(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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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