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Hauntings of Mystery Manor -
A Gothic Adventure Game
Release date: 06/2005
Developer/publisher: Cindy Pondillo
Game language: English
No age rating
A review by André 05th September 2005
English term for a sable architectural style between the 12th and 15th century. Also a novel form, originating in the 2nd half of the 18th century and can be translated into German best matching with the term "Schauerroman". Both, horror literature and detective novel have their roots here. We also remember a fashion fad called "Gothic" in the 80s of last century: The followers of this fad, both male and female, wore primarily black or white garbs with buckle shoes, all kinds of tassel and deeply symbolic glittery stuff such as crosses, usually got their hair artistically teased up and colored their faces in panda-style (black-and-white). When the time was right, they court for attention in discos with impressing dance while the music was dark and gloomy. In my hands I hold a Gothic Adventure and I assume, it won't become a lively comedy.
I appreciate independent games and this one is another example. Since indie developers work on their own without any big company in their back, they also don't have the very best preconditions like the latest, costliest technology, to create their games. But in return they can unfold freely, because they are not bound to any presettings, what sometimes leads to very interesting results. Because of the non-optimal possibilities the graphics often fail mediocre. But that doesn't mean a real drawback, as we just lately could experience through a number of other Indies such as Dark Fall, Delaware or Shady Brook.
Hauntings leads us graphically into a world of the past and connects the gothical style of the game environment, the building, furniture, clothes as well as lifestyle of long forgotten times with the darkness, that gothic fans prefer. More exactly said Hauntings takes place in the premises of an old castle or manor house. The entrance hall gives way to the rooms of the individual inhabitants and each of them looks quite personal and is styled individually. Actually the developer has designed the rooms with much intuitive feeling. Objects nearly look arranged collage-like, what gives them a surreal appearance. Not only bizarre items, like old household appliances, pistols or toys such as Punch and Judy puppets and building-bricks, but also the characters or better ghosts are incorporated into the scenes, which stay hardly visible, because transparent and motionless, at their places. Actually there are nearly no animated scenes. Only if we touch objects, they might move from time to time, as for example a ball, rolling aside. There are no animated sequences like an intro yet and this is why Hauntings at the beginning looks a little bit undistinctive in connection with the likewise missing dubbing, and needs getting used to.
Actually the background story can be told fast: Our nameless hero's family possesses a messuage since the 18th century, which he left 15 years ago. He never intended to return, but all the murders, that apparently inflationary took place in this house, the undead, who stayed restlessly in the mansion since, keep haunting him to his dreams. Therefore he decides to visit the spooky castle again in order to release the ghosts.
People with helper's syndrome get their money worth here, because we meet many ghosts in the castle and each of them has his personal problems and requests, since ghosts are only human either. Your tasks are primarily to support the troubled undead with all sorts of stuff. In other words: you're asked to find objects and use them and that's why your inventory is filled to bursting in no time. The puzzles are fun, because thanks to the mostly logical quests we quickly know, where we must apply all the collected things. Small side tasks like a game of Poker, a letter puzzle etc. offer a welcome interlude. Some doors are only opened by solving a puzzle to get access to new locations.
I had played Shady Brook before, which is likewise an independent adventure game. After this Hauntings needs getting used to, not to say it acts a little bit homespun. However one should not make the mistake and compare the two games, as Shady Brook is already on a very advanced level, while the developer of Hauntings is still not far away from the starting blocks. And this is why the installation procedure is already unusual, because we must copy all files by hand into our hard disk directory. The advantage however is that we don't need the CD any longer. The cursor and the inventory bar at the top of the screen are by the way designed like those old Sierra games and just as simple one can move by intuitive point&click control or save/load.
As in most semiprofessional adventure games there is of course no German localization because of the additional expenditure. So the game language is once again English. Up to a few spoken sentences the whole game has subtitles and you have enough time to read them.
The music is actually very professional. The instrumental tracks are melancholy, which is adequate for a Gothic game. Since the tracks are very tranquil, they support the relaxed puzzling atmosphere. Sometimes we also hear a saucy Waltz. Sound effects and background noises were unobtrusively and suitably used.
At the beginning 'Hauntings of Mystery Manor' looks a bit poor, probably due to the absence of speech and animations, but after a certain start-up phase the game really makes fun. One reason is that there's a busy turnover in our inventory after a short time. The puzzles are logical and we get frequently be rewarded for using inventory items. Additional variety is caused by some unusual approaches and little mini games like Poker.
On the plus side the beautiful, sometimes collage-like graphics and the fitting tranquil, dark music. Adventure fans, who consider that Hauntings is a solid semiprofessional game from technical point of view, thus e.g. can be compared with the freeware adventure Voodoo, are well entertained for two or three evenings for little money.
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Pentium 500 MHz
- Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP
- 32 MB RAM
- DirectX-compatible graphic card
- DirectX-compatible sound card
- DirectX 5.0+
- Win XP
- AMD Athlon XP 1800
- 512 MB RAM
- Graphic card Radeon 9200 series
Hard drive 60 GB