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Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos
A Lovecraftian Point and Click Adventure that takes place in a supposedly haunted mansion in Italy. Oz Orwell, occult investigator, goes in to see if there’s any truth to it. One mysterious fainting spell later, and he’s trapped in the house with no way out. But he’s not alone. Three ghosts inhabit the house, each with their own secrets.
Controls are fairly simple, though it took me a minute to figure out how to get at things I’d put in the inventory. It’s at the bottom of the screen, where it’s all black. Put the cursor there and you’ll see the items you’ve collected. Oz can use them on himself or on the environment to make things happen, though using the wrong thing or a useless-at-the-moment thing will gain a smart-aleck response from Oz. Oz can sometimes examine a lot of the whatever room he’s in or sometimes not so much. The sparseness of objects can help in identifying the useful items, but there are things that need to be carefully hunted for as well. One item in particular was a bit too well hidden, and it took me several searches of the same object to find it, which could be an issue if you search once and give up. You get to play as the three ghosts in different environments, and that ends up widening the experience and kept me from wanting to reach into the monitor and strangle Oz after he told me ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea’ for the fifty-third time.
The eeriness of the sound effects and the music make for creepy fun. I wasn’t ever really scared for Oz, because it seemed like all you had to do was solve the situation and he’d be ok. This lack of danger doesn’t make Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos a bad game by any means, though it does kind of lower the tension in some scenes. Characters can get scared enough that they will not go into certain areas, which can be annoying but is perfectly valid. In this way, Oz and the three ghosts are realistic in a way that horror movie characters aren’t. The environments immerse you; even the black and white ones make you feel as if you’re really there. Part of this is the sound effects that match the scene perfectly, and part of it is that most of the places you visit should have a dreamy, indistinct quality to them anyway. The dream sections of the ghosts are particularly well done, both creepy and enjoyable to explore.
A lot of the fun of this game depends on finding the way to solve the puzzles and situations presented. Oz is smart but not quite helpful, pointing out that he has no use for chairs or ovens or any of the other random objects that are clickable but useless. Point and Click Adventure games can end up feeling like a railroad, and there’s a little bit of that here. I’ll save you all some time: Don’t bother trying to feed the crow the poisoned meat, it’s not for the creepy bird. The trick is to make the player follow the tracks without them realizing they are there. Sometimes Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos succeeds, sometimes not so much. But finishing the game will bring satisfaction to most players. The puzzles are on the easy side, and even the riddles can be solved with a bit of brainwork (or a Google search.) The one thing that was sort of lacking was a real element of the Crawling Chaos. Nyarlathotep (whose name is never heard, maybe the developers didn’t want to get sued?) is strangely absent until very late in the game, and he doesn’t really do much. I was hoping, since he’s mentioned in the title, that ole Nyarly would play an active role, but he’s relegated to the close of the game. This is a shame, since there are some fabulous Mythos elements to build on (stone tentacles, a hideous idol, a gigantic throne.) Instead, we get the umpteenth repeat of Abdul Alhazred’s infamous couplet (that is not dead which can Eternal blah blah blah) and a few interesting but minor Cthulhu Mythos references. The ending, which I will not spoil, is good but leaves a bunch of questions unanswered and hints at a plot line that I would’ve loved to see developed more. One big unanswered question is Oz’ s own nightmare world. There’s never any closure to the storyline, and I was interested in seeing more about what had happened to our hero in his past.
You can find Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos at the developer’s website, http://www.midiandesign.com/ or at http://justadventure.com/shop/240/oz-orwell-and-the-crawling-chaos