There’s something about classic point-and-click adventure games that lends itself well to horror. The slower pace offers a greater chance to revel in a well-crafted atmosphere, building with each clue the player uncovers regarding the plot. Very rarely are there opportunities to slay the monsters in these games–only to discover the horrors they’ve wreaked, and the effects such hard-earned knowledge may have on the character you play.
For my money, Scratches is the best damn example of this genre.
The game follows writer Michael Arthate. Struggling to follow up on the success of his last book, a friend of his arranges a writing retreat in an aging estate. It isn’t long before Michael begins to realize the house has a sordid history complete with suspected murder and disappearances, among other bizarre incidents. Worse, it seems as though Michael will have the chance to encounter some of the house’s strangeness firsthand…
While Scratches doesn’t offer anything particularly new from a gameplay or graphics perspective (the game was a small production made in 2006, after all), the skill with which it executes its narrative makes it a standout. Nearly from the start, the game’s tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The music is superb, evoking unease and genuine dread during a number of key moments. While adventure games are notorious for their difficulty, Scratches manages to maintain a respectable level of challenge without resorting to the moon logic of its brethren (although a few puzzles do skate close to the ridiculous, especially in the last act). And then, there’s the story. It’s a gem. The murder mystery seed planted early develops into something far more twisted and unnatural (this is me trying to avoid spoilers), making each new bit of the story a pleasure to unveil.
Some might be put off by Scratches‘ slow burn style of gaming, but I adore it. It’s the rare game that gave me everything I wanted from it going in: a mystery to tug at my brain rather than my trigger finger. Even after a few years, the experience has stuck with me, and I’d love to share it with all of you. Alas, the game is no longer available on Steam, but you can always hunt it down on Amazon like I did. While the game’s developer, Nucleosys, has long gone out of business, founder Augustin Cordes went on to create Senscape. They’ve been hard at work on a new game (Asylum) that will hopefully be out soon after years of development. Here’s hoping Cordes can capture that lightning in a bottle twice.
Check out Senscape’s Asylum page on Steam here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/230210/ASYLUM/