*contains spoilers, especially for one of the puzzles and the ending*
This is the second entry from the 2009 Design Competition that I played.
And I'm impressed!
Olivier does some spectacular things with sound here (the site freesounds.com seems to be great, I'll definetly take a look at it).
The atmosphere is chilling, even at times when not much seems to be happening. The tension keeps on building from the moment you approach the mansion for the first time (in which the player goes looking for a mad killer), right up to the game's abrupt conclusion.
Here's a little Zen riddle, though: If no time passes as long as the player remains inactive, how can there be the continuous sound of howling wind?
Makes one think...
Back to the game: For the most part, it plays like one of the old 80s/90s graphic adventures (which I love); The player is picking up objects and solving puzzles with them (none of which are very hard to figure out). There's only one combat in the game (at least I only fought one).
The option to examine the items in your inventory is also great, and something that's sorely missing from FRUA (along with the Automap and the Journal, these are the functions that I like very much about DC and that would have made FRUA perfect).
One of the puzzles suffers a bit from what I like to call "adventure game syndrome": Like in the LucasArts classic Zak McKracken
, where you had to fly from Lima to San Francisco to pick up a loaf of old bread (which presumably doesn't exist in Peru), you have to pick up a book from under some floorboards in "The Lesson", to put it into a bookshelf, yet that library has about a dozen other bookshelves from which you could have easily taken a book of the right size, but the game doesn't allow for it.
But this is just a tiny flaw in an otherwise well thought-out game.
Another thing I liked was that the party was given the option to just leave the mansion and abandon the quest (effectively ending the game).
This is also something that I have put into the remake of "The Sect": The option for the player to deliberately screw up the game, provided that he is given ample warning about it.
In the old version, the player simply couldn't do some things, the game would make the decision for you, for example: "You cannot leave now, because you haven't found object X yet".
But I now prefer to give the player as much freedom as possible, and that includes the freedom to maneuver into a dead end (again, provided that the true objective was made clear, and that the game warns the player beforehand).
I was even thinking about starting a thread about this very thing some days ago, because I wondered what other designers might think about it.
On a side note, this was also a characteristic that I disliked about later LucasArts games: They wouldn't allow the player to fail, they even prevented the player from ever dying (the other extreme were the Sierra adventures, where you could die from simply crossing the street or entering the wrong screen).
Finally: The ending. I've already written about it in the other thread; there is something about that last scene that I found very
Though in essence, it is a form of lampshading
the fact that the deadline for the contest was reached, the feeling of being trapped inside that cellar, combined with the shock effect and the sudden truncation of the story left me with an eerie feeling.
You want to know how the story ends, but screw you... it's the end of the line! .....It's like... death!
Though the game hints at a sequel... So maybe the story does continue, after all.