We’re now up to the 3rd installment in the Delaware St. John series of games.
Taking a Look Back
[Excerpts taken from my review on volume 2]
Delaware St. John is an unusual young man with a flair for investigation and a soul that calls those from beyond. From the time Delaware was a young boy, messages from beyond the grave have plagued him in his sleep; strange voices he couldn’t control or understand. It wasn’t until he was older that he knew his purpose. He had to find the source of the voices and provide them with the help they needed, whatever that may be. A chance meeting had Delaware joining forces with Kelly Bradford, the owner of a bookstore downtown and a paranormal investigator on the side. What a pairing! Kelly is Delaware’s constant companion through the wonders of a voice imagery communicator, VIC for short. Delaware can speak to Kelly or send her photos and recordings for instant analysis.
Volume 1: The Curse of Midnight Manor
We last saw Delaware at Midnight Manor, an ill-fated resort built in 1892 by Bernard Amand. Plagued by 4 unexplained deaths, the manor was shut down. Unbeknownst to Delaware, more deaths have occurred since the closing of the manor - some quite recent. Undeterred by ghostly close-encounters and a stalking by a paranormal being (The Hunter), Delaware used his keen senses, psychic abilities and detective skills to piece together the horrors that occurred in the manor, ultimately releasing the souls of those poor, unfortunate victims and destroying The Hunter. Along the way, Delaware stumbled on bits and pieces of information relating to his childhood (he was an orphan)
and the powers he possesses.
Volume 2: The Town with No Name
We met back up with Delaware as he contemplated the events at Midnight Manor and why he has these visions. Is this fate? Why was he chosen for this task? Will he finally be at peace?
While helping Kelly clean out the back room of her bookstore, an old atlas fell open at Delaware’s feet and ultimately led him to town that existed even though all the facts say it shouldn’t have. The town was deserted but gave all indication that the desertion was not voluntary. Something horrible happened in this town. Delaware’s investigation led him to the Hunter again and brought even more questions about his childhood. As with the first case, Kelly was around to help Delaware out via VIC. In addition to Kelly, another character made an appearance in volume 2. Simon is a friend of Kelly’s but seemed to be at odds with Delaware and the reason seemed to be Kelly. Just a little bit of male rivalry here. However, he turned out to be of great assistance in the research department.
Volume 1 & 2: Both volumes have 2 stories. The first always begins with the initial mystery haunting site. The second story brings us more detail on Delaware’s identity. It also brings more light to why Delaware has these visions, his connection to the Hunter and what his purpose is here in this world. Big Time Games gives you these details sparingly in each case so that you will look forward to the next installment.
Volume 3: The Seacliff Tragedy
As we begin the 3rd installment, Delaware is once again found pondering his fate. And, honestly, if you had this kind of life, wouldn’t you ponder it? No visions of late so Delaware has had a little break. A routine trip to the local bakery one cold morning blows that peace right out of the water. As he exits the bakery, the snow on the ground fades away and Delaware has a vision that transports him to an amusement park. Amusement parks should be fun but something seems wrong (as usual). The ground begins to shake violently beneath him and the sounds of screaming regale his ears. What’s going on??? In an instant, Delaware is back at the bakery again, sprawled out on the snow covered ground, and wondering where this new vision is going to lead him.
Standard procedure dictates a briefing with Kelly. Simon (or Sir Dork-a-lot as Delaware calls him) has also reappeared in this installment and seems to be getting along slightly better with Delaware…well….sort of. Crafty research leads Delaware to Seacliff Amusement park. The park opened in 1968 and up until 4 years ago was a place for family fun. That was until the entire back half of the park collapsed and killed 100 people. Twenty-four people alone died when the roller coaster flew right in the ocean. The very same day, Theodore Crandall (the owner at the time) hung himself in his house located on the same property as the park. There are rumors of extensive paranormal activity around the park. Well, this is certainly right up Delaware’s alley.
The gameplay begins with Delaware venturing into the park in the dark. Question: Can’t Delaware ever investigate during the day? What, ghosts don’t show up if it’s too light out? Is there some rule about that in the paranormal world? But, I digress. Delaware quickly realizes that it is indeed a bit too dark and goes back to the truck for his flashlight. He discovers something unusual in the bed of his truck -- Kelly. Tired of being left behind, Kelly played the stowaway. This is good news because it is the first installment in the series where you will get to play as Delaware and Kelly alternatively with Simon helping through VIC. Will the Hunter show up this time? Will it go after Kelly too?
This 1st person game comes with 2 CDs, one for the installation and one that must be in the drive to play the game. No problems were experienced during installation or gameplay. There are only a few options that you can choose from the main menu. You can adjust the music volume, voice volume and turn the subtitles on or off.
On the bottom of the game screen is VIC (Voice Imagery Communicator). Your inventory is located here, although you never have more than 4 items at a time so there are only 4 slots. In the center of VIC is a panel that when clicked will take you to the main menu where you can save, continue or exit the game. There are only 10 save slots, but you can overwrite earlier ones as needed. On the right side of VIC is the communication aspect. This is how you keep in contact with Simon. There is a connect, photo and a record button. Now, here is where I am usually disappointed and was again. You can call Simon, but he rarely has anything to tell you. You can take pictures, but they will rarely bring back a result. Recording didn’t even happen this time. Basically, there is no challenge to this part of the game. You take a picture of what you’re told to take. You talk when the game spontaneously bursts into a cutscene. You never get the choice or option to do any of these yourselves. You merely listen to conversation instead of participating in them. Please Big Time Games…..give us more flexibility next time. It’s such a fun option. Let us use it. There is no clickable map. The maps you have are throughout the park….just like in the mall with the “you are here” marker.
There are a lot of places (out in the open and hidden) to explore. Usually, you will have an agenda based upon a conversation between Delaware and Kelly or from either thinking out loud. I personally found the park difficult to navigate. But, as always, this could be due to my lack of direction sense. I found I walked around and around in circles. I would check one of the maps and clearly see where I needed to go, but somehow I just couldn’t get there on the 1st shot. Ok, or the 2nd or 3rd either. But, eventually the moronic haze would clear and I would find my way. Hey, it’s not like you could use a creepy clown for a marker since they were everywhere. Yes…I’m making excuses.
Navigation is your basic up, down, right, left and go back arrows. You have the eye to examine, hand to pick items up, and occasionally a fist to break down a door. When using an inventory item, the item will have a red glow.
The puzzles are mostly inventory based and not overly difficult. More difficult was finding an item in the dark that Delaware saw in his vision. I can’t tell you how aggravated I was looking for a game token that was supposed to be lying next to a soda can. All you see in the vision is the can and the token lying on the ground. There’s a lot of park to cover and the search became the bane of my existence. Of course, it was in a place that I had forgotten was even there. That’s part of the trick. You may search a location and see nothing. But, something else will trigger a clue to appear later on. So, you need to retrace your steps consistently. There are a few logic puzzles like figuring out a code on a box or fixing a fuse box. There are also a couple of mazes. One involved following a code of symbols to decide which doors to enter. That one wasn’t too hard. The other was decidedly more difficult. But, if I could get through it, anyone can. So, it couldn’t have been that hard. Or perhaps I just got lucky. I really didn’t use any specific strategy. I was just winging as usual.
One other aspect of the game is dealing with your enemies. There are shadow people throughout the park. The flashlight will destroy them, but only if you click on them fast enough. If not, Delaware or Kelly will pass out. It won’t kill you, but you’ll end up with a headache. Then, there are the Hunter chase sequences which have become standard in this series. I’m not sure why, but something was different. Perhaps I missed the plain old piano music or the sequences were delayed more. But, I didn’t feel the same urgency of the chase as in previous ones. I felt like I had all the time in the world. In DS1, I thought that thing was going to bite me in the butt any second. This time, not so. But, this does not detract from the game. It just made me miss it a bit.
I must say I liked the opening music that plays during the credits. Yes, you will have to watch the entire credits upon beginning a new game. You can’t spacebar through them. But, I have said before that I do understand the desire to have people actually read the credits. I also get a kick out of the Lighthouse Interactive intro. I think it’s the combo of the music and that electric current running through the wire to power up the lighthouse. Cool. Alright…back to the music. I found the music to have the same melodic “theme song”, if you will, as the previous two games. But, with each installment, the musical score becomes even more rich and full bodied than the last. At one point in the game, you have to watch a carnival game that is a horse race. The standard carnival music plays for the race, but the Delaware theme song follows it up in the same tinny sound. It was a nice touch.
The backgrounds are for the most part like dark, muted watercolor paintings. Your only real source of light and chance to see more vibrant color is when the carried flashlight cuts into the darkness. Occasionally you will see more some vibrancy upon meeting up with an apparition as their presence reflects a past time. But, as usual, these 2D backdrops are beautiful and extremely fascinating. If you’ve ever visited an amusement park (which I’m sure most of you have), you may even feel as though you’ve been there before. There’s a carousel, a fun house, roller coaster etc. There’s also less fun places like the owner’s house, storage sheds or underground tunnels.
The inherent theme of the park is clowns. There’s a whole section just dedicated to them. Hold on a second…I feel another shudder coming on. Really, clowns are supposed to be fun and happy and all that. I don’t know who we’re kidding. They’re downright creepy. Dark AND clowns? Just shoot me now and get it over with.
There are other characters to interact with during the game; some alive, most not. Interaction is primarily based on animated conversations. Graphically, I think Big Time Games did a good job here. All the characters looked great and sounded great too.
Lip synching matched up to a tee. Outstanding job on that.
Overall, the Delaware St. John games progress storywise and have improved on certain aspects to ensure an entertaining time. The stories are interesting and this one had a doozy of a twist at the end. The “twist” completely dispelled something I had been sure of during the first 2 games. Now, I can’t wait for the next one to come out so I can find out what happens next. So, while I would like to see more flexibility in the VIC usage so I feel like I’m truly doing the investigation, I can sincerely recommend The Seacliff Tragedy to anyone looking to liven up a couple of nights with some spooky atmosphere and darned good mystery.