In the second of a planned series of 10 volumes by Big Time Games, we meet up with Delaware St. John again as he plunges into his next journey to the unknown.
First, let’s take a step back to Volume 1: The Curse of Midnight Manor...
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.
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.
Now, let’s flash forward to Volume 2: The Town with No Name...
We meet back up with Delaware as he contemplates the events at Midnight Manor. Why does he have these visions? Is this fate? Why was he chosen for this task? Will he finally be at peace?
In an attempt to give his mind a rest, Delaware helps Kelly clean out the back room of her bookstore. An old atlas falls open at Delaware’s feet. Examination of the map brings more strange voices and an outline of a town or settlement on the page where none was before. Some quick research by Kelly proves fruitless as no town exists anywhere near that location. Delaware is compelled to visit the location and is shocked to find the existence of a town where none should be. The town is deserted, but gives all indications that the desertion was not voluntary. All references to the town name such as street & building signs have been defaced. An overwhelming feeling that something horrible has occurred here hovers over Delaware as he stands on the main street in town with just a flashlight to guide him. Well, we certainly won’t encounter the hunter again. We destroyed him last time. Or will we? Let the investigation begin.
One thing that will become readily apparent as you begin the game is that the credits roll before any game play. You will not be able to hit escape and hurry them along. Most of us pop in a game and want to begin immediately. How many of us have actually watched the credits that play at the end of game? Slim to none? So, considering that fact, I can understand the reasoning behind it. All that hard work is worthy of recognition.
You play Delaware in this 1st person point and click mystery. Navigation is quite easy with green arrows giving you clear direction. Although when being chased, the ease of those green arrows just may slip out of your grasp. Cursors for examining and picking items up are clearly visible. There is no cursor for conversation, but this is not necessary. If conversation is allowed, the dialogue will automatically pop up on the screen. Dialogue trees are limited for Delaware, but the details he receives from those conversations are extremely important as you receive clues on what course of action to take next. A tutorial is provided at the main menu and is quite helpful in getting comfortable with the navigation and also with the use of VIC.
The 2D environments are almost as though you are looking at individual paintings. They are beautifully done in muted colors shadowed by darkness. Delaware’s flashlight provides the single hint of light slashed across each scene. Peeling paint/wallpaper, rust and decay add realism. What is most impressive is the feeling of utter desolation conveyed throughout the game. I remember a one time driving home at 3am and thinking how eerie my own town seemed. Not a soul on the road, houses and businesses were dark and everything was so silent. It was downright creepy. That is the same feeling you will experience as Delaware walks down the main street or inside one of the buildings. Every once in a while a noise will come from the opposite direction in the form of a low growl, a giggle, or the slight creak of a board. All these effects are designed to give you a feeling of paranoia. Are you being watched? Is something or someone going to jump out at you?
In addition to the ambient sounds, the suspenseful musical score plays with your subconscious. Tapping out an almost atonal melody alternating between the lowest and highest registers on the piano creates a constant underlying feeling of tension. The organ composition conjures up memories of a different era. Perhaps the most effective use of music occurs during the chase scene. The rhythmic thumping of bass piano notes immediately alerts you to the presence of the Hunter. You know the Hunter is coming for you and that you must get to a safe room fast. Your pulse will definitely race here. Where is the safe room???? Which way do you go???? The choice of music for the chase scene is reminiscent of the classic Jaws theme played when the great white was on the hunt. You could recognize it immediately every time. The same is conveyed here. Well done!
As this is in the 1st person perspective, sightings of Delaware himself are scarce. Occasionally he will appear in a mirror. At a couple points during the chase, you will view the game through the eyes of the Hunter. You get a brief glimpse of Delaware as he is being hunted. However, there are plenty of spirits/ghosts to keep you occupied. Your flashlight will dim right before a spirit appears. Some are there to help you, some to be helped and some just want you gone. The only disappointment here is that their lips do not move when they speak. But, this is just a minor note.
If you’re dead set on mind bending individual puzzles, then this may not be the game for you. There are a combination of non-inventory puzzles and inventory based puzzles in volume 2 but they are quite easy to solve. You will spend more time figuring out how to enter locations and where to go next. The beauty of this game is in the storyline. That’s where investigation is the key. Each encounter with a spirit provides another clue to your next step. Diaries and letters found throughout the location provide even more clues. Careful attention is needed here. If you miss one of these details, you could spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly.
Each volume comes complete with 2 stories. Solving the mystery of the first story will unlock the horrors of the second story. The stories blend together effortlessly and each volume provides additional insight --- a little piece to the puzzle of Delaware St. John himself. You can also log on to the website (www.delawarestjohn.com) and read the full version of each prologue.
So, if you’re into engaging story based mystery thrillers, then Delaware St. John Volume 2: The Town With No Name is a must have. As each volume builds on the events of the last one, I would also suggest playing Volume 1: The Curse Of Midnight Manor also although it is not required.
Final Grade: 89/100 based upon the story and creation of atmosphere.