction out of the heavily detailed environments which Scratches has.
The rooms have been well thought out and item placement done perfectly. Each one you enter maintains the same general feel to it as the rest of the house. Overall it has a very eerie look and feel and is presented in 2D.
That eerie look of the graphics is complemented perfectly by the sound. Not only is the music haunting, but it also is perfectly timed for casual and dramatic moments. However the sound effects lack the same quality as the background music because they are simplistic in nature. Youíll hear footsteps, the ringing of a phone, and the blowing of the wind outside. Nothing really stands out, but I suppose there arenít a lot of opportunities for them.
There is some narrative voice acting thatís done by Jonathan Boakes (creator of Dark Fall, and Dark Fall II) and John Bell (Sherlock Holmes in The Mystery of the Mummy). Itís not the best voice acting Iíve heard, but it definitely is well done and Iíd give it their performances an A-.
There really isnít a lot to add about the games value. Itís your basic PC adventure game that follows the point and click formula of yesterday. What gives Scratches the most value is the shockingly well written story and its nice pacing. However I found the game to be extremely short in length and once youíre done, youíre completely done.
You wonít ever play or look at this game again unless you loan it to a friend simply because there are no alternate endings, branching story lines, or bonuses of any kind. This is a budget ($20) adventure game that features a memorable story and lacks the frustrating gameplay of a lot of other similar games.
This is one creepy, horror adventure game that not only features solid gameplay (the point and click style) but also an amazingly good storyline. It boasts good graphics, sound, and interesting puzzles that never become tedious or annoying. If you want a quick and cheap gothic/horror mystery in a frightening mansion then I definitely recommend picking up this decent, well rounded game.