Having whet my appetite for adventure games on the excellent Sam and Max series, I thought it would be a good time to try some more modern PC adventure games. Scratches is an indie game that uses the tried and (not-so) true first-person point-and-click gameplay formula. Myst, Hell Cab, Dragon Lore… I have many fond memories… well, not really fond, but I do remember playing a lot of those types of games from back at the dawn of the CD-ROM era.
Now, I liked this game for reasons I will go into in a bit, but it did serve as a huge reminder as to what really sucked about first-person point-and-click games. First there are the dreaded “hunt the pixel” situations. Scratches isn’t that bad in this respect, but there were two or three times when a puzzle was unsolvable until I found the exact cursor position (see the image to the left – I’m supposed to be picking up that stone). Secondly, a lot of the time there is no indication that a graphical element is important. Rather than saying, “You are in a dark room full of junk, but there is a useful looking crowbar here,” you are supposed to click on every object in the pile of junk and just randomly figure out that you can only pick up the crowbar.
That said, I did like the game. Once the narrative kicks in the game gets very interesting (and believe me it takes a long time of aimless exploring before things start to happen). You slowly learn the dark history of the house via newspaper clippings, diaries and other found texts. And once you are fully versed in the lore, unexplained things start happening. I have never been this creeped out by a game (and I have even played House of the Dead 2), let alone being creeped out by what is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified slideshow. Nonetheless, thanks to an awesome, well-integrated soundtrack the game gets VERY creepy. It’s worth slogging through this one with a walkthrough by your side just to experience those intense moments of horror.