Friday, July 10, 2009

Spooky enough? - A review of Return to Ravenhearst


What I liked

  • The point-and-click interface
  • The adventure game/hidden objects mechanics
  • The music

What I didn't like

  • The story
  • The creepiness


Quick Plot

You've been called back to Ravenhearst manor to investigate the events that transpired after the events of the first Ravenhearst story.


Comparison to the original Ravenhearst

  • There are still many hidden objects scenes to solve
  • A new point-and-click interface which allows you to travel around the manor grounds
  • An inventory which allows you to collect items and use them at various locations
  • The graphics are much improved, with nice animations in the hidden objects scenes
  • The music is greatly improved, partly recorded with live orchestra
  • If you thought the first Ravenhearst was creepy and weird, this is even worse
  • Locked door puzzles, as in the first Ravenhearst


Highlights

The first thing I noticed were the improved graphics and music. This draws you in, like any adventure game should. One feature I really liked was how, if an object in a scene can be examined, it sparkles. There are plenty of hidden objects scenes, but not so many that it begins to feel like the first Ravenhearst - too long and tedious.

One thing I that made this a great experience was that none of the puzzles are too complicated, and inventory items are generally very logical in their usage. You never have to spend too much time wondering what to do. This gave the game a very smooth flow.

The music was very good in this game. Big Fish has been utilizing an orchestra for some of their games, and joined with the compositional talents of the crew over at Somatone, the result is an effective soundtrack. You'll hear spooky underscore with screeching strings and haunting motives.


Suitable for the family?

Unfortunately, no. Like many casual game players, I like to be able to enjoy these games with my family. The game was so creepy and disturbing that my wife bailed after a short time, and when my kids were around, I had to tell them to cover their eyes every time I clicked on something new, just in case something freaky popped up. The box below contains slight spoilers, so skip it if you're concerned about spoilers.


Every once in a while ghosts of people materialize and talk to you. You will also see a few corpses and diabolical looking devices. There are many mannequins and dolls whose heads fall off, and a statue whose face transforms and talks to you at one point. In this game, you see the fruits of a twisted mind.


Almost every room in the house is disturbing to look at. I'm surprised it didn't give my kids nightmares. I would not recommend playing this game with small children around, or anyone who is easily disturbed by twisted themes. You have been warned.


The family man's final ruling

My feelings are mixed regarding Return to Ravenhearst. It does almost everything right. The mechanics are as close to perfect as I could hope for in this genre. It's never too difficult - I solved the entire game with no hints - and the production quality is top notch.

On the other hand, the theme and story were so disturbing that I had to repress it as I went. If the gameplay wasn't so good, I would have abandoned ship. I would love to play a game with the same mechanics, but with less creepiness.

One thing I can say for myself: I'm never going back to Ravenhearst Manor. Two trips there are enough for me. As fun as this game was, I just couldn't stomach the story again.

But, if you like twisted and creepy ghost stories, this game might be just right for you.

My rating:


If you want to play it Return to Ravenhearst, click here -->

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