How long ago did you start having the dreams? They were infrequent at first. Distant cries and pleas for help. Echoes resonating in the darkness. As you grew older, the dreams became more and more frequent. You could hear the voices from beyond the grave. These troubled spirits were asking for your help.
You knew you had to answer the call. The dead beckoned you to help and sought release from their eternal torture. You knew the journey would not be easy. You would be faced with incredible danger. You would uncover terrible truths and see horrible images that would haunt you for the rest of your life. But you have a unique gift and you know you have to use it. Your nightmares, your psychic visions, and your ability to see ghosts makes you one of the few people that can help bring peace to the spirits of the dead. You are Delaware St. John, adventurer, explorer, and detective of the paranormal. But to the lost spirits wondering the halls of Midnight Manor, you could be salvation.
The Curse of Midnight Manor is the first chapter of a very promising series of adventure games from Big Time Games. Delaware St. John, the hero of the series, works with his partner Kelly Bradford to investigate supernatural events. The detectives use all means necessary to bring rest to trouble spirits. Yet recurring visions cause Delaware to leave his partner behind and drive out to Midnight Manor alone. The abandoned hotel resonates with negative energy. Ghosts roam the corridors and threaten anyone who dares to enter. Delaware will have to rely on his wit and his infallible instincts uncover what happened at Midnight Manor.
Thankfully, Delaware will not be completely alone. Even though she is not actively on the field, Kelly will help the detective through a highly advanced device known as VIC (Voice Imagery Communicator). Using VIC, Delaware can take pictures and record sounds. He can then send these over to Kelly for analysis. Her findings will be invaluable in helping Delaware solve the mystery and help the spirits haunting the manor.
The Curse of Midnight manor is played from a first-person perspective. The game features a very simple interface. The mouse icon turns into an arrow if Delaware can move in an indicated direction. The hand icon denotes objects Delaware can pick up, and the eye icon identifies objects Delaware can inspect closer. Adventure gamers will feel right at home with the game’s familiar, simple, and intuitive interface.
Your investigation at Midnight Manor is divided into two stories. The first story begins as Delaware arrives at the old building. He quickly finds out that a group of teenagers recently came to the abandoned manor to spend the night. But something terrible happened and the teenagers inexplicably disappeared. It will be up to the detective to figure out what really happened and bring piece to the lingering spirits. As he continues to explore the manor, Delaware will realize that the disappearance of the teenagers is hardly the worst thing that happened here. The second story takes the investigation deeper as Delaware unravels the dreadful history of the building.
The first volume of Delaware St. John offers a number of inventory-based challenges and logic puzzles that would be expected from any adventure game. The game also makes great use of Delaware’s unique abilities nicely integrates them into the puzzles as well as the storyline. Going through the hotel, Delaware will frequently have visions of ghosts. These visions will often show Delaware events that already took place at the hotel. But sometimes the specters will interact with Delaware directly. They will help Delaware discover important clues and guide him to safety when the detective is in danger. On a few occasions, Delaware will also have a vision about the location of an item he has to find. Coupled with the ability to analyze images and sound recordings through Kelly, the ghost sightings make for rather distinct game play mechanics in The Curse of Midnight Manor. When conventional adventuring tools are just not enough, the unique gifts and technology at Delaware’s disposal come to the rescue and add a welcome feeling of freshness and depth to the game.
It is worth noting that The Curse of Midnight Manor does have a couple of light action sequences. There are a few moments in the game where Delaware has to outrun a powerful evil creature called the Hunter. There is another sequence where Delaware will have to quickly use a charm to ward off evil spirits charging at him. These sequences are not very difficult and even pure adventure gamers who will never approach an action game should be able to get past them easily. The game also lets you try any action sequence again immediately if you happen to fail it the first time around. You do not need to go back to a saved game. While the inclusion of any kind of action is typically a reason to complain about an adventure game, in The Curse of Midnight Manor, these sequences actually help make the game scarier by adding a sense of urgency.
The Curse of Midnight Manor certainly succeeds delivering a scary environment. Between the ghost sightings, haunting noises, and the delightfully creepy music, players will definitely feel the suspenseful mood. This is not the Resident Evil kind of scare where you never know what is about to jump at you from around the corner. There is a different feeling of suspense in the game that comes from knowing that you are in a haunted place where unspeakable things happened. Delaware St. John may not have you clinging to the edge of your seat or constantly looking behind you just to make sure angry spirits are not about to attack. However, you should still feel the scary mood especially if you play the game alone.
However, the game is not a constant barrage of scary moments. The Curse of Midnight Manor has plenty of good humor to lighten the mood. The continued interaction between Kelly and Delaware serves to make the game more colorful. Hearing them argue about Delaware taking a picture of the creature chasing him is especially funny. Voice actors Phil Quinn and Sonnet Carpenter do a great job of delivering Delaware and Kelly’s lines. In fact the entire game features very good voice acting. The echo effects for the ghosts are also nicely handled.
An even greater part of the humor comes from the fact that the game does not take itself too seriously. For instance, the manor does have quite a large number of locked doors, which can be a bit frustrating. But when Delaware himself complains about the sheer number of locked doors to Kelly or mutters an angry remark upon being unable to open a door, the frustration is greatly alleviated. Delaware also cracks jokes about the names given to the legendary creatures he hears about during the course of his investigation. Good natured humor from Delaware and Kelly makes their characters feel more three dimensional. You will feel that despite their unusual lives, you can relate to the two detectives.
The Curse of Midnight Manor is a great experience from start to finish. The game can easily be recommended to anyone who enjoys adventure games. If you especially enjoy games with a scary theme, you will be in for a real treat. The first chapter in the series is a clear success. It’s a good thing that the second volume is already available. When you are done with The Curse of Midnight Manor, all you’ll want to do is play the next chapter.
The final grade is a well-deserved 91/100.