Haunted Manor: Queen of Death’s large and involved world helps it stand out
Haunted Manor: Queen of Death looks like your average hidden object game, set in a creepy, decrepit mansion and for the most part it is. However, the main storyline is a lengthy one, and the game’s world is quite involved and large, making it stand out from the crowd.
You’ll play as a young girl, sent away to London for schooling that receives a note from her twin sister Stella. Tragedy has struck and your family has perished. Only your sister remains, placing you in a race against time to save your sister from death and your family’s souls from torture in the beyond.
Of course, things quickly turn even more sinister as you arrive at your former home, as your sister has discovered a cursed, ancient amulet, releasing a terrible monster on your home and family. Stella too has been affected, being cured of her former physical ailments through a makeshift possession. You’ll be tasked with collecting ingredients for an equally ancient recipe that will hopefully destroy the amulet, removing the curse from your family’s souls and saving your sister.
Your time with Haunted Manor: Queen of Death will mainly be spent navigating back and forth through the many rooms of this mansion and surrounding forests / mines. You’ll be stalked by the monster, which kills innocents before your eyes but always seems to escape before actually coming after you. Hidden object scenes are quite frequent, and while the graphics are nice, there is no option for a widescreen setting, so if you’re playing on such a monitor, you’ll see stretched graphics (or will miss out on the detail when playing in a window). Some items are quite tiny, or are simply hard to find due to their outdated or unusual naming (a “Standard Bearer” equates to a statue of a soldier, for instance).
You’ll frequently repeat scenes, with items remaining in their same locations. Hotspots within scenes give you a chance to uncover other items by opening cabinets, searching under rugs and so on, but many of these hotspots are false, and don’t actually contain an item on your current list (they may, however, on subsequent trips back).
While you’ll take special items away from these scenes, you’ll also have to fill out your inventory by picking up objects in the world at large or completing a variety of complex (sometimes overly complex) puzzles to open doors, cabinets, etc. There’s an odd difficulty skew with these puzzles. Some are incredibly easy, and simply require you to rotate discs or gears until things click (as examples), while others are lengthy, trying affairs that unfortunately don’t come with as much in-game instruction as is probably required. Still, you can utilize the strategy guide in collector’s editions of the game, or can wait just a few seconds for the skip button to charge if you’re truly stuck.
As you unlock more rooms within the mansion, you’ll find portraits, notes or letters that not only fill out the story but also offer more in the way of cheap scares, as the monster appears as a ghostly apparition in an instant. These moments definitely help the game retain its chilling atmosphere, but they aren’t overly scary if you’ve played similar games in the genre that employ the same tactics.
All told, while Haunted Manor: Queen of Death has a bit too much backtracking for my personal tastes, those genre purists who hate “hand-holding” will find this a true delight. Left basically to your own devices, you’re allowed to explore each nook and cranny of this haunted setting, and while some of the hidden object scenes or puzzles may be a bit too difficult to complete, there’s always the intriguing storyline there to push you along to the next cutscene and beyond. Queen of Death is a solid entry in the genre, and is worth the addition to your collection.