Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation
Review by Enigma
Here's an indie puzzler produced by friends of adventure games.
It's a cute and fun little effort that has the potential to while
away a few hours of time in pleasant fashion. Its story features
voodoo, forbidden love and mystery. The artwork, while limited,
is nicely done. The game engine is primitive enough to place it
back in the dawn of graphic gaming, but that doesn't matter if the
story and puzzles are involving enough to keep players engaged.
The story begins as you, Daphne, arrive outside an old plantation
manor house in Louisiana with an invitation from your Grand-mère
to come for a visit. She has something important to tell you. Enter,
and you'll learn that you and your adopted cousin Dominic will be
competing at solving puzzles to determine who will inherit the entire
estate when Grand-mère dies, an event expected in the not
too distant future. Daphne and Dominic are the only possible heirs,
as Daphne's mom disappeared years ago under shocking circumstances.
You will play both characters, alternating between the two at your
discretion as you tackle those puzzles and try to ferret out the
events of the past.
Why puzzles? Because Grand-mère likes 'em and wants to find
out who's the cleverest. It's a straightforward enough excuse for
a puzzle game. You'll spend the majority of your time solving those
puzzles as either Daphne or Dominic. When you've solved 11 for Daphne
and 10 for Dominic (his 11th takes place just a bit later), off
you'll go into the Louisiana swamps to hunt down that mystery: what
happened to Daphne's mother way back in the murky and distant past,
Back to the Old Days
This game has a primitive presentationno bells and whistles,
just a collection of rooms, gardens and swamp. It pleasantly reminded
me of the first adventure I ever played, the ancient Uninvited.
Slideshow-style doesn't really describe it, as you get only
one view of each room. At the lower left corner rests a little doorknob
icon, and that's what you use to back out of a room, or you can
enter other rooms through visible doors. Despite that limitation,
it features pleasant artwork: the rooms are quite pretty, very nicely
detailed and decorated, although characters you meet are portrayed
by static, unmoving cartoons. By painting the screen you'll find
objects to take or use, with large enough hot spots that the painting
isn't at all a tedious process.
There is no voice acting, for which I thank the Gaming Gods after
recent experiences. You click through all dialogue and read it on
the screen. You'll find books to read, as usual, and you can return
to those. You cannot, however, revisit the dialogue.
A plot does build and gets interesting too, although nine-tenths
of it is delivered in a journal and in a long, long, long "dialogue"
sequence near the end of the game. Players are allowed to solve
the mystery; however, the plot continues long after gameplay is
finished. I should add, however, that the writing style is pretty
good. The writer is actively literate, always an appreciated and
unexpected feature in gaming.
The inventory is primitiveusable, but really, really primitive.
Navigation is a lead-pipe cinch. You won't be getting lost in this
game, not even in the maze.
Puzzles and Plot
Like Uninvited, Oakhaven Plantation really does get interesting.
I couldn't care less whether a game has a primitive look. Okay,
I enjoy eye candy, and actually this game has those picturesque
rooms to gaze upon as well as some fairly well done night-scene
effects, but I'm mostly interested in being interested.
The game has pretty good sound effects and music. Each room has
its own theme, and these range from classical to blues, with the
themes changing for Daphne and Dominic. Sound effects include fires
crackling, stairs creaking, and waves lapping.
More interesting than most of the puzzles actually is finding them,
which involves seeking items, sometimes combined items, and clicking
these on various hot spots, thereby producing the puzzle. It's necessary
to switch between the two characters to get to all of the puzzles,
which adds a little bit of complexity to the game. Also, you get
to have your tarot cards read, and you can keep doing that as long
as you like. You can ask questions of an Ouija board as long as
you like and satisfy any superstitious impulses you may have. References
to voodoo have been well-researched. Players familiar with Gabriel
Knight: Sins of the Fathers may become nostalgic.
A few of the puzzles were truly well-done, especially an excellent
logic puzzle that involves arranging some colored stones. The first
puzzle I found is a sentence anagram made of double letters that
also took a bit of thoughtful arranging. Nifty.
There are two music puzzles, both of which easily can be solved
visually if necessary, and one has a lovely tune, "Men of Harlech,"
the Welsh national anthem. Several memory puzzles at least require
focusing the mind a little bit (one is the other music puzzle, with
drums). There's a literature puzzleyes! You match titles of
classics to cryptic "illustrations" from the books. Bookworms
will enjoy it even though it's a cinch to solve. Another matching
puzzle has all of the necessary clues but not in one place. Easy
to find, but you still have to put it all together. There is a multiple-choice
quiz on local history, also requiring a bit of thought. A little
catch-the-mouse game is too easy but cute.
However, one whack-a-mole puzzle involving chasing voodoo dolls
around the screen requires some dexterity with your mouse. If you
are movement-challenged, be warned, because you can't skip any puzzles.
Keep it Simple
In Oakhaven Plantation, the puzzles, while numerous, are
mostly so simple that they'd barely challenge a child. They're so
simple, in fact, that I considered the possibility that the game
was aimed at children, but no, the plot clearly targets adults.
I can't imagine anyone needing a walkthrough for this game. Few
puzzles are integrated with the plotmost are there merely
because Grand-mère likes 'em.
A torn-up postcard is such a cinch to reassemble that it takes
far less than a minute to do it. A "light-the-candles"
puzzle actually took me about 10 seconds to solve. There's a slider
puzzle with only nine panels. There's a maze, but you really can't
get lost if you remember that first anagram puzzle. I deliberately
made one wrong turn just to see what would happen. I simply went
around in a circle and emerged at the screen where I'd made the
wrong turn. Not much of a maze if you can't get lost, although the
artwork and lighting effects are good in this area.
That's the only real problem. These puzzles could have been much
more complex. Still, it was kinda satisfying to solve this stuff
in a zoomy manner.
A Fun Little Diversion
I enjoyed it. There's enough to keep players busy for a few hours,
along with a fairly intriguing plot. Had more puzzles been up to
the level of the plot and better integrated with it, Oakhaven
Plantation would have been better, but it's still entertaining.
Hey, it's a little indie game, made for fun. I know some folks
argue that a game's a game for a' that, and all should achieve an
equally high mark no matter what. I disagree. As long as you know
you aren't dealing with folks who have budgets and serious bottom
lines, I say cut 'em some slack. It's just for a little bit of fun.
It's cute. It's pretty. It does some things well. It keeps you
playing, and is enjoyable throughout. That's okay by me.
Developer: Cindy Pondillo
Publisher: Cindy Pondillo
Release Date: November 2, 2006
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 500 MHz
32 MB RAM
DirectX 5 or above
Supports all DirectX-compatible sound and video cards
Where to Find It
Manor $14.95 (plus shipping)
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by any party(ies).