Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation
Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation opens on a tree-lined road leading to the magnificent manor house. A letter pops onto the screen, addressed to Daphne, from her loving Grand-mere, Simone Allain. It's the invitation that brought Daphne here, her grandmother has something of paramount importance to discuss.
Take Daphne forward through the front doors and left into the Living Room to greet her grandmother. They'll speak a while of Daphne's long lost mother, Rachel, about her forbidden romance and tragic disappearance, then it's down to business...
Simone's health is failing and Alexander, her brother-in-law, has suddenly taken ill, so it's time to settle their estate. Together they have agreed that Daphne and her cousin, Dominic (Alexander's adopted son) be invited to Oakhaven to face a set of trials and tribulations to see which one is worthy to inherit and manage the plantation.
Switch to the front of the manor once more. An identical letter, this time addressed to Dominic, from his loving Aunt Simone. Lead Dominic forward to meet his Aunt. They'll briefly discuss his surprise adoption and his deep love for Oakhaven. Then another invitation to partake of the trials.
Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation is an independent, part-adventure, part-puzzle game (with a strong emphasis on the latter) where you step into the shoes of both Daphne and Dominic as you take them through their trials. Thus it's first person perspective, all straightforward point and click, and Daphne and Dominic have 10 puzzles each to solve before the final scenario. You can watch your progress and count off the puzzles as you go by clicking on the appropriate icon, and you can swap and change between the two characters at any time.
The trials (or puzzles) come in all shapes and sizes and shades of difficulty, although not one of them is overwhelming, and several are very simple indeed.
For one you collect items around the manor, for others a little research in the library works a treat. There is a simple compound word game and some jumbled letters, a small slider, memorise and match the pairs, work out the sequences, or the logic, and the list goes on. Only chasing the voodoo dolls around a board requires any dexterity, and then not an awful lot.
After the logic puzzle involving arranging gems on a board, my favourite was matching pictures and classic book titles, although it was hard to go wrong. I didn't get every quiz question correct first time around but it wasn't a problem because there are multiple choice answers. If at first you don't succeed, then try and try again!
One thing I particularly appreciated was the design of the music puzzles. Both could be solved visually ... more sequencing rather than music oriented. Full marks for not penalising the musically challenged!
Although most of the puzzles are familiar there's some fun to be had. I wanted more. Better still, more challenge in some of the easier puzzles would have been good. This would have bulked out the game, as would the opportunity to re-do some puzzle multiple times.
Part of the challenge in Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation is searching for the puzzles themselves. Any object in the manor could be a candidate. Just sweep the cursor over the screen as you explore, the hotspots are quite generous so you can't miss anything for too long. Sometimes you can reveal a puzzle by clicking on a particular object, at other times you'll need to find a second object to trigger the puzzle. In such cases Daphne or Dominic might have something to say to give you a clue, or it's simply a matter of associating an item you find elsewhere with a potential puzzle.
Puzzle hunting is fun because Oakhaven Manor is an interesting place to explore. There are about 15 locations, more if you count the hallways and garden, plus a trip through the swamp nearer the end of the game.
Although the graphics are limited as each location is a single, flat screen, they are warm and delicate. Oakhaven Manor feels inviting as each room is intricately drawn and decorated with elaborate furnishings and lots of loving attention paid to the detail of the decoration. There are a few animations, too, such as a fire crackling in its hearth and the pendulum of the grandfather clock swinging to the sound of tick ... tick.
Tick ... tick ... that's all you hear in the entrance hall — more sound would have diminished the effect. The background music is very well chosen, various areas of the manor have nice relaxing musical themes ranging from light orchestral to a couple of vocal blues numbers which really worked well given the setting of the game.
Other than Simone, there are two characters to meet that look a bit pasted on. They have a little more of the story to impart as you are ultimately drawn along to discover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Daphne's mother, Rachel. It's a good little yarn of forbidden love involving, witches and voodoo, although it would have been more balanced if told at more regular intervals, in smaller packages, as the major telling comes in a diary at the end of the game when there is a lot of reading to do.
There is also some reading to do earlier in the proceedings because there are no voices. All the dialogue appears in a text box on screen in bite size passages. Just click when you've finished reading to move on to the next passage, so there's no rush, you can't get left behind. It's all nicely written and very easy to read, although there's no way to repeat a conversation if there's something you might want to recap on, unless you restore to an earlier save game. You can also do some quite interesting reading on voodoo in the library.
Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation ran smoothly in Win XP, with no hitches at all. The various game functions are easily accessible from a menu bar that appears when you move the cursor to the top of the screen. Here you can swap between characters, open save and load menus separately, and access your inventory. Inventory items are clearly identified with a text label and you can combine various items.
It's a sweet little journey, it could bring a tear to your eye. It's an indie game, so Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation isn't flashy and sophisticated, but it is warm and charming. As I said earlier, a bit more difficulty in the puzzles would have been good, but it all fits together to make a diverting little trip to while away an afternoon or two.
You can purchase Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation online, direct from Mystery Manor.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2006.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium or higher processor (500 Mhz minimum), 32 Mb RAM, DirectX 5 or above. Supports all DirectX-Compatible Sound and Video Cards.