Wednesday, 15 September 2010

MR James is the name of the game

I've been playing - and swearing at - an adventure game based heavily on the ghost stories of MR James. Entitled The Lost Crown, it's produced by Darkling Room, and you can find out more about it here. It's won awards and everything| Also, it's quite cheap on Amazon.

An adventure game, if you don't know, is just a digital version of one of those books full of numbered paragraphs. '125. You are in a sinister launderette in Cleethorpes. A man whistling Ave Maria invites you stick your head in a mangle. Do you accept? Go to para 366. Do you show him the Sacred Begonia of Percy Thrower? Go to para 212.'

So far, I'm impressed. The game loads smoothly - always an important point - and the whole thing seems eminently bug-free. It looks good, a bit like a black-and-white film or old-style TV show, with touches of colour that have a hand-tinted feel. The sounds are good too, especially the music and effects. I'm less enamoured of the voice work, but this is perhaps inevitable given the problem-solving format. Inevitably you get frustrated when 'you' seem unable to do the simplest thing, like walk up a path to find out where it goes. But that's the nature of these games, and patience is eventually rewarded.

The premise of the game is simple enough. Your character, Nigel Danvers, works for a big and sinister corporation that's probing secrets that should be left well alone. He hacks into the firm's computer and obtains evidence of paranormal experiments. Fearing for his life (probably) he leaves London for Azerbaijan the East Anglian coast. He arrives at the small fishing village of Saxton, and finds himself embroiled in local legends, hauntings and other stuff.

This choice of refuge may be no coincidence, as his old employer promises to forgive Nigel's indiscretion if he does a bit of ghost-hunting. And central to all the local spooky mythology is the legend of a lost Saxon crown, the last of three buried along the coast... Look, you've read the story and probably seen Peter Vaughan in the DVD. As well as taking the basic premise from MRJ, the story so far (I'm only getting started and have been playing for several days) includes the Ager family and a couple called Karswell. I daresay more Jamesian references will crop up.

There are some nice touches that set this game apart from the usual dumbass fantasy. Nigel is given a digital camera, a video camera and an EMF meter to check out spooky locations. Each proves very useful, as does the retro tape recorder for obtaining EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) which apparently won't appear on MP3 devices. There's also a sub-plot involving the village cats, and a slight hint of the Wicker Man in that a May Day festival is approaching.

If I ever finish the thing (it promises 36 hours of game play) I'll let you know what happens and whether it was worth the trip. So far, so good. Here are some tasters.

Click to See Next Image


Todd T said...

Sounds very interesting. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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