Money can’t buy happiness. So prove the unlucky lords and ladies of Flatsbury Manor. Additional items scratched off the list: safety, love, class equality and the restful slumber of death. When we first arrive on the scene, the only Flatsbury to be found alive is the trembling, youngest, daughter, Jessie. First impressions are notoriously unreliable in hidden object adventure games. Sure enough, we soon discover the castle is far from empty.
Ghosts bearing a striking resemblance to our traumatized victim wander the halls, and there’s an evil menace literally burning for revenge. To add to the list of woes, the family archives hint of judgment, abandonment and enough emotional cruelty one comes to suspect Jessie may be better off on her own. Normally, I’d feel badly for the Flatsburys’ fates, but not in this case. Their misfortune is our delight as Spirit of Revenge is an exceptionally well-made hidden object adventure game.
Here is a game universe built on a solid underlying mystery which is slowly and thoughtfully revealed. Each layer of the story falls away, delicate piece by delicate piece. Illustrations are beautifully animated. Cut-scenes are usefully placed, well- written, and competently performed. Story text is provided as diaries, albums, newspaper clippings, and layers of puzzles and paintings to be assembled and examined. The story interactions are just enough to keep the player anchored in the narrative world, and I found myself watching, rather than skipping, each dialog and cut-scene.
Though this is definitely an adventure game, I’d say the heart of Cursed Castle is its cleverly designed hidden object scenes. Every scene is a multi-level treasure hunt where, first, one discovers items, then assembles them into a new tableau which reveals even more puzzles and clues. Far from the tedious game fillers hidden object scenes have become, our curious castle presents each scene like a puzzle of its own. In fact, I found myself happily furrowing my brow for the serious work of finding each and every clue without assistance.
Yet, such stubbornness isn’t necessary. The hint system is quite generous. Mini-puzzles can be skipped, and HO clues can be devoured using hints each step of the way. That said, you’ll probably be more satisfied doing the work on your own. The puzzles are so logical there isn’t much need to use the hint system. Each inventory item has a unique, corresponding destination, and items are used logically (keys open locks, fire melts objects, and shapes fit their corresponding indentations – just as any player would hope).
The classic navigation with arrows is in place, but as a map is provided during the opening interaction, there’s little reason to back out of scenes. Additionally, if you do happen to use a hint in an adventure scene, a mini-view will appear allowing players to travel directly between scenes with a single click of their mouse.
All of this care blended with a thoughtfully written story makes for a game which is more than another time waster. It’s an actual pleasure to enjoy the Flatsburys’ plight. In fact, though money may not buy our ill-fated family much joy, Spirit of Revenge: Cursed Castle is well worth the price of admission for any visitor looking for a heaping helping of HOA happiness.