Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story is a chilling horror HOG
Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story is as much of a horror hidden object game as you’re likely to find. The game focuses on creating a chilling atmosphere and it mostly succeeds. The story here unfolds quickly through the unique Dollhouse mechanic, but you can finish the game in just as rapid a fashion, likely to be left wanting more.
Stray Souls follows a woman’s desperate attempt to save her husband’s life after an unknown villain abducts him. As the heroine, you must travel to a small, deserted town where your husband apparently grew up, unlocking both the secrets of his past and solving the mystery of the present – that being who took your husband, and if you’ll be able to save him before the villain can add another murder victim to his list.
You’ll be led through your journey by a ragdoll of sorts, who appears after your husband’s disappearance. Your new friend knows more about your husband and his past than you could imagine, but he won’t give up the information without some assistance from you first.
The story itself plays out through two main portions – the main gameplay that sees you running into suspicious, even creepy characters as you try to free your husband, and the Dollhouse feature, which sees you collecting dolls throughout the environment, each one triggering your ragdoll companion to reveal more of the story surrounding your husband’s past, a murderer, abandoned orphanage, and more.
Gameplay is a mix of hidden object scenes and light puzzles. As you find items on each scene’s list, you’ll receive items that can be taken with you and used elsewhere in the environment. Normally, you’ll have anywhere from two to five tasks that need to be completed in front of you, and the order in which you do so is mostly up to you. This isn’t to say that the gameplay is entire “free,” though, as you’ll only unlock new areas after passing through the linear storyline.
As for the puzzles, there are the expected inclusions, like tile rotation puzzles, but you’ll also have unique puzzles, like one that has you manipulating a makeshift Rube Goldberg machine to unlock a door. The puzzles themselves may take some time to complete, but are mostly lacking in the way of challenge.
That being said, Stray Souls has a great flow to its gameplay. Even though you may have more than one task on your plate, you’ll likely always be able to figure out how to solve the next step in question, without getting stuck. The hidden object scenes themselves are easy to complete, thanks to the detailed graphics and proper object naming, and the game provides enough text hints while simply playing to give you an idea of where you need to go. For the most casual players, the game offers a large amount of enjoyment, but if you’re looking for more difficulty, you can have it as well by choosing to play on the more difficult setting, which slows down the hint recharge for hidden object scenes and removes the twinkling stars that show you where these scenes are in the environment.
Technically, Stray Souls excels in its atmosphere. Your travels through this dilapidated village are met with broken windows and crumbling staircases, giving off the real feeling that this is a place that time forgot. You’ll also be met with various cutscenes, which have horror movie elements to them, quickly flashing an image on screen accompanied by a shrill sound effect – it’s enough to give you the chills on more than one occasion, make no mistake.
For all of its good qualities however, Stray Souls does lack in length, being easily finished in less than two hours. The story has an anticlimactic ending, with a text paragraph laying out what happens to our heroine and the game’s other characters in the end after the final moments of actual gameplay. What’s more, while the story itself does have a noteworthy plot twist and enough details to be satisfactory, it just leaves the feeling that it could have been so much more if it was further fleshed out, and the same can be said for the entire game.
All told, it’s not that the game’s length makes Stray Souls unworthy – far from it actually. Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story is a highly enjoyable experience due to its high production values and balance of gameplay types; it’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t last longer than it does.