Delaware St John Vol 3: The Seacliff Tragedy
Three down and as I understand it, seven to go. In Volume 3: The Seacliff Tragedy, Delaware finds himself in the abandoned Seacliff Amusement Park, abandoned that is by the living and the normal. It's cold, it's dark, and most of us would leave. Delaware, of course, heads inside.
And then goes back to get his flashlight and finds Kelly hiding in the truck. In the first two games Kelly is a voice at the end of the Voice Imagery Communicator (or VIC), Delaware's handy little investigative device. This time it's Simon holding the fort, and you get to explore the park and unravel the tragedy as both Kelly and Delaware. It's only one at a time, but it adds a little something, particularly as Kelly and Simon get to talk and speculate about Delaware.
As with the first two volumes, Volume 3: The Seacliff Tragedy has two stories, although they are really chapters of the same story. Nothing is resolved at the end of the first, and you can't play the second story first. You do get a score at the end of the first story, but that's about it as far as any resolution goes.
I didn't play Volume 2 but my recollection of Volume 1 is that the two stories occurred in the same spooky house but were indeed separate tales. It felt like two short games, whereas this is a longer and more satisfying story.
But of course it hasn't ended. One thing that is apparent is that there is an underlying story that is emerging, and which will, I assume, be built upon by subsequent episodes. You don't need to have played the earlier games to have this adventure, but the Hunter, the Protector and the Destroyer will mean a little more if you have. So too there are references to the back-story which are not explained but are simply assumed. It's intriguing, and certainly adds to the mix.
The game plays like the others, and is point and click in the "slideshow" fashion. You can usually turn 90 degrees at every point, or turn around. You don't look up or down, but in one puzzle there is a down arrow which I confused with the turn around arrow, as it had never resulted in looking down before.
Active cursors will tell you when you can look at or manipulate something, and your VIC is displayed along the bottom of the screen. It contains your inventory, a call button to speak to Simon (which operates as a hint system), and a camera and sound recorder which can be used to send material to Simon to analyse.
Surprisingly, I didn't send anything to Simon, at least nothing that resulted in anything useful. He did want a photo of the Shadow People, but every attempt to photograph them failed, and resulted in the character passing out. I gave up trying and flashed them instead (with my torch of course) which sent them running. Perhaps there are things that if photographed or recorded will lead to information or flesh out the storyline, but I didn't find or need them to complete the game.
I did find two maze puzzles, and both came with maps (of a kind). Plus in one of them, there is a door that will return you to the beginning from wherever you are. So don't panic if mazes aren't your thing. And as in both the earlier games, there is a chase sequence with the Hunter, which isn't timed but is limited by the moves you make. Failure will simply re-start you at the beginning of the sequence.
The Seacliff Tragedy is not a hard game, but some aspects kept me stumped for a while. On more than one occasion I couldn't find an item, not helped by the fact that at times you couldn't see it. For example, a seat might have a hotspot that gives you a close up that reveals the item, but looking at the seat itself reveals nothing. So unless you scroll your cursor around every scene fairly thoroughly, you might well be none the wiser. I don't mind having to look for things, but I like to be able to see them, and was not a fan of this aspect.
And why would I look at a notice board I had looked at once before without something to indicate I should do so again? Plus it's all the more frustrating when the action is the trigger to enable you to proceed, and without it you go nowhere. Perhaps I missed the clue, but this type of artificial difficulty is not a positive.
It's also very dark, the torch being the primary illumination. I confess I squinted a few times to try and see things.
Delaware however has no trouble seeing, and in more ways than one. He has visions which can provide little clues about what to do next. The vision might be of a token next to a can. It's a safe bet it's important, so start wandering to find the can and the token. He has another of a ball on a seat. Start searching the seats till you find the right one. Nothing in the vision said which one or where, so off you go.
Kelly and Delaware remain engaging characters, and Simon had a believable research style about him. Quite a few of the puzzles require a bit of thinking, and the cutscenes that pepper the goings provide a nice counterpoint and are well done, if a little blotchy. The music adds the right touch of suspense, and the voice acting fits the protagonists to a tee.
You can't skip scenes you might trigger twice, and you have to watch the company intro every time you start, something I personally find irritating. And whilst I was more enamoured of the Hunter/Protector story than I was of the tale that was the Seacliff tragedy, the last scene made me want to get Volume 4.
In the end, if a game leaves you with that taste in your mouth, then it is probably pretty pleased with itself.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2007.
All rights reserved.
Pentium 600 or better, 256MB RAM, 16x CD ROM, SVGA Graphics Card, DirectX 9.