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(Disclosure: The re­view­er has pur­chased his copy on Steam. Some un­marked spoil­ers may be present.)

The Charnel House Trilogy is the sec­ond game from de­vel­op­er Owl Cave, a small col­lec­tion of writ­ers, de­sign­ers, artists, and coders whose pre­vi­ous work in­cluds Richard & Alice, a di­a­logue fo­cused ad­ven­ture game re­leased in June 2014. The Charnel House Trilogy was cre­at­ed us­ing the Adventure Game Studio en­gine. And mu­sic was pro­vid­ed by Gavin Harrison. Paul Kilduff-Taylor, and Jack de Quidt.

Psychological Horror laced with Psychological Problems

 

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So many prob­lems

The Charnel House Trilogy is a set of three small­er ad­ven­tures pack­aged to­geth­er into one game. Originally start­ing with the free­ware game Sepulchre, a pro­logue chap­ter and epi­logue chap­ter were writ­ten in and be­came the Trilogy it­self. The game is most­ly di­a­logue, fit­ting for an ad­ven­ture ti­tle, with a few puz­zles here and there. The voice act­ing is su­perb un­til the fi­nal chap­ter, and the art, though semi-retro, is well done. The mu­sic is ap­pro­pri­ate, with no per­son­al gripes from the re­view­er. It is about three hours long, and leaves the game with a bit of a cliffhang­er; am­ple room for a sec­ond set of games.

Story

The game fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of two pro­tag­o­nists, Alex Davenport and Dr. David Lang, as they star in the dif­fer­ent parts of the sto­ry — switch­ing per­spec­tives be­tween chap­ters. The first part of the sto­ry in­tro­duces Alex as she is get­ting over a breakup that had oc­curred a few months pri­or, fol­low­ing which a ter­ri­fy­ing se­ries of calls be­gan ru­in­ing her life. Alex is a dam­aged gal, but she man­ages to hold up, de­fy­ing the cir­cum­stances.

Upon man­ag­ing to get onto the com­put­er, she books a train-ticket to the near­by is­land to meet her friend who work­ing with Dr. David Lang at an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dig. Upon board­ing the train, how­ev­er, the two protagonist’s lives get more than a lit­tle strange.

The sto­ry twists and turns, and be­comes more and more su­per­nat­ur­al as the game plays on, ex­pand­ing on Sepulchre’s free sto­ry with Alex’s chap­ters. It’s a mem­o­rable romp, and with a bit of pa­tience, the en­tire game can be fin­ished with­in rough­ly 3 hours.

It is my opin­ion that the sec­ond chap­ter, Sepulchre, is the stronger of the three chap­ters, fol­lowed by Exhale, with the in­tro Inhale be­ing some­what weak.

It is an en­joy­able romp al­to­geth­er, though, and worth the playthrough at least once.

Gameplay

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Mouse cur­sor, ho!

The Charnel House Trilogy runs on a sim­ple point and click en­gine, with a tiny in­ven­to­ry sys­tem built into the top of the screen. The game is playable only with the mouse, and with only two but­tons to boot. You in­ter­act with oth­er el­e­ments on the screen us­ing the point and click sys­tem, click­ing on the in­ven­to­ry to in­ter­act with oth­er things on the screen. To hu­mor­ous ends more of­ten than not.

This, com­bined with the three chap­ter novel­la that the game ends up be­ing, makes for an eas­i­er af­fair than some of the more lengthy ad­ven­ture ti­tles on the mar­ket.

Graphics

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Charnel House’s graph­ics are done in a retro-style that evokes Monkey Island in its aes­thet­ic. Characters out­side of talk­ing por­traits have tiny vi­su­al con­straints. There are lit­tle in the way of pix­el sized ob­jects, how­ev­er, leav­ing out a long-time gripe I’ve had with the genre be­fore res­o­lu­tions in­creased past the 90s. There are few places that have an­i­ma­tion, rel­e­gat­ed to a few in­ter­ac­tions and the bridges be­tween chap­ters.

Music

The mu­sic is calm at first, com­posed main­ly of nineties elec­tron­i­ca, but slow­ly grows more pan­icked as the sto­ries progress; with sharp strings play­ing here and there as ap­pro­pri­ate. It takes a swing to­wards the melan­choly in the sec­ond and third chap­ters, with more pan­ic notes as ap­pro­pri­ate as rev­e­la­tions are made. Overall, the mu­sic is fit­ting, and of­fers few rea­sons to cri­tique for the re­view­er.

Technical & Settings

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The game has lit­tle in the way of set­tings, be­ing most­ly con­cerned with the sound. The game has only crashed once in the three hours it took the re­view­er to com­plete the game.

Final Thoughts

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Overall, The Charnel House Trilogy is a good, if short, ad­ven­ture ti­tle that had the re­view­er want­i­ng to see the follow-up. A cliff-hanger end­ing that left more than a few ques­tions round­ed off what turned out to be an en­joy­able — if not en­tire­ly hair-raising — ex­pe­ri­ence. The sto­ry can get kind of pre­dictable here and there, es­pe­cial­ly once you know who the voice ac­tors are, but over­all, it is a de­cent lit­tle game.

I hope to see more in this se­ries from Owl Cave in the fu­ture, to be sure.

Purchase the Charnel House Trilogy at full price if: You are look­ing for the be­gin­ning of a de­cent hor­ror se­ries, and ap­pre­ci­ate ad­ven­ture ti­tles. It is an ex­cel­lent game for be­gin­ners, as well.

Purchase at half price if: You are look­ing for a longer ti­tle, or do not care for ad­ven­tures, but still en­joy a good short sto­ry nev­er­the­less

Do not pur­chase if: You want a saga, not a novel­la.

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Michael Campbell
My name is Michael Campbell. I am a bud­ding writer, pro­duc­er, and the content-manager for off-site opin­ion pieces. I fo­cus on Early Access Game Reviews, Traditional Games Media (Primarily Pen & Paper Role-playing Games), Steam Games, Origin, and Indie Titles. My in­ter­ests in­clude draw­ing re­al­ly ter­ri­bly, run­ning far too many RPG games a week and hor­ri­fy­ing my co-workers and friends. I also get re­al­ly an­gry on Twitter at in­jus­tice. I am also like­ly go­ing to be­come a fix­ture in the ed­i­to­r­i­al sec­tion of this site, due to the above anger. You can reach me at M.Campbell@supernerdland.com if you have ques­tions or com­ments; As well, you can reach me @EvilBobDALMYT on Twitter to see some of that anger in mo­tion.
Michael Campbell

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