I have a very strong dislike for that game, and I’ll gladly go over it point by point.
1) The graphics.
I’m the first person to say that graphics aren’t everything, and that the game mechanics matter a lot more than the visual package. Good graphics enhance a good game, but they can’t save a bad one. Having said that, some things are absolutely jarring and do not work at all; humongous squares that try to pass for pixel art are an example. The juxtaposition of the incredibly blocky graphics used for some parts of the game with the much finer element make the whole game look grotesque. The fonts in particular are finer than the graphics, as are the mouse pointers, making the characters look like Minecraft abortions. Their fluid movement in a pixelized world doesn’t help either. I guess it’s a style and it must have its proponents, but I find it appalling. Adding insult to injury, it looks like the artist voluntarily pixelized finer art, and the game could have looked much better.
2) The story (WARNING: Spoilers!)
First an apology, to the writer for the Alice is Dead series: It is possible to write a story that makes even less sense than theirs, sorry, I’ve been proved wrong. You need to complete the game to be able to assemble the sequence of events, and to realize it’s absolutely non-sensical. It goes like this:
The protagonist’s childhood friend has a sick wife and some terrible secret that’s completely tangential to the plot, and either a serious concussion or a history of mental illness. He sends a letter to the protagonist but instead of asking for his help, and requesting he comes to his house, he just writes “Look at that girl’s ass” in Latin in it, or whatever the motto of their secret club was when they were teenagers. Nothing else. The protagonist throws the letter in the fireplace like any reasonable person would do, but still decides to pay the old lunatic a visit. In the following days, while waiting for the protagonist’s arrival, the madman gets busy. First, he takes and destroys every knife in the house except for one, which he walls up in the basement along with his Halloween mask, because why not? This takes him a lot of time and his house staff, perplexed by his behavior, quits. His wife, left abandoned in her room, slowly dies of neglect. Once his wife has passed, which apparently didn’t take long, the man leaves her to rot in her bed, because that’s what you do in these types of cases when you’re a gentleman in the English countryside in 1891.
The day of the protagonist’s visit, the friend gets busy. First he writes a letter to his friend to warn him in extremely vague terms of some sort of impending doom, and stuffs it in his pocket. Then he takes the spare key to the attic and hides it in his stuffed lynx’s mouth, which he forces closed. Next he grabs a chair and a rope and takes them to the attic. Finally, he waits.
At the time when the protagonist’s train is scheduled to arrive at the local station, he grabs a brush, some paint, and goes to deface an old painting of his that he had hidden in the back of his wife’s suite. Specifically, he paints a closed mouth on top of the open mouth of the stuffed lynx in the painting. He has to do it at the last minute so the paint will be still fresh when his childhood friend arrives. Having completed his task, the madman then goes back to his dead wife’s room and writes on the wall in red paint, or in his blood, or in her blood or in some other red fluid (it’s not quite clear) because having only the corpse in the room is probably not quite traumatic enough for the eventual discoverer. Finally, he barricades the door to his dead wife’s room (with her corpse still inside, of course!), rushes to the attic, locks the door from the inside with his own key (I’m assuming he has his own key because that’s the only way there can be another one in the lynx’s mouth) and watches for the protagonist’s coach through the window.
When he sees the protagonist pulling up, he grabs the rope and the intro starts.
Because you know, he couldn’t remain alive for 20 more minutes to tell the protagonist everything himself. He had to hide in the attic for no good reason, leave a cryptic note that explains nothing in his pocket for his friend to find on his corpse, and kill himself. What kind of passive-aggressive asshole does that? It’s absurd, it’s ridiculous, it makes me want to grab the author and shake him until he realizes that his story is total garbage.
One very common defense for adventure game puzzles is that the solution is meant to be original, cryptic, and make the player think outside the box, but I have not described any of the puzzles here: This is the story’s setup. It is what must have happened for things to be the way they are when the protagonist walks through the door! I did not even mention the curtain-pulling crows because that’s just the stupid cherry on the nonsensical cake. Anyone who donated to that kickstarter should feel justified in asking for a refund. They’ve been robbed.
3) The cheap scares.
Any game that mentions that you should be using headphones and play in the dark is setting you up for a cheap scare. It’s trite, it’s vulgar, and it’s not very effective, except on the kind of people who are easily amused and even more easily impressed. This game has not one, but two of these, and if they get you to do more than roll your eyes in disgust congratulations, you’re an idiot.
One thing worth mentioning is that the crows-in-your-face one can actually be avoided if you take the long way back from the kitchen to the entrance. I found it mildly amusing to imagine the crows waiting for the protagonist after pulling the curtains and breaking the record in the music room.
“Dude, what’s taking him so long?”
“I don’t know dude.”
“He was right outside in the hallway, he had to have heard us break the record. Does this dude have any curiosity at all?”
“I don’t know dude, but I’m getting bored.”
“Dudes, shut up everyone, I think he’s coming!”
“No dude, someone’s stepping upstairs.”
“How the bloody hell did that dude get upstairs? You said he had to come back through here.”
“Dude, he must have gone around the house.”
“Screw it dudes, I’m outta here!”
4) The puzzles.
The game is completely linear. You have to do everything because the game won’t let you take down the basement wall until you’ve fed the cat (just like in real life!) so you have those two quest lines as absolute requirements. Since there’s nothing else to do, you have to do it all. Oh, and don’t think you can just use the knife before you’ve cleaned up the painting either. This puzzle train stops at every station, get used to it. You’ll be backtracking. A lot. And the character moves slowly. He drags himself from one room to the next as if trying to delay the next absurdity as much as he possibly can. But he can’t avoid them, and one after the other the plot holes stare him in the eyes with their gaping, pixelated maws. At least, when a hairpin is shown to be about as big as the protagonist’s head, you know you won’t be pixel-hunting much.
So that’s what I think about this travesty of a game. It is bad, and only has a single redeeming quality: its music. The music is really awesome, and it sounds even better when it’s used as part of such a shoddy whole. Don’t get me wrong, it would be noticeably good even on its own, but in the ambient mediocrity it shines like the noonday sun. So, big props to Carlos Viola, I guess.