I just finished Scratches: The Director’s Cut, a point-and-click adventure game I’ve had my eye on for a while. I first discovered the game because of a Kickstarter I saw for a horror adventure game called Asylum. After I watched the videos and read about their ideas for the game, I was pretty interested. For one thing, the Kickstarter page described it as “a psychological horror adventure inspired by H. P. Lovecraft and set in a massive, decaying mental institute.” There are a lot of things in that description that caught my attention. “Psychological horror,” “mental institute”….okay, let’s be honest here. My interest skyrockets when I see the name “H. P. Lovecraft” associated with something. But another notable thing about the way the game was described was that the page made a point that it was “from the designer of Scratches.”
Scratches was the previous game designed by Agustín Cordes, so I checked it out and learned that it was another point-and-click horror adventure game inspired by Lovecraft. I marked it down as a game I wanted to try. I backed Asylum, one thing led to another, and I finally ended up with a copy of Scratches.
I started playing it on Sunday, October 13. That was nearly perfect timing–the story begins on Saturday, October 12. Better yet, the player character was a horror writer! I was tempted to try to play the game quickly enough that I would finish it on the same day the game ended, but as you can tell, I was busy with other things and couldn’t do that.
Anyway, in Scratches, you play as Michael Arthate, a horror writer who has moved to a Victorian mansion to relax and finish writing his next novel. However, instead of getting right to work on that novel, he does what anyone in his position would do–explore the mansion!
It turns out that the mansion holds many secrets. A murder… records of a strange, legendary tribe encountered in Africa… diary entries about boarding up a door to try to stop the whispers… all sorts of lovely things. So what do you do? You decide to solve the mystery, of course!
Since this is a point-and-click adventure, it is fairly slow-paced. You won’t be racing around or fighting anything. Instead, you’ll explore the house, gather items, and solve puzzles in your attempt to piece together the true story of what happened there. It can be frustrating at times. I needed to use a guide more often that I’d like to admit. Some of the puzzles are a bit obscure, and you may find yourself frustrated because you don’t know what to do next, but even if you need to use a guide, it is worth it.
The atmosphere goes from pleasant to creepy rather fast, aided by the music and the setting. The story is disturbing. And, despite being a game where nothing can chase you, there were a few scary moments that got my heart pounding. It is horror, and Lovecraft’s influence creeps through.
The Director’s Cut also comes with a short episode set after the main game called The Last Visit. It’s worth playing and has its share of creepy moments, although it also clears up a lot of the story ambiguity that Scratches will leave you with. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you.
And if you hear scratches in the night… well… dare you go into the basement?
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