REVIEW / The Lost Crown: A Ghost Hunting Adventure (PC)

 

The Lost Crown makes it way to release on Steam with an enhanced edition. Originally released in 2008, The Lost Crown is part of a ‘quadrilogy’ to continue releases later this year and the re-release will also with the usual Steam bells and whistles of achievements and trading cards to go with the Steam debut. The story focuses on Nigel Danvers, a ghost hunter who leaves London to venture to the small town of Saxton, as he uncovers mysteries, ghosts, and secrets of the many side characters. Starting with just the clothes on his back, Nigel does upgrade to advanced tools, such as night vision camera,  to track the many ghosts you’ll find along the way.

 

Be prepared to hear this phrase...and see this 5 second cut scene...alot.

 

This is an adventure game in the purest sense. Don’t let the 3rd person to 1st person back and forth fool you, The Lost Crown is a point and click, puzzle solving adventure game. It does the adventure genre justice, but the gameplay is inconsistent at best. At the heart of every adventure game are puzzles and items. Both are so hit and miss during the play through that the misses really hampered the fun. First, with item management, the items ballooned quickly with many staying within your inventory for most of the adventure. Some were from old puzzles that had refused to take or never would leave the inventory once they were deemed no longer necessary. There is no palette cleanser to remove any excess inventory and start fresh. The biggest offender is the cottage key. In the beginning of the story, you are given a key to your residence for a simple introduction puzzle. No problem with that, but the problem comes when you are required to keep the key in your inventory and use it to unlock the cottage door. Every. Single. Time. When there are multiple instances of something like the cottage key in the game, it creates a bloated inventory and unnecessary actions. The puzzles were better. Most of them had a clear path to a solution, either through visual clues, an audio recording, or written in a book. There will always be those few beyond frustrating puzzles in an adventure game, but I never felt that getting a door open or cueing the next scene was holding me back. If you also haven’t fully explored an area, Nigel will refuse to leave the area and offer a reason such as “I still have yet to investigate everything here.” It helps to keep the frustration levels low and the player focused on one area, instead of aimlessly wandering and clicking anywhere on the screen.

What ended up being the strongest part of The Lost Crown was the exploration of new areas. Going into a new building with your ghost hunting gear trying to find paranormal evidence was a bigger rush than any quest or puzzle. You could have taken out the main narrative and had 5 random locations to find ghosts and it would have still worked. There was something about reading all of the lore and seeing something creepy and knowing it’s going to have some kind of history tied to it. The game also helps point out paranormal areas with a ghastly “here” when you are near one. Helpful for those hard to find final spots and still creepy when you hear the voice in the background. The first time you go to the Saxton museum was a stand out for exploration. It was chock full of lore and creepy items that really showcased what The Lost Crown was all about.

 

A nice use of a photo of the town for the background of the scene.

 

The Lost Crown’s missions and pacing were the biggest factors holding the title back. The game does a nice job of trying to keep the player with a guideline on where to go next. There are ‘chapter breaks’ that will wrap up what happened before and also give a few clues on where to proceed to next in. Filler missions through the game are common and didn’t seem to add much to the overall story aside from adding on a few hours of gameplay. On top of filler missions sticking out like a sore thumb, some of them were also fetch quests. With the artistic backgrounds, which we’ll delve into later, some items were next to impossible to find and could not stand out in black and white.  So many spots during the adventure were grounded to a screeching halt because of a fetch mission that would devolve into mindlessly clicking onto the background waiting for something to show up in your inventory.

Is it scary? Yes, The Lost Crown is scary. Very Scary. Many pictures and videos taken with the ghost hunting equipment are downright creepy and stick with you well after you leave the game. With a focus more on tension than gore or jump scares, there was a feeling of dread when opening a door or turning on the lights in an unlit room.  Nigel’s cottage dialed up the horror throughout the entire game, and even though only a few techniques were used, they still were able to hold up and keep with the terror all game.

 

Creepy...very creepy

 

The focus for The Lost Crown seemed to be more on the story and art design. The story was expansive and unique for a video game. The Lost Crown touched upon several generations of families through the town of Saxton and weaved a narrative successfully through all of them. All of the journals, books, and letters written were well done and added to the overall atmosphere. The dialogue was passable. None of the conversations stood out and much of the dialogue was repeated, some ad nauseam. Much of the story is based around the Anglo- Saxons who had inhabited the area a very long time ago. A part of history that has not been touched on much in any form of media, and was an interesting change of pace. Nigel and all of the side characters were fine, but similar to the dialogue, none of them truly stood out to make their mark on the game.

There was actually something very unique to the backgrounds of The Lost Crown. Some of the backgrounds were real photos taken from the Saxton area during the lead developers time researching the location. Combined that with the black and white aesthetic and the atmosphere was perfect in certain areas. They were even able to sneak some of the research videos into the game to show how some areas were extremely well created.

The Lost Crown can best be described as a sports car body with a compact car engine. While there are shining moments and a true sense of terror throughout the game, there was too many problems with the actual gameplay to make it an enjoyable experience. A definite recommendation for hardcore fans of the adventure genre and horror fans.

 

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