Escape from Frankenstein's Castle
Things are not going well for Hannah. A motorcycle crash separated her from her husband, and she wakes up in a creepy castle staring at a strange figure in the window. Her head hurts, she can't remember anything, and the people in this place won't let her leave. A ghost named Isabella appears who says she once suffered the same fate, trapped in the castle and kept from the one she loved. Now, Hannah is determined to find freedom in the new casual adventure game Escape from Frankenstein's Castle.
Shuffling about each room, one of the first things you'll notice about Escape from Frankenstein's Castle is that there are items to be found, but no lists. The game is decidedly more adventure than hidden object in nature, so you'll spend your time poking with inventory objects and gathering things to store for later use. When it's time to bring out a collected item, it'll be obvious what you need to use. Otherwise, Hannah or Isabella will let you know.
You'll spend a lot of time moving back and forth between rooms, gradually opening new places to explore. Because backtracking is such a big part of the experience, each area has layers of things to explore, many sub-zones and items only becoming active when they're needed in the story. Some of the books in the library, for example, seem innocent enough until you need a specific bit of knowledge from their pages. This rewards thorough explorers for clicking on everything in sight and remembering where certain items are located.
A really interesting feature of Escape from Frankenstein's Castle is the ghost, Isabella, and her memory ability. Certain rooms in the castle are familiar to her and will trigger a quick 3D refocus, replacing current items with what she remembers from the past. This usually works to give you a clue how to progress, such as showing you a blueprint for a device you're trying to fix. If you use this ability in the starting room, though, you'll slowly piece together Isabella's story using items you find throughout the mansion. It's a great device for filling out the backstory, and the idea of having unnamed items scattered throughout the game is always intriguing.
Analysis: Escape from Frankenstein's Castle handles itself a bit differently than most casual adventure releases. It doesn't rely on hidden objects so much, which is always appreciated, and instead shoves the focus squarely on the story and the puzzles. While the plot is a bit contrived, it's told through silent cutscenes and quick conversations that really pull you in.
There are a lot of "figure it out yourself" puzzles that set you to a task and leave you alone, providing more information only if you start clicking on the task list at the bottom of the screen. This lack of hand holding is a great device that lets you adjust the difficulty on a per-puzzle basis. Even the mini-games just sort of throw you into the midst of things!
One thing baffles me about Escape from Frankenstein's Castle: loading screens. And not just a loading screen here or there. Moving through the first six rooms you'll encounter several loading screens, something I haven't seen since the days of CD-ROM gaming. Why they're necessary in a casual adventure game I have no clue, but they go by within a second or two, so they don't break the flow of the game up too much.
Escape from Frankenstein's Castle has a unique look to it and plays a little differently than most of its cousins. You'll enjoy the puzzles and the story, you'll scratch your head every time you see a loading screen, and when it's all over, you'll wonder why it wasn't twice as long.