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Scratches (PC) artwork

Scratches (PC) review

"A dash of King, a pinch of Lovecraft with just a sample of video game magic, and Scratches is done."

I've never been fond of first person adventure games. Some of you might go for the pitchforks and torches, now that I've insulted some of the classic titles like Myst, the Penumbra series or Amnesia, but I just never felt at home with it. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that these games are usually very isolationist in nature, which severely limits one of the things I find most endearing in adventure titles, and that's the supporting cast. Perhaps it's just that all of the titles were very puzzle based (stupidly puzzle based at that), or perhaps it's because Myst plain out sucks. I don't know, I'm not a rocket scientist.

I gave Scratches a chance since it was supposed to be a good horror tale, and as an avid fan of the adventure game genre, I considered it my nerd-given duty to play through it.

In Scratches, you take control of Michael Arthate, an aspiring writer who buys and moves into an old mansion, hoping it will serve as muse for his creative juices in writing a new novel. The mansion had a history of violence, in which its previous owner, a man called James T. Blackwood, killed his wife, and then died himself a few days later from mysterious causes. The man who inherited the house disappeared as well, soon after getting it, so it's clear that there's a bad vibe surrounding the entire estate. However, Michael clearly never read a Stephen King novel, despite being a writer himself, since he merrily moves into the murder house.

At first, Scratches is like every other first person adventure game. You get to move Michael from one room to the other within the large, and somewhat decrepit mansion, as well as through the surrounding grounds. Michael doesn't get to interact with any people, outside of those that he can contact with a phone within the mansion itself, playing the card of isolation even further. The entire experience of exploring the mansion might seem dull at first, because nothing really happens. However, things invariably change after night comes and Michael starts to hear scratching sounds in the pipes and the walls.

And here is where Scratches finally starts to differ from most games of the same type. It pulls you in. It's interesting in the same way a good book would be interesting, because you want to find out the source of those scratches, or what lies behind all the locked doors. Michael will find many books and notes that belonged to the previous owners of the mansion, which will slowly open new findings in the entire Blackwood mystery. There are no horrid clown demons jumping out of closets here asking if stuff floats, no zombies that will need their heads blown off or ancient squid-like things that come from the ocean. Just dread and the unknown.

The puzzles are for the most part logical and make perfect sense, so frustration will hardly play a part in solving the mysteries surrounding the manor. However, if there is one thing, one very annoying thing that Scratches does, and which admittedly all first person adventure games do, it's the fact that it's so easy to miss things.

Since the style allows you a full 360 degree view point of your surroundings, it also gives you the ability to click on pretty much everything. And most of it is just background and nothing more. However, from time to time you will find something that is different, something that you can and must obtain. For instance, in the attic there is a room filled with working materials, an easel, some painting cans and the like. It's mainly just there to be a part of the scene. However, one of the cans -- JUST ONE -- is actually the can you need to get… because of reasons. Most people (me) will spend a good portion of the day finding objects like this hours after they were supposed to find it, because at first glance they didn't seem important and nowhere in the game do you get a hint that it's necessary to find these things. Thankfully, Scratches does not go overboard with these moments.

The other problem I find is that you'll get down to the bottom of this mystery pretty soon. The developers boasted 20 hours+ to finish this game. You can get it done at half that time… if you take it slow.

All in all, if you are a fan of adventure games that branch into horror, but without nasty, toothy creatures that want to gnaw on your fleshy insides, but with a more subtle approach, this is a good title to invest your time in. It's atmospheric, with an interesting story, but it falls flat in terms of length and the before mentioned object searching.


darketernal's avatar
Community review by darketernal (October 30, 2014)

Occasional reviewer of random stuff.

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