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Gothic horror at its best. Explore the mysteries of a cursed manor, September 7, 2020
This quite large Gothic horror game reminded me of quite a few games and stories over time.
In its early phases, it has much of the feel of Dracula or the Mysteries of Udolpho (one of the stories inspiring Jane Eyre and Northanger Abbey). You are in a small town where a beautiful and sensual Lord or Lady (depending on your choices) presides and where strange disappearances happen, like that of your uncle.
The bulk of the game (15 or 16 chapters, each substantial) reminded me of Anchorhead, or of Udolpho again, or of Curses!, my favorite IF game of all time. A giant mansion filled with odd and horrifying characters and objects (like a mysteriously strong 90 year old butler, or a door wrapped in wrought iron vines that seem to prick your finger no matter how careful you are).
The game overall tends towards 'weird fiction' in the latter half, a genre commonly identified with Lovecraft but which here seems to align itself more with other works such as Algernon Blackwood. There are no cults here, no bizarre combinations of consonants and very little of madness. Ghostly horror is more of a theme.
There are several rewarding romantic opportunities. Like all of Choice of Games' titles, there is a lot of diversity and inclusion, but unlike some games that reviewers have complained of, all of the diversity here is very well-explained and genre-sensitive. After all, a strange manor in a strange town where the owner is known for startling and forward-thinking views is the perfect place for a non-binary character or for same-gender romances, much like the early vampire novel Carmilla, which is even referenced in-story.
Gameplay revolves around choices to be trusting or distrustful, to be physical or charming or spiritual, to investigate more or to help others, etc. There are several layers of mystery, and the game seems very replayable. I'd especially like to replay as a completely skeptical investigator.
There are some questions that I still have, and hope to explore more (especially about a figure you see in the very first chapter).
Overall, I'd say that this game in the Choice of Games canon occupies the same place as Anchorhead in the parser game canon: a long, replayable, evil house horror game that is very popular and basically great for everyone to play.
I received a review copy of this game.