The Chzo Mythos
Who doesn't love Trilby? All debonaire and gentlemanly in that pin-stripe suit, it's enough to melt even the chilliest of hearts. He's a fine character to introduce us to the Chzo Mythos, a series of four point-and-click games (Windows, freeware) in which the player is offered the chance to unravel the mystery of... well, that's really for you to find out.
The suspense began in 2003 with the release of 5 Days a Stranger, a game that drops the player (via gentlemanly thief Trilby) into the Defoe manor — a typically cliché manor. Although cliché manors usually instigate cliché troubles, these games are anything but cliché.
Each game will put you in control of a different character. Controls are primarily mouse-based, though some keyboard shortcuts are offered. The interface of each game differs slightly. Developer Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw seemed to experiment with the controls over the course of development. You will guide each character through spooky mansions, hotels, and even a space ship, to find clues that unravel the storyline and to figure out just what the heck is going on. Fear not, for you will also find a variety of characters with subtle personality differences (sometimes ranging from dismissive to laughably deranged). The result is a long and satisfying adventure.
The Chzo Mythos is story-heavy, so it may not attract everyone. And, as previous posts have suggested, these games are quite creepy (particularly Trilby's Notes) and ooze with atmosphere, and thus are not for the faint of heart — youngsters beware! This goes doubly for some adult themes sprinkled throughout. However, Croshaw obviously put a lot of effort into the backstory for his games, and it shows. He demonstrates his ability to send chills down the player's spines without "pop-and-scare" tactics. Still, you may not want to play in the dark.
Fans of the mouse will enjoy the interface and gameplay. Others might find it a little frustrating. Make use of the keyboard shortcuts, and you will probably cut back on your frustration and profanity usage. And as long as we're discussing frustration, you may want to save early and often. Certain parts of each game may require you to react suddenly and without warning in a situation that can end in your character's death. But endure these shortcomings and you will be rewarded with a rich gaming experience that keeps you on your toes.
Analysis: The Chzo Mythos (or the 'Trilby' or 'Defoe' series) encompasses exactly the type of gaming experience I love: rich in narrative and deep in atmosphere. The series engaged my curiosity and compelled me to continue playing through two full days that it took to reach its conclusion. If you care to peak into the psyche of the game characters you meet, then I recommend you explore the adventure that awaits you in this series. My guess is you'll be pleased you made the effort. For the best experience, I recommend that you play the games in order of release: