Game review: Scratches (PC)

Scratches: Director’s Cut, by Nucleosys (PC)

So I’ll be honest here. This is one of my favorite computer games, but it isn’t for everyone. I happen to be one of those people who enjoys both intense action games AND the slow-paced mystery-solving games. Scratches is one of the latter. In the following review, I’ll break the game down piece by piece and let you know my opinion of the game. At the end of the review is also an ADHD Factor– things to consider if you’re ADHD, from a fellow distracted gamer. So crack open a can of Dr. Pepper and enjoy!

Synopsis: HORROR/PUZZLE/SUSPENSE ADVENTURE. In this first-person game, you are Michael Arthate, a horror novelist who goes to stay at Blackwood Manor, a crumbling old Victorian manor, in order to get past your writer’s block. While there, however, your attention is drawn away from your novel to the mysterious past of the house, compounded by creepy diary entries and strange scratching noises at night. What happened to the Blackwoods? Where are those scratching noises coming from? Are you alone?

Pros: excellent story with much suspense, great setting with beautiful scenery (if you like creepy old decrepit Victorian mansions, which I do), surprisingly good voice acting, realistic puzzles (mostly).

Cons: some of the puzzles are so difficult they’re mostly a cycle-through-your-inventory-trying-everything-you-can thing, the point-and-click screens do not allow for very good mobility and exploring.

(These scores are out of 10)

Graphics: 9          For the most part, the game is very lovely. The decrepit mansion, which is the game’s setting, has the right feel to it: spooky and old. The point-and-click method of moving around the game, however, is less than perfect, which is why the graphics lost a point there.

Storyline: 10          I admit it—I LOVED the storyline of this game. It’s mysterious, suspenseful, and keeps you guessing until the very end. Where are those danged scratching noises coming from?! The storyline really made this game, I think. Speaking delicately so as not to give anything away, it was one of the most awesome/terrifying/mysterious endings to a game I’ve played yet. Seriously, this game is worth it based on the story alone. The characters are extraordinarily fleshed out, considering you never really see any of them and mostly read their writings or hear their voices on the telephone. P.S., with the Director’s Cut version, you also get a sort of “epilogue” mini game where a reporter returns to Blackwood Manor to find out what happened. Worth it!

Gameplay: 7         The gameplay itself is relatively simple: you point-and-click from one screen to the next, moving around the mansion and its grounds, in search of random objects with which to interact. You might find a boring tool somewhere in a drawer that will come in useful later on when trying to poke a hole in a can, or you might find a diary full of strange, crazed ravings. Items you pick up are stored in your inventory (Michael must have HUGE pockets) and can be used when the time is right. For some gamers, this is not the right game—it can be boring or monotonous just wandering around for three in-game days clicking on objects. For others, it may be way too difficult and require the use of an online walkthrough.

Controls: 9.5        As with the gameplay, the controls are relatively simple, just pointing and clicking. You have a cursor shaped like a hand that will change shape when you scroll over something with which you can interact.

Replayability: 7.5  This was a hard one for me to decide. I had to take my own feelings out of the equation and think like an average gamer. I actually love playing Scratches over and over. I guiltily admit that I required liberal use of an online walkthrough the first time I played the game, and so replaying it gave me the chance to try and remember what I did the first time by myself. Occasionally, I will still get stuck and have to refresh my memory (I’ve played it through maybe seven or eight times now). Some people will play it over and over; others will put it back in its box and never glance at it again.

TOTAL SCORE: 43/50= 86 (a solid B)

The ADHD Factor: Sorry, Scratches. As much as I love this game, it took a toll on my ADHD. The wandering and the getting-stuck-at-10am-on-Sunday-and-not-being-able-to-find-a-use-for-the-stupid-rope made me get up and leave my laptop in frustration several times. As previously mentioned, I started using a walkthrough guide after hitting my frustration level several times. There is also not a lot of flashiness (although there are some cool moments during the dream sequences). This game is a test of endurance and patience as well as skill.

Reminds me of: Scratches reminds me of Myst (PC).


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