Genre: Action Adventure
Release date: September 26, 2014
Kraven Manor began as a project written by Demon Wagon Studios, a group of thirteen students from The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University. This was later expanded into a full game and released on Steam. It is the classic "Stuck in a haunted house and trying to find the way out while being chased by monsters."
The graphics are very good and quite atmospheric. Most of the time you must rely on your flashlight, but it's never so dark that you can't see what you're doing. This is creepy enough, but knowing that the monster can jump out at you at any time makes for nervous exploring. The monster does, however, have a weakness that makes it quite manageable once you figure it out. You'll probably die a few times before then but take heart, there is a Steam Achievement for completing the game without getting hurt, so it is possible.
The first part of the game is mostly exploration where you must search each room to find the object you need to move forward. Inventory is minimal – you can only carry one object at a time, but that is enough. I never had to go back to fetch a second object.
Puzzles are easy-to-medium in difficulty and mostly involve flipping stitches in the correct order. But there is one puzzle which is quite clever. There's a dollhouse miniature of the mansion in the entryway. You find and collect dollhouse versions of the rooms, and whereever you attach them to the model is where they'll appear in the “real” mansion. By rearranging the dollhouse you rearrange the mansion itself.
The second part of the game is non-stop action as you try to navigate the twisted maze you made of the rooms while dealing with the monsters; all the while, the house is burning down around you. I'm not an action game-oriented kind of guy, but I found this section to be fair and playable.
So, we have a well-made, short (but inexpensive) horror action adventure game. I actually enjoyed playing it. Did I find anything to complain about? Well, yes, yes I did.
The first issue I had was the lack of a Save Game capability. There are only save points which occur between chapters. So if you have to walk away to answer the door you'll lose all the work you did since the last save point. Frustrating, but common enough that I won't lower the score for it.
The second shortcoming is the story. It's weak and doesn't make any sense. Look around you. In the real world everything you see is the culmination of a process and the beginning of the future. There's continuity. In Kraven Manor the story goes something like this: Rich man with anger issues builds a mansion and studies the occult. Mansion is now abandoned, but filled with monsters who alternately help you and try to kill you. This naturally leads to an ending that makes less sense each time you look at it. No continuity anywhere.
The story reminds me of an old-fashioned campfire ghost story. They didn't make any sense either and were crafted just to be scary. But the game doesn't depend upon a story to be fun, so I won't let this affect the score either.
They could also have done so much more with the dollhouse, making it a 3D puzzle rather than the 2D they limited themselves to. But that's minor.
There is one flaw, however, which I cannot forgive – you must be an Administrator to play it. In this day and age you're going to run into malware of all types – viruses, root kits, ransomware, etc. You can't avoid it. One of the strongest defenses you have against this evil is to run with “Least Privilege.” That is, as a regular user. That way when you do run into a bit of digital blasphemy and you don't have the privilege to install a program, it won't have the privilege to install itself. The virus is dead in the water. But if you are running as Administrator, the virus has complete control of your system.
For this unconscionable lapse, forcing you to lower your defenses just to play the game, I will deduct a half point.
Final evaluation – a fun game, short but cheap. Not very deep, but it gets the job done.
+ Good Graphics
+ Very Atmospheric
+ Innovative dollhouse puzzle
+/- Intense action elements
- Must be Administrator to play
- Only saves at save points
- Weak storyline