Genre: Horror Adventure
Release Date: May 2007
Note: Originally published 22 June 2007
The author of this review would like to warn all of those with health problems - especially blood pressure/heart problems - that exposure to this game may be hazardous to your health and can result in serious injury or death.
In other words, this game is scary. Very scary. If you have played hundreds of horror adventure games and think nothing can affect you, then Scratches: Director’s Cut/The Last Visit is the game that will change your opinion.
Scratches: Director’s Cut is a new release based on the original Scratches. This review will not assume familiarity with the old game, but I’m hoping that you have already played it by the time you read this review.
For those of you who get this game in the hope that there will be plot differences from the origial game, sorry to disappoint you, but up to the end, the games are identical. The extra chapter and improved graphics are the only differences, but the game is still worth its asking price either for the collector or someone new to the game. (Editor's note: There are also auditory enhancements, a hint system and access to Michael Arthate's diary.)
You are Michael, a horror story writer. You are invited by a friend, Jerry, to stay in an old abandoned house known as The Blackwood Manor. You happily accept the invitation as this would allow you to rest and work in a completely silent environment. Completely? Ugh …. probably yes, except for those strange scratching noises you keep hearing all over the house…
Soon you will discover that the house is not a place of peace. An evil thing seems to have taken over the whole house, locking you in and isolating you from everything else…
In The Director’s Cut version, there is an additional chapter. You are now a reporter hoping to write a follow-up story about the strange happenings at Blackwood Manor. But Michael won’t speak to you and Jerry has been imprisoned. You only have a few days to explore the manor before it is demolished for good. Even a few good horror shots for your magazine editor would be a bonus, but what you get instead is an unexpected and terrifying surprise. You know the saying ‘what you see is what you get?' It will soon be ‘what you got is what you deserved!’ The finale of this chapter also explains what really happened on the Blackwood property.
Any game that involves a creepy house is a must-play for me - perhaps this explains why I have played Alone in the Dark so many times – not only is this my favorite scenario, I think it may also become your favorite after playing the new edition of Scratches.
Scenario grade: A
The game will run in either full screen or windowed mode. It should be noted that running in windowed mode is not an option in the game, but you must manually change the scream.ini (found in the installation directory) to achieve that. The old game wouldn’t run when your screen resolution was uncommon (like the 1280x800), forcing you to either call the tech support or Google for the results. The new game has that fixed.
Otherwise, the graphics are good, very good. An old creepy house with gray-scale colors and some beautiful locations will raise your playing experience to the top. Those that have played the old game will find the new locations very exciting.
Oh, and a bug in the new game: some doors have their knobs at the right, but the mouse operates on a ‘virtual knob’ at the left. Remember this when you are desperate. It is worth noting that this occurs on the very main door, but not in the extra chapter!
Graphics grade: A+
As I am myself a professional in music, I naturally judge the sound in any game with a very high degree of criticism. I must say now that the sound in this game is extremely good. A beautiful introduction piece, some handsome scene and horror themes, and some excellent sound effects will not only give you the creeps, but also prepare you for the upcoming evil…
The new version has some new themes for The Last Visit, which are also good. I must admit that although I don’t like the voice of the reporter, Michael’s voice is amazing, simply one of the best voices heard in an adventure game. Yes, it is even better than Stauf’s voice in 7th Guest.
And my favorite: the theme in the house basement. Yes, that sound is pure evil and there is no way that I could stay in that damnable place for more than a few minutes!!
This is one of the very few games is which sound is actually the primary reason that the game is so atmospheric. Probably that explains why there is no option to disable the sound in the game!
Sound grade: A+
The original Scratches used the mouse for a 3-dimension view of the area. Your screen moves only when the mouse pointer reaches the screen limits. This is no longer the default; a Myst-Style movement has been implemented with the mouse being your eyes, but the older style still exists as an option (and in my opinion, it is better).
This game is a 1st-person adventure, and before you start griping, I must say that it works well. No pixel-hunting, a good feel of the areas, no problems at all.
Press ESC to go to the main panel, F5/F7 to save/load a quick save. Right click to get your inventory. All working well so far.
So, why only a ‘B’ for the control? Simple. Only 10 save slots are available. I don’t understand how someone can spend time and money to create such a beautiful adventure game, and then they don’t implement a very simple and easy saving/restoring method. Who would we need only 10 saves? AND, The Last Visit shares those 10 slots as well!
Control grade: B
Atmosphere grade: A+++++
Yes, there is nothing to say. Please buy this game only for its great atmosphere, as it overshadows even superb oldies like Alone in the Dark, Gabriel Knight 2, Shivers and Black Mirror.
Action & Riddles
This would deserve a 99% if it was not for a few cumbersome situations. Many things can be done in any order, but this eventually turns out to be very confusing because there will be points at which you won’t know what to do next and simply try everything until you succeed (remember Simon the Sorcerer?).
I found the search for candles very annoying. You have to call your friend again and again, and this can get very frustrating. Lots of information can be obtained through telephone calls, which may be convenient; but in reality, no one instructs you what to do from the phone when you are abandoned in an old creepy house [And you know this from first-hand experience? - Randy J].
An important note: ‘Director’s Cut’ in films means that there are some scenes that were cut from the original version, but are now included. There is no such thing in the newer game, which is (as said earlier), exactly the same as the old game. Instead, there is an added chapter and improved graphics. (Editor's note: There are also auditory enhancements, a hint system and access to Michael Arthate's diary.)
Every crooked house game always involves some standard horror – producing areas, like an attic, a cellar, some weird greenhouse, and more. Yes, this has been a standard ever since game like Laura Bow 1, but new games must also follow the rules in order to be successful.
The Last Visit requires you to uncover the secrets of the manor. Some parts of the house are not anymore accessible, and the whole place is ruined. The evil cellar is still accessible, but the fatal actions take place in a room that was not important in the old game. Muhahahahah!!......
You won’t have troubles with the puzzles (they are all inventory – based), except that you may encounter a problem due to the limited light sources. Hopefully your eyes will get used to this dark game.
What disappointed me most about The Last Visit, is that its shortness left me wanting more, which in itself is not a bad thing.
Action & Riddles grade: B+
For those that haven’t played the older version: Go GET it !!
For the people that have already experienced the first game, it is your choice, but it is a choice I recommend.
Final Grade: A+
800 MHz CPU
128 MB RAM
16 MB OpenGL-compatible video card
24x CD-ROM drive