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high rated
This is a quick review. It was going to go, sensibly, in the game review section, but GOG is telling me that it's too long, without even giving me a hint about how much I need to shorten it by, and screw that. And I took the time to write the stupid thing, I'm not just going to delete it. So, here.

I was happy to see this come to GOG, because I’ve liked other games in the series. This one ... well, read the title of my review.

This game has things going for it. The atmosphere is often quite spooky and effective (spooky in a “kids’ game” sort of way, of course; don’t buy this looking for Silent Hill). The plot is interesting enough. The characters aren’t super fleshed out, but they serve the purposes they’re supposed to serve. And some of the puzzles are really very clever, and left me feeling quite pleased with myself when I finally solved them (I’m not super good at adventure games, but this is a kid’s game or at least kid-appropriate, so I toughed it out on the hard mode, and eventually powered my way through; experienced adventure game fans might find it rather easy). An impressive amount of work went into making the family history seem genuine; there are reams of pages of history for you to read, and an extensive family tree--and you can ask one of the characters about every single person on the family tree, and she’ll tell you something about him or her, whether that person has any relevance to the game or not. That was cool, a degree of effort beyond the call of duty. And yet ... well, I didn’t give it five starts, did I? The problems the game suffers from include ...

Poor movement interface

Mediocre voice work.

Annoying minigames--there’s a luck-based one, which is annoying, but there’s also a typing one which I think is worse. Buy an adventure game, can’t beat it because you’re a slow typist?

Buggy. For example, (SPOILER, I GUESS) there’s a puzzle where you move a frog across an crocodile-infested pond using hints from a book (e.g. “crocodiles like to be near trees, but are afraid of boats”) ... and then the puzzle is randomized, with the crocodiles’ locations having nothing to do with the trees, boats, or anything else in the book. I mean, I assume this is a bug, but maybe the game’s just messing with me? (OK, YOU CAN START READING AGAIN) There are smaller things, too-- exclamation points are supposed to appear on your journal or cell-phone icon when an item is added or you can call someone; they do, but they also appear completely at random, which got really annoying after a while. If you go to Jane’s room at 2:00, you can listen to her have a conversation about French with the thin air (whoever did the graphics realized that her tutor wasn’t supposed to be in her room then, but the sound guys didn’t get the message). Nothing game-breaking, for me, but some annoyances.

The ending was a total anticlimax; not satisfying at all, leaves a lot of loose ends.

Some of the most gratuitous padding I’ve ever seen in a video game. For example, there’s one puzzle that involves traveling between a locked door with a keypad on it to another part of the house. The locked door is in a darkened part of the house. Back and forth, back and forth ... oh hey, my light source went out, so I have to play a minigame to get another one. OK, now back again, and forth again and ... OK, the person who’s helping me with this door is now refusing to help any more until I do a task for him--busywork, no effort or brainwork required. Do that, back to the door, back to my helper ... and he makes me do the exact same busywork task again. OK, done that, back to the door ... oh hey, my light’s gone out again. Minigame time, again. Are you out of your minds, Her Interactive? Did this seriously seem like a good idea? There are other examples, such as a door where you have to input five different strings of symbols; once you’ve figured out the first string, you know how to open the door, and the remaining four are busy work.

Totally aimless--at almost no point in the game did I know what I was doing. I mean, I knew I was (minor spoiler) trying to get a frog across a pond to get a helmet icon to use to open a pillar, for example, but I had no idea why I’d want to open it, other than, “it’s an adventure game, of course I do.” I mentioned that the plot was interesting enough, but it tends to get similarly lost-- “Well, doing this doesn’t seem like it will advance my investigations in any way, but I can do it, so I guess I’d better.” In fairness, if I’d done events in the right order, but the game lets you solve some of its puzzles in basically any order, and doesn’t give you any guidance, so it was hardly my fault.

All in all, a mixed bag. How much irritation are you willing to put up with in return for solid atmosphere and some neat puzzles?

(I was trying to give it three stars, for the record; if it had cost more than six dollars, it would have been two, but I figure I basically got my money's worth).
Post edited April 20, 2013 by BadDecissions