Adventure at the Chateau d'Or
Review by Orb
Adventure at the Chateau d'Or is the freshman game from
KarmaLabs, a company based in New York. The game itself is very
short, and it took me just one evening to finish. Definitely in
competition with The Forgotten and Isis for the shortest
The story is straightforward. A modern-day princess is summoned
to the estate of her uncle, a duke who just died. Your job is to
solve the mystery of the Chateau d'Or, thus securing the princess
her inheritance. That's pretty much the gist of it.
The game has slideshow-style graphics with prerendered screens.
There is a modicum of freedom of movement. The player, while indoors,
can go for the most part only in areas that will or have effected
game progression. There are two rooms that the player moves though
but is not allowed to explore at all. I for the most part have been
a consistent proponent of slideshow-style games and have also for
the most part given high marks to games with beautiful prerendered
art and lots of puzzles. But I have several problems with Chateau
as regards this.
Firstly, there is an outdoor courtyard that the player can travel
around the edges of, to explore the various rooms in the chateau.
One of the problems of this is that the screens turn you around
so quickly, and some of these are drawn so similarly, that it is
easy to get confused as to which direction you are facing. Additionally,
it seems like some of the movement in transition when you are turning
in these areas has just been omitted, so there is actually a learning
curve where the player must adjust to this minimalism in design.
Another design shortcut that I didn't care for is that there is
water in the center of this same open area, and the game allows
the player to cut across the center of the courtyard to move between
buildings. Instead of moving along drawn paths, the player is flown
across this water. It is highly unrealistic and actually knocks
the player out of the feeling that she is "there." Anyone
who's played a number of adventure games knows what I'm talking
aboutthat feeling that you are actually walking around in
the game environmentnotably missing from this game.
There are doors opened by puzzles that must be redone any time
the player goes back through them, which was very redundant.
The rooms in the game were all nicely designed and colored. The
chateau overall is quite pretty and a good piece of eye candy.
The music has wild variance in degrees of appropriateness. Some
clarinet music in an entrance hall I thought went well with the
environment. Music with a Latin flavor in an artist's loft was clever.
There's a room where soundtrack switches to a xylophone and a small
combo orchestra; the designers apparently have been to the same
cheesy wedding receptions I have. The endgame sequence has something
that sounds suspiciously like disco accompanying it.
The actress playing the princess sounds like she had her parts
recorded in a shower stall, as she echoes. This is really distracting
and unrealistic when her character is speaking outdoors in the courtyard.
The other character, a French duke, is played, inexplicably, by
The puzzles overall were very disappointing. The first major puzzle
in the game requires that the player win a history quiz. And this
quiz is not dumbed down for the American player a la The Weakest
Link. This quiz involves tedious note-taking by the player.
The worst part of the quiz, however, is that much more care was
put into developing details of this historical narrative than into
developing and increasing the story of the characters in the actual
Another puzzle is timed, the only timed point in the game and so
totally unexpected. Once in the timed area, the player is required
to do multiple actions, including a pixel hunt, in about a 60-second
period. And to reload this area and try again, the player must redo
a very tedious section that requires the same set of actions redone
four times in a row.
There are just way too many game areas that the player is never
really allowed to explore, including an entire dining hall with
a long, elaborate table, and a room with three ornate doors the
player is never allowed to explore behind. This is, as far as I'm
concerned, a cardinal sin in adventure game design, to have the
path so narrowed that exploration is severely limited. I think that
one of the reasons for this may very well be the designer's decision
to not put a lot of puzzles in the game, so that there is never
really any reason to have extra areas to explore.
The game has multiple difficulty settings, for the areas of Knowledge
(the quiz) and Game Play, a design feature that I really liked.
Under Knowledge, the more difficult setting gives the player more
to discover about the city of Paris in order to solve questions
and complete the game. Game Play increases the difficulty of puzzles.
The interface includes a Map feature, always appreciated, and an
index of all of the knowledge that the player has acquired. This
is used to answer questions in the game successfully.
The concept for this game was excellent. But I really feel that
something was lost between concept and execution, which I really
hate to see in an indie game like this that people have obviously
put their heart into. But good intentions do not change the quality
of the result. What kept coming to my mind throughout this was two
other games, The Castle for the Mac, and the recently released
hybrid, Riddle of the Sphinx. Both of these were well-designed,
incorporating many of the features adventure players crave, and
both were indie projects brought about by one or two hard working
people. So to me, there is really no way to excuse the result based
on the fact that it did not come from a bigger company.
Maybe adding a maze would've helped.