Review: House of 1000 Doors: Collector’s Edition (PC)

House of 1000 Doors: Family Secrets Collector’s Edition
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Developer: Alawar Five-BN
Genre: Adventure/Hidden Object
Release Date: 12/22/2011

Fresh off of Mountain Crime: Requital, I immediately moved my attentions to House of 1000 Doors. Despite my less than favorable reception of MC, I was really interested in this. You see, I’d played the hour long trial and found it quite interesting. A game that involved helping lost souls find peace sounded cool, and I liked the puzzle elements of the game.

So, I’m back with another adventure title for the PC. Will my faith in the genre be redeemed, or am I in for another disappointment?

Story

Kate is a down on her luck fiction writer when a mysterious package invites her to a séance. Skeptical, she attends only to come face to face with the spirit of her own grandmother. Said grandmother tells Kate of a haunted house that appears from time to time. She implores Kate to visit said house and solve the mysteries inside and clear the family name (turns out they were legitimate mediums who got discredited).

You’ll spend most of the story moving around the mansion and trying to help out lost souls. These include a woman held captive on a perpetually moving train, star crossed lovers, and even a witch whose name you’ve probably said a few times while facing a mirror. There are also fellow humans in the house who require your help. They seem to have powers all their own, as well as a connection to a mysterious benefactor.

While Kate doesn’t say much after the first couple of cutscenes, the story is still interesting. The lost souls all have sob stories and are pathetic enough that you actually want to help them. It’s also interesting to find bits and pieces of the puzzle as you move from screen to screen. Most of the back story is revealed via old clippings and journal entries. Even without it, though, the story is solid and interesting enough to see you through. Best of all, it’s the kind of thing that could seamlessly continue without any hackneyed plot devices. This is the House of 1000 Doors after all. There are plenty left to go.

It feels like the beginning of an interesting television drama. That’s to say that if this were a TV show, I’d watch it. While it may not be a classic, it is great for killing time.

Graphics

The game has a clear Victorian style it’s going for, and it works out quite well. While character models aren’t very appealing, the art style is interesting and matches the tone and feel of the game. There was plenty of attention given to little details, even if they weren’t a part of the game from a playing standpoint. There’s also a strong use of color throughout, helping environments seem unique.

Overall, this is a decent looking game, though it stumbles in a few areas. The human look alien, and only portions of their mouths animate during speech. The latter is simply alarming to watch. Still, they don’t do much talking, so this rarely comes up, and at least they aren’t making idiots of themselves by attempting to move around. They sit quietly and help you move the story forward, preventing a serious amount of disgust, unlike Mountain Crime. For a budget game, this looks decent enough.

Audio

Is the voice acting any good? No. Is it bad? A bit. However, there is so little of it, I didn’t have to rip out my own ears. Actually, there are a couple of tolerable voice actors in the bunch. It’s mostly the people you meet in the mansion that deliver the headaches, and they each get two or three times to speak. So, it’s bad, but there’s an upside.

The music is fitting in that it conveys a sense of foreboding. It uses low key piano tunes for the most part. There’s nothing here that you’ll be humming to yourself, but it gets the job done in all of the important ways. It’s satisfactory.

Overall, I found the audio mostly enjoyable. There are plenty of appropriate sound effects, bad but limited voice acting, and fitting music. It’s nothing notable, but not every game can have a killer soundtrack.

Gameplay

This game is pretty much split into two types. Firstly you have the adventure bits, which are classic point and click affairs in which you use discovered objects to solve puzzles and move forward. There are also hidden object sections, but these have a fun twist.

When moving around the mansion, the controls are simple. You need merely click on a doorway or the bottom of the screen to move around. There is some possibility that you’ll accidentally click on the inventory tab instead, but you’ll get the hang of things quickly enough. Items of interest can be added to your inventory with a simple click. Very often, you’ll need to grab an object from your inventory and use it to interact with some other object in the environment. A simple example is using a nutcracker to open up an acorn, while a more complex example involves placing wood on a stump, chopping it with an axes, using that wood to start a fire, using boiling water to melt ice so that you can get a pickaxe, and then using said pickaxe to free a gem from some stone.

The puzzles are quite clever in this way, and apart from a handful of items that stick around too long, most of it has a logical use that will move you forward. There are also some more classic one off puzzles that test your gray matter. From slide puzzles to circuit boards, these are some of the most challenging parts of the game. However, these can be skipped after a certain amount of time.

The hidden object sections start out easily enough. You have a list of items to find, and you need merely click on one to cross it off. There are a couple of hiccups though. Firstly, items in red are not available on the screen. Instead, you’ll need to perform some action to make them appear. This can be as simple as lifting a couch cushion to combing items to make a new one. Another change, although not a positive one, is that new items will appear on your list to replace ones you’ve crossed off. The issue here is that you can’t click on an item until it appears on your list. So, you may think you’ve found everything under said couch cushion, but you might end up going back to it because of a new item appearing on your list.

The controls and gameplay are pretty standard for the genre, and the game does nothing to really set itself apart from the pack. Still, it plays well and there are plenty of interesting puzzles to work out. That’s all you really need.

Replayability

There are two difficulty settings. The easier difficulty allows you to use hints more often while highlighting areas of interest, while the harder difficulty is very strict with the help. However, there’s no reason to replay the game with a different difficulty. The puzzles remain the same, and on a second run through, you’ll know all of the answers. That take the fun out of it.

In terms of running time, the game will take you around five hours, give or take an hour depending on how willing you are to use hints if you get stuck. It isn’t long, but it’s standard for this kind of game.

The collector’s edition offers a bit of a bonus, however. After you’ve beaten the game, a new chapter opens up. This one takes about another hour to complete and is just as good as the rest of the game. More than just a cheap knockoff, this chapter is very interesting because of how well it connects to the main story.

So, while this game may not take you long, the CE adds some extra time to your game.

Balance

Like most of these game, House of 1000 Doors is as difficult as you make it. With the game on easy, hints are almost always available, and they’ll gladly lead you right to your next objectives. Can’t beat a tough puzzle? Wait a minute or two and skip it. This game is very lenient when it comes to making it through the story.

If you don’t abuse the hints, there will be many times where you’ll end up stuck. More than likely, you’ll need to backtrack and find that one object you forgot to click on. A few of the puzzles will tax your brain as well, especially if you aren’t that great with visual puzzles. I do better with logic puzzles, so I had a few problems.

The CE includes a strategy guide as well. This guide points out every are you need to click on, and flat out tells you what you’ll need to do. You can access it freely from the menu, which means that you’ll never be stuck, even if you choose the harder difficulty and can’t use a hint a minute.

These games are about the experience, not the challenge. As such, I won’t single out this game for being a bit too easy to work through.

Originality

This is a standard among the point and click genre. It does nothing new to entice players, but it doesn’t need to. These games rely on stories and puzzles, and that’s what this game offers. Thanks to Alawar, I’ve played a few of these games recently, and while there are differences, they play pretty much the same. I’d like to add that this is not a bad thing in and of itself, but players looking for something original simply won’t find what it here.

Addictiveness

There’s nothing like a good puzzle, and this is a game that keeps them coming early and often. As such, it is easy to play for long stretches of time. Like Mountain Crime, I played this game all the way through in about two sittings, including the bonus chapter. I just saw no reason to stop playing, despite the brand new games I got for Christmas. Once I started this up, I had to continue.

I made a mention of this game’s accessibility and how it constantly pushes you forward. While that may not be the best in terms of presenting a challenge, it certainly keeps you playing. There are no frustrating moments to be found. It makes this hard game to walk away from.

Appeal Factor

Once again, the market for these types of games are niche at best. However, the accessibility means that anyone who wants to will be able to get into this game. House of 1000 Doors gets some bonus points here because the story is interesting from start to finish.

The collector’s edition also gets bonus points because of the extra chapter. More gameplay equates to more bang for you buck, especially with this kind of game. Fans will likely prefer this version to the regular.

Miscellaneous

I’ve touched on some of the aspects of the CE, but I’ll list them here.

Firstly, you get a bonus chapter. This isn’t directly tied to the story of the main game, but it still works nicely. As I mentioned before, this universe could work well as a serial, and the bonus chapter helps prove that.

Secondly, you get a strategy guide. Combined with hints, this makes the game almost impossible to leave incomplete. I didn’t really find myself using it, but I did check it out. It could definitely help with some of the tougher puzzles.

Finally, the game includes a collection of wallpapers for your computer. These are all screen shots. I didn’t find any that I really liked. In fact, a few of them were pretty ugly. Still, not enough games even offer that kind of thing, so I have to give it some points.

The Scores
Story: Enjoyable
Graphics: Decent
Audio: Decent
Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Awful
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Above Average
Final Score: Mediocre Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
For fans of point and click games, House of 1000 Doors is a pretty safe bet. The story is enjoyable, and the mechanics are solid throughout. The areas where it lags are the norms for this genre. The presentation is lackluster and there is no replay value or originality. Still, it’s a quality game sure to give those who play through it some enjoyment. I can easily recommend this to anyone needing a quick adventure fix.

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