In Dead Reckoning, you are Mark Duffy, returned to the village of Morrow to help your friend Edwin, who has been babbling about mysterious dangers. Initially sceptical, you soon find out that they are very real.
While I'm not sure that Dead Reckoning qualifies as cruel on the Zarfian scale, there are certainly multiple ways to bring death upon yourself here. Judicious use of save and undo will help you, and the game in some ways actually encourages you to try death-bringing moves to gather knowledge needed to better understand your aims and how to achieve them.
The writing is mostly pretty tight, and it's a well put-together world, but there are flaws. In one area, you must examine something, and then examine a further element of that description in order to find an object (Spoiler - click to show)(although I don't believe this object is essential to finding the best ending). In other areas, however, there are descriptions of objects that seem important, and yet are not implemented in the game-world.
I uncovered two small incidents of guess-the-verb, though only one I found infuriating:
1) (Spoiler - click to show)When trying to get into Edwin's house, you must make yourself known to him lest he attacks you. Yet when you try this, the parser demands a very precise wording:
Command not understood. Try something else.
You’re a little reluctant to do that.
> call to edwin
“Edwin! It’s me!"
2) (Spoiler - click to show)And later, when trying to discuss topics with the priest:
> ask kadrin about shekel
Kadrin frowns. “I fear I do not understand what you are referring to.”
> talk to kadrin
“What do you wish to know?” asks Kadrin.
1: “Tell me about Shekel.”
Other than these few irritants, Dead Reckoning is an enjoyable horror with a tint of mystery, and for fans of the genre it is well worth a play-through or two (or more, if you're also a fan of dying, a lot).
As soon as I'm given the basic premise of Leadlight I feel at home. I'm a teenage girl at a spooky ballet school? This must be Dario Argento's Suspiria. While it is not, in fact, a recreation of Argento's masterpiece, this familiar setting is enough to be content that we're in for a gore-splattered ride, and Clarke does not disappoint.
There are several instant-death spots, which will cost you final points to undo, so it is wise to save often - these, however, are good for adding the suspense factor that horror films do so well: if I hear a noise and proceed, will it be turn out to be innocent or will it be certain doom? The writing is mostly functional, rather than particularly pretty, but it keeps one going, and I never felt stuck for motivation. The back-story is also intriguing, if very much in the canonical horror style, and including a system of scoring for secrets found was a good impetus to continue poking around.
My main gripes were with the retro-parser: small niggles such as having to type 'examine' instead of 'x', for instance, and some instructions were slightly less intuitive than modern parsers allow for. Implementation was generally decent, however. I also found it somewhat jarring that while using a retro platform and old-school parser, Clarke lays out a world with iPods and iMacs - it would have been more fitting to place the action in the 1980s or before.
Unfortunately, I got stuck (Spoiler - click to show)going into the leadlight door, where every action I tried got me killed. However, the time spent playing before running into this wall was most enjoyable, and the game deserves a strong score for its fun factor.