by Ryan Veeder profile, Jenni Polodna profile, Adam Whybray, Adri profile, Andrew Plotkin profile, Andy Holloway, Austin Auclair profile, Baldur Brückner, Ben Collins-Sussman profile, Bill Maya, Brian Rushton profile, Buster Hudson profile, Caleb Wilson profile, Carl Muckenhoupt profile, Chandler Groover profile, Chris Jones, Christopher Conley profile, Damon L. Wakes profile, Daniel Ravipinto, Daniel Stelzer profile, David Jose, David Petrocco, David Sturgis, Drew Mochak, Edward B, Emily Short profile, Erica Newman, Feneric profile, Finn Rosenløv profile, Gary Butterfield, Gavin Inglis profile, Greg Frost profile, Hanon Ondricek profile, Harkness profile, Harrison Gerard, Ian Holmes, Ivan Roth profile, Jack Welch profile, Jacqueline Ashwell profile, James Eagle, Jason Dyer profile, Jason Lautzenheiser profile, Jason Love profile, Jeremy Freese profile, Joey Jones profile, Joshua Porch, Justin de Vesine, Justin Melvin, Katherine Morayati, Kenneth Pedersen profile, Lane Puetz, Llew Mason, Lucian Smith, Marco Innocenti profile, Marius Müller profile, Mark Britton, Mark Sample profile, Marshal Tenner Winter profile, Matt Schneider profile, Matt Weiner profile, Matthew Korson, Michael Fessler, Michael Gentry profile, Michael Hilborn, Michael Lin, Mike Spivey profile, Molly Ying, Monique Padelis, Naomi Hinchen, Nate Edwards profile, Petter Sjölund profile, Q Pheevr profile, Rachel Spitler, Reed Lockwood profile, Reina Adair, Riff Conner, Roberto Colnaghi profile, Rowan Lipkovits, Sam Kabo Ashwell profile, Scott Hammack profile, Sean M. Shore profile, Shin profile, Wade Clarke profile, Zach Hodgens profile, and Zack Johnson
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A masterpiece, January 3, 2023
I had been working at this game for four months. I cannot believe how it turned out. It is one of the longest games I have ever played. This is one of the most insane experiences I have had playing a game. I feel like a totally different person now that I've finished it. It's a rollercoaster of emotions, and I never knew what would be coming next. It is unpredictable, it is difficult, it is different.
Cragne Manor is what happens when you take over 80 authors' contributions and intricately weave them together into a whole game. Every room is written independently, so just one step away is something totally different. Despite this, Cragne Manor has a method to its madness, and can feel amazingly coherent at points (props to the Carol arc). I kept going because I wanted to see everything and hopefully run into another engaging set piece, bizarre cultural reference, or well-developed puzzle. I wanted to know how the game could possibly end, and how everything would come together. You are given a basic goal -- find your husband Peter by uncovering bits of information in and around the manor -- but to list everything you have to do would be crazy.
I'd like to give shout-outs to some of my favorite, or most memorable, parts of the game. These are rooms that just blew me away. Please don't read these until you've been to the actual rooms!
Estate Agent's Office: (Spoiler - click to show)By far one of the best and most comprehensive rooms in the game. Everything Bethany says, everything she does, your inexplicable obsession with getting a lion sex book, the writing style, it had me laughing so hard. I actually came back here midway through just to make sure I asked her about everything. Some suggestions: Read the lion sex book and ask her about it. Ask Bethany about yourself, Peter, Jedediah Beaverhat, and Maple Kate.
Meatpacking Plant: (Spoiler - click to show)Cut up the corpses of dead animals! It's described in the most disgusting way possible. My stomach was churning by the end of this, and I actually had to put the game down before and after doing it because I was so uncomfortable.
Meatpacking Plant Bathroom: (Spoiler - click to show)How do we not talk about this one? It's iconic. Banish a boneless horse by using demonic rituals and a time-traveling toilet. It's worth trying everything you can here, because it accounts for most of your interactions; I spent a while trying to pee on every surface imaginable and I got a funny response for everything. Reading the diary is also a highlight, and the various "unfortunate baby names" gave me a good laugh.
Nursery: (Spoiler - click to show)Carol and Christabell offer up one of the most surprising moments in the game. There is an interconnected narrative between these two rooms. You get to watch Carol grow up from a kind yet lonely child to a politically-obsessed mastermind who wants to summon Cthulhu. Also, the part about Naomi apparently being pregnant really shocked me and made me want to know how the arc could possibly end. Christabell even comes in to wrap everything up! Carol apologizing, and the memento she leaves behind, made me genuinely sad.
Music Room: (Spoiler - click to show)A room that contains a bunch of small sub-rooms to tell an incredibly gruesome and disturbing story! Francine is messed up. Seeing her child self vomit, and then opening up a bag of body parts, actually made me feel sick and I had to put the game down for a bit. Not a pleasant story, but a memorable one for sure.
Workroom: (Spoiler - click to show)Cast magic spells and learn about the Cragnes' family history. The mechanics are fleshed out, there's a lot of optional deaths, and it's a nice break from some of the other more horrific parts of the game. It's a satisfying puzzle.
Curiosity Shop: (Spoiler - click to show)I like Jessenia. She's fun to talk to and she has all kinds of interesting items to trade. This is really late in the game, but I enjoyed it.
Narthex: (Spoiler - click to show)This kind of bizarre Catholic high school drama, complete with demon possession and tragic tales of love that was never meant to be, had me engaged. Brandon's eventual suicide attempt had me horrified and emotionally shattered, and even Naomi's shaken up by the whole thing afterwards.
Inside the Shack: (Spoiler - click to show)One of the last rooms in the game, this thing is surreal. The descriptions are disturbing and paint very horrifying images, there's a lot to do while you're in there, and messing with Naomi and Peter's history is a harrowing yet beautiful experience.
That's not to discredit the smaller rooms, though. They deserve appreciation for how they just tie everything together and they all draw inspiration from various sources. It's fun to have a few minor puzzles or transition rooms in between the game starts going off the rails and destroying you emotionally (yet again). I had visceral reactions to this thing; I almost threw up twice. I screamed so many times. It was great.
The main complaint I had with this game was an unavoidable, inevitable problem; sorting through your items gets hard. Attempting to use a noun like "dial" or "key" in a command will result in everything showing up and you needing to use disambiguations. Sometimes I'd just throw out my backpack before I went into a room so I wouldn't have to deal with it. The mildew was also a massive misstep that I wish was toned down, and if I were to give one piece of advice to anyone before playing the game, get rid of it as soon as you can. It made me begin dreading opening my inventory and filtering through items, because it inflated it with useless text and ended up taking the entire screen.
My review has only scratched the surface. Play this game, don't let the content warning scare you, just go with it. Play it to the end. There's always something new waiting. Jenni Polodna and Ryan Veeder, both absolutely amazing authors and people in general, thank you so much for this. I'll never forget Cragne Manor.
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