HP Lovecraft adaptations always interest me. As a fan of the author's work, I'm aware of how much material it offers for adaptation into other media. Videogames have proven especially fond of his material, recycling plots, themes, and especially monster designs since the days of text adventures. Yet Hidden Object adaptations have been oddly scarce on the ground. Despite a large number of stories which would be remarkably easy to adapt, I've only been able to find word of three titles. Mountains of madness, reviewed here, Cats of Ulthar, which I'm trying to find a copy of, and this game, Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward. Mountains of Madness was a stellar game - how does this one change the HPL adaptation average?
Criteria 1: To what degree do the puzzle screens look like a thrift store vomited on my monitor?
It's pretty bad. While the backgrounds of the screens are beautifully drawn, very little care was put into placing the hidden objects on them. There's size cheating, gravity cheating, even strange overlapping effects. There are decent amount of HOSs in the game, but none of them rise about a mediocre level of quality.
Criteria 2: Are the searches justified by the premise/story?
Strictly 12:1 screens here. Lots of lists of random items, with one that must be grabbed to continue the story. The environmental puzzles are actually something of a high point in the game. There are plenty of interesting nooks and crannies to be explored throughout the mansion in which the game is set (it couldn't be less of a hotel, despite the title). It's a naturally complex location, with countless locks to open and secrets to ferret out, most of which proceed in a logical fashion using the items that turn up in the HOSs. It's just too bad the developers didn't put a little more work into making the screens feel like part of the game world.
Criteria 3: How well do the various puzzles and object searches meld together to form a coherent whole?
While many of the locks and puzzles are a little on the contrived side, the setting does a good job of excusing them. The nefarious Joseph Curwen, an ancestor of Charles as well as his twin sister (who serves as the game's protagonist), was a mad warlock, so filling his house with ornate obstacles seems like a natural fit. The game's story has a few problems, though, largely because it's built around a twist that's almost painfully obvious from the moment the first clues are dropped. I won't spoil all the details, but suffice it to say that the main character's quest to save her brother from a fate worse than death is characterized more by passion than intellect, and the player will find themselves controlling a character who varrels through a complex situation with confidence that borders on delusional.
While Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward may be a huge step down from Mountains of Madness, it's still a passable HOG, and it does a good job of adapting its source material. While it isn't the exact story, the central themes are well-presented, and the developers have the good sense not to tamper with the ending too much. Even the bonus chapter, which delves a little further into the Cthulhu Mythos for some fan-service, doesn't cop out and try to put too happy a spin on things.
My ruling? This puts the overall quality of Lovercraft HOGS at around a 6.5 - now to track down the Cats of Ulthar and see where that moves the needle!
Check out the first part of my playthrough here: