For some folks, visiting eccentric old relatives can be downright traumatic — but we promise, this reunion with Grandpa from Grisly Manor will be worth the trip. In this charming sequel to The Secret of Grisly Manor from Fire Maple Games, Return To Grisly Manor offers a warm welcome to mystery game experts and amateurs alike.
Don’t worry if you didn’t play the original game, because you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy this one. If you like clever puzzles and a quirky story, then get ready to play detective.
The premise of the game is that your grandfather’s historic house is under threat of demolition by an evil corporation and Grandpa must find the deed to save it. However, the wacky guy doesn’t know where the deed is, so he wants to build a time machine to go back to the last time he remembered where it was. It’s up to you to find the pieces he needs by solving puzzles throughout the house and its surrounding grounds.
The tone isn’t at all macabre as the title might suggest, but is instead odd- with ordinary things just out of place and weird little things exactly where you need them. The scenery is gorgeous and the map continues to expand and expand as you discover new clues. The graphics are smooth, with animations and interactive areas cleanly integrated into the 2D art. The static painterly style does feel a bit retro or dated but it matches the story and is well executed for what it is. Tapping into the area you want to activate is easy and responsive, and tapping around scenes to find hidden elements is just challenging enough to be fun without being frustrating. The user interface is also intuitive and easy to navigate which makes utilizing what you find simple and satisfying.
The variety and number of puzzles is impressive, and the way that each is revealed is delightful. Very often, you’ll encounter a collection of objects that you know you’ll need to interact with to “solve,” but you won’t actually understand how to do it correctly until ten clues later.
If you get stuck, there is a very fair hint system with a timer to prevent breezing through all of the hints too quickly. I found that most often, a hint only served to remind me of something I had forgotten, but one hint actually gave me a solution that I hadn’t even considered. Once you’ve solved a mini puzzle or area of a room, a previously interactive area stops being active so you can stop thinking about it and move on to other things.
I found the pacing to be surprisingly engaging. Often, solving one puzzle would cause an exhilarating daisy chain of solutions which would then slow down as I exhausted all of the clues I could remember. The only tedious part of the game was when certain components were sprawled across the house and the property, requiring an irksome back-and-forth just to grab one piece and then head immediately back to where I just was.
Overall, Return to Grisly Manor is a gratifying experience filled with smart ways of interacting with space and the objects in that space. Immersive and inventive, the thoughtfulness of the game’s creators can be felt with each new door that opens and each new tool that twists and turns. It’s a treat to play and will entertain anyone who craves a little mystery in their lives.