Robert Washburne assesses the latest Carol Reed game
April 7, 2014
Bosch's Damnation is the tenth installment in the Carol Reed Mysteries series. The name refers to a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, a 16th century Dutch painter, which plays a central part in the game.
For those of you who are new to Carol Reed Mysteries (welcome!), Carol is a young British girl living in Norrköping, Sweden. She spends her time tending her allotment and solving the occasional mystery.
In Bosch's Damnation she receives a call from George, an elderly gentleman who cleans the houses of the Stierngranat family, one of the richest families in town. The whole family, including the daughter's boyfriend, left on a ten day skiing trip to Europe. That was over a month ago and George is starting to get concerned for the family (and the fact that he hasn't received his last two paychecks).
Carol gets right on the job searching for clues, but she barely hits her stride when George calls and tells her that the family has contacted him. They love Europe so much that they are going to sell their house and stay there. And they sent him his back pay. So all is good. Case closed.
But several months later a story hits the newspaper that the body of the boyfriend has been found in the old family barn where it has apparently lain for several months. So Carol picks up where she left off.
Despite being a murder mystery, Bosch's Damnation is not a story-centric game. The story is simple enough and the police would probably have solved the case in a couple of days without Carol's help. Indeed, it wouldn't even have to have been committed in Florida to be believed.
The game is not puzzle-centric. Oh, there are plenty of puzzles, but they are all inventory-based and concerned with opening doors and clever puzzle boxes. Most of these are quite easy with only a few puzzles of medium difficulty. But if you get stuck, Carol's journal is always there to tell you what to explore next and how to solve the current puzzle.
Where Bosch's Damnation shines is with the scenery. The graphics are all photographs of the town, its environs and its people. The game is a delightful tour of a small Swedish town and specifically the museums founded by Malte Stierngranat. Playing the game is very much like taking a short sight-seeing holiday.
My only criticism is that the game is occasionally ultra-linear. I ran into several puzzles where I knew the solutions, but the game would not let me solve them until it was convinced that Carol knew the answer. For example, say I looked down and saw something shiny in a crack in the floor boards. I think, “Aha! I can use the magnet in my inventory to get that out.” But when I attempt to use the magnet on the crack it does nothing. So I just make a simple grab for it and the game tells me, “You can't fit your fingers in there.” NOW I can use the magnet. It took me a little while to realize that I had to slow down and just let the game unfold at its own pace. (Note: this was just an example. No actual magnets were used, harmed, exploited, taunted or otherwise molested in the making of this game.)
The bottom line is that Bosch's Damnation is a simple, beautiful, laid back game which will allow you to take a short vacation in Sweden. It was well made and enjoyable. I give it a solid “B.”