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A loose, and better playtested, sequel to "The Surprising Case of Brian Timmons", March 19, 2013
Castronegro is a well written plot-driven mystery game with some vague Lovecraftian elements, featuring the same nameless main character of the author's previous IF, "The surprising case of Brian Timmons".
I did not encounter bugs, and there were no guess-the-verb situations. No hint system is implemented, though.
Although it is quite short, to complete this game a lot of exploration and examination is required, and taking notes is higly recommended.
The map may be divided in two sections, corresponding to two towns to be visited. The main one, Castronegro, after which the game is named, is the bigger one. Drawing its map may be useful.
The exits of every room are clearly stated in the description, with a reminder of where each exit leads, helping navigation.
There are a couple more of nice touches: most objects and locations have a customized description, like the PC chair in the initial room, and, still in the same room, the NPC Claudine (who assigns the mission to be accomplished) gives a comment if the phonograph is turned on.
The puzzles are quite easy till the PC arrives in Castronegro. The "tough" rating seems due mainly to how to get rid of monsters (or better, to how not to die by them), especially the final confrontation, where a (Spoiler - click to show)hide-and-burn approach is suggested. If the wrong way is chosen in these encounters, it's game over, so you should save before trying: the 'undo' command is disabled.
The final puzzle was satisfying, although I was expecting a slightly different solution: (Spoiler - click to show)one of the pictures in the mansion represents the main foe and its ring, which seems to keep a vague light even after the flashlight is off. So, I was expecting that after all the lights are off, the ring would be still visible, which would allow to locate him and therefore to attack him.
Overall this game is enjoyable, without really bad points. Apparently there was more playtesting this time with respect to the author's two previous IFs.
In my opinion, the only evident defect of the game lies in the interaction with the (friendly) NPCs, which is essentially limited to conversations which start almost always automatically. The game is a bit rough here, some more interactivity with the NPCs, being this a mystery game, would be wellcome, and would have gained it an higher initial rating. There are a few typos also, I spotted four or five I think, limited to punctuation.
I would rate it 3.5, considering the low NPC development, but to encourage the author, I round it up to 4 stars.
Note: I played the version released in this post on the intfiction.org forum where it is available for public download during the upload process here on ifdb.