The Lost Crown
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Developer: Darkling Room
Release Date: 06/08/2014
In preparation of the upcoming sequel, Iceberg has decided the original Lost Crown needed to be brought to the masses via Steam. Not content to just dump the game on there, the developer made numerous changes to streamline the game for a new audience.
Originally released in 2008, The Lost Crown picked up a number of our yearly awards. Check out Lucard’s review here and see why it won Best PC Game, Best Adventure Game, and Best Story that year. However, that was six years ago. The question here is whether or not this point-and-click horror adventure can still bring the scares.
The story starts off with one Nigel Danvers on the run from his employer. It seems he stumbled across (and stole) some documents that prove Hadden Industries is performing paranormal experiments. His boss isn’t too mad though. He merely convinces Nigel to perform some ghost hunting experiments in order to absolve himself.
The town of Saxton plays host to Nigel’s hunting. This creepy seaside town has a long history of smugglers, treasures, and ghosts. It’s the perfect place for a enthusiastic investigator to start working. It’s also chock full of strange and interesting characters. There’s the old lady who seems to know all about Nigel, the antique dealer with a fetish for wooden dolls, the rival treasure hunter, and more. Saxton’s many mysteries and denizens are the star of the show to be sure.
This is a rather spooky tale that uses atmosphere and pacing to get some real scares out of the player. Rather than simply rely on jump scares, the game mixes things up. Some of the paranormal activity you encounter is rather benign. You might see a light flicker or strange orbs floating in the air. Just when you’ve started to get comfortable, that’s when the pissed off ghost with a scythe shows up. Even when it’s not scary, it’s still creepy/spooky. Things only get better at night, when you have to rely on night vision in order to see.
However, there are some problems. For starters, there isn’t enough variation in the reactions the characters have to all the spooky stuff happening around them. For example, at one point Nigel and another would be ghost hunter are using cameras to monitor a cottage at night. All of the sudden, one of the cabinets starts shaking. Drawers are opening and closing, the doors are slamming shut, and the whole thing is acting like there’s an earthquake. The response from the characters is “Yes. There’s definitely some mild activity going on here.” It’s just off. Also, some of the subplots are dropped or end abruptly in anticlimactic fashion.
Don’t get the wrong idea though. The story is overall quite solid and interesting. It utilizes folklore and historical background to create a realistic town with a plethora of skeletons in the closet. You’ll end up hooked in no time. Add in a dash of humor and you’ve got the recipe for a tale that will stick with you after it’s over.
Visually, the game is dated but still quite beautiful. The character models are janky, don’t animate well, and the mouths don’t match the words being spoken. However, the game’s decision to use black and white pays off big time. Color is used sparingly, and always pops as a result. A large part of what makes the atmosphere so memorable is the oppressive gloom of the colorless town. It’s a look that will prove effective for many years to come I’m sure.
The Lost Crown uses a minimal soundtrack of spooky tunes and some classical stuff. The music take a backseat to the effects for once. Every creepy sound in the book makes it into this game. Coughs, buzzing, hooting owls, strange whispers and more haunt your every footstep. Add in the cackle of your ghost hunting equipment, and you’ll be biting your nails in worry before long. It’s really well done, especially if you play with headphones on.
Sadly, the voices just don’t hold up well. The accents are all right, mostly because the cast is authentic. However, the acting is way off. Lucy, Nigel’s ghost hunting friend, is the worst of the bunch. She’s got some of the most emotionally charged lines in the game. It’s too bad she sounds like she’s just bored half of the time. Seriously. If you’re begging a dying person to breathe, you might want to put some oomph into it.
For the most part, The Lost Crown plays like any other point-and-click game. Control is done completely through use of the mouse. If you want Nigel to go somewhere, you merely need to click on it. There are different way to interact wit the environment, and the cursor changes to reflect that. There are separate icons for pick up, observe, and use item on. This clues you in as to what you need to do with any given item. You can also right click on inventory items in order to examine them more closely. It’s simple and effective.
Where the game branches off from the norm is with it’s ghost hunting gadgets. You get to use a video camera, a digital camera, a voice-activated recorder, and an EVP meter. When you suspect an object might be haunted, you can try these gadgets. Sometimes you’ll get nothing. Sometimes you’ll have a angry ghost inches from your face. The two cameras come in handy during other parts of the game as well. You’ll need to take pictures of things for a contest and various puzzles for instance. When an area is too dark to see, you’ll use the night vision of the video camera to navigate. These gadgets and their inconsistent success really help to create the game’s atmosphere.
In terms of puzzles, the game primarily uses the environmental kind. For example, at one point you decide to pilfer a telescope from a museum. In order to do that, you need to get past the security cameras. The way you do that is by snapping a picture of the undisturbed exhibit and rigging it so the camera only sees this picture. It’s a logical puzzle that’s fun to work out. Oftentimes, you’ll need to find clues in the environment itself. You might discover a ghostly voice or a journal entry that gives you the combination to that safe. There are a few parts where the solutions are a bit abstract, but it’s logical more often than not.
You may be wondering what the differences are between this version of the game and the original. For the most part, the changes are minor details like the smoke from a train stack sticking closer to the engine. However, several of the changes help modernize the experience. For example, you can now double click on an exit point to have Nigel instantly travel to the next location. You’ll probably save a couple hours of watching Nigel walk to and fro because of this. Also, you can now skip dialogue. This is great if you stumble across lines you’ve already heard before. It’s nothing mind bending to be sure, but these changes will definitely be noticeable to people who’ve played the game before.
Short Attention Span Summary
The Lost Crown is still a darn good game six years later. While some of the technical aspects are a bit dated, the storytelling and atmosphere is as good or even better than similar games today. I can’t often say that I’ve been spooked by a video game, but this one pulled it off. With the upcoming sequel set to pick up where this game left off, there’s no time better than the present to go on a hunt for ghosts with Nigel Danvers.
Tags: darkling room, iceberg interactive, PC, the lost crown