Haunted – Preview

Title   Haunted
Developer  Deck 13
Publisher  Lace Mamba Global
Platform  PC
Genre  Point and click adventure
Release Date  25th May, 2012

In a year slowly filling out with adventure releases, point and click fans are becoming spoiled for choice, and one of the more alluring titles on the horizon is Deck 13′s upcoming offering – a ghostly 3D point and click adventure, aptly named Haunted. Given the title, you’d be forgiven for thinking this a horror. Not so. Haunted is a light, laid-back and humorous game from the same people who created Ankh and Jack Keane, and is finally seeing a UK release after being available in Germany for some time.

You play as a young girl named Mary who has been living on the streets of London ever since losing her sister, Emily, in a train accident. One fog-shrouded night, Emily visits Mary in a dream, calling out to her for help.  Even after waking, however, Emily’s desperate cries still echo around the streets and, before you can say “I wouldn’t do that if I were you”, Mary sets off in pursuit of the phantom voice and winds up in the grounds of a creepy mansion, where she promptly blacks out. After a rude awakening on an autopsy table and escaping a psychotic, monocle-wearing professor and her axe wielding henchman, our heroine makes a startling discovery: she can see and hear ghosts. This revelation comes in the form of Oscar, a pirate ghost who, after being rescued by Mary, promises to help her discover what happened to her sister.

Haunted was always going to be just a little bit different from the usual point and click outings, given its unique twist of play style and I’m glad to say that it works very well. Instead of being a lone protagonist, Mary is accompanied by several ghostly companions who offer advice, help with puzzles and… bicker amongst themselves. Much of the game’s light comedy comes from these conversations, cut-scenes and NPC interactions and, while not being side-splittingly funny, they have their moments. I remember laughing-out-loud at one scene in particular, which occurred after getting Oscar drunk, stuffing him into a mine cart, strapping on a gas cylinder and launching him into the air.  I won’t spoil the outcome, but I still chuckle, even now.

Oscar’s not the only ghost you’ll get to meet, however.  Along the way you’ll collect more than a few ethereal pals, including a Scotsman, an oriental wise man, a Pope with an impressive hat, a wolfware (you heard me) and a goldfish… er… mermaid. Upon befriending a ghost their avatar will appear at the bottom of the screen and they can be used just like an inventory object to interact with the environment, items and even each other. Each one has different skills and abilities, such as being able to pick up dangerous objects, translate other languages and turn into water or steam.

This was a brilliant idea and hats off to whomever thought of it. In fact, it works so well in this type of game that I’m surprised no-one has thought of it before. This new and different approach to puzzle solving is both refreshing and fun and something I wouldn’t mind seeing more of in the future, whether it be in another offering from Deck 13 or another developer.  I think it’s a winning formula and it makes a nice change from the solitary journeys that so many other point and clicks take you on. While it’s pretty cool saving the day, or even the world, by yourself, sometimes you just feel like some company, you know?  Well, in Haunted you’ll never get lonely.

When it comes to the gameplay, thankfully there’s not a mini-game or sliding tile puzzle in sight, with all the puzzles being inventory, ghost and environment based. As for toughness, I was only seriously stuck a couple of times, the most memorable being when I was trying to sink a ship. It took me about an hour until I finally succeeded, and only then because of a random click on the river in the background (because I missed my actual target in rage) with a certain object in my hand (again, pure chance).  It made Mary voice a comment that was the clue which led to the solution. I’ve never been happier to sink a ship, let me tell you! And yes, I did give myself a hefty kick in the rear for not getting it sooner. D’oh!

Depending on which level of difficulty you chose at the beginning, you can use the hot-spot function to see all the items of interest on screen and the help function to get tips from Oscar on what to do next (although he wasn’t much help with the ship). You can change it any time you like, however, and it doesn’t have any effect on the story, so there’s no shame in asking for advice should you find yourself at a loss about what to do next.

As far as graphics go, the 3D characters and backgrounds are seamlessly integrated with the point and click mechanics, and the ghosts in particular are beautifully rendered and have that ‘otherworldly glow’ and translucency down to a ‘T’. For a game titled Haunted, featuring ghosts, and with the majority of play being set at night, it’s surprisingly colourful and bright – especially when compared to other games of its kind, such as Gray Matter or the Black Mirror series. It also has a more cartoony look than most of its more serious cousins – it’s rather like the contrast between Kingdoms Of Amalur and Skyrim. The vibrant, sun-filled daytime scenes contrast well with the gloomy, shadow-filled night-time portions of the game and the variety of locations keep things fresh and ever-moving forward. You even end up inside a goldfish bowl at one point! Believe me when I say that I didn’t see THAT one coming.

The locations are accompanied by some ‘nice-but-nothing-special’ music, but it’s the ambient sounds that make you feel like you’re there. You’ll hear everything from lapping water to sex-mad roosters (don’t ask) and cooing pigeons. At first I wasn’t sure about the voice acting (often the downfall of many adventures) but, although not outstanding, it certainly isn’t bad. Mary sounds like Julia Sawalha, the phantom Confucius sounds like Phong from cult 90′s CGI cartoon Reboot and the Scotsman actually sounds Scottish. By far the best though is Oscar; his Piratey lilt could have easily been overdone, but instead it comes across as natural and perfectly suits his character.

All of these things come together wonderfully to make Haunted a fun and highly enjoyable game filled with adventure, puzzles and more ghosts than you can shake a coffin at. Having several non-annoying companions along for the ride makes a welcome change for a game in this genre, and the unique and inspired way in which you utilise them to solve puzzles and progress is the cherry on a very tasty cake filled with colour, humour and character. I for one, will be eagerly awaiting it’s scheduled May release.

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  1. Richie richie says:

    I don’t be pointing and clicking for no man but good piece, T!

  2. Edward Edward says:

    It sounds like a pretty interesting title, and I like that even now, the genre is seeing some innovation with the puzzle solving :)

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    It looks pretty stunning – very colourful which makes a change for games in the P&C arena! I love the innovation of utilising the skills of the individual ghosts to solve puzzles, as it presents a refreshing change from the usual puzzle mechanics typical of the genre. Deck 13 put out some good stuff, it is just a shame that most of it doesn’t make it out over here… hopefully this one will do well enough that we’ll see more of them hit the UK in future.

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