The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure
Indy adventure games have been thriving on the PC for years, so it wasn’t a surprise when I got my review copy of The Lost Crown and learned that it was designed and developed by a single man, Jonathan Boakes. The premise is simple enough: journey around mysterious towns on England’s coastline, and set out to investigate the ghostly activity that has seemingly been haunting these areas. The box quotes include “Scariest thing I’ve played in a long time”, and that it “may actually go down in the history as the best horror adventure game ever written”; the box also says that Four Fat Chicks (yes, this is an actual publication put on the box) thinks “Jonathon Boakes is a master at creating atmosphere.” That’s quite a lot of hype for such an off the radar game.
For an adventure game, and for a game that has a supposedly great story, I found the narrative to be boring and full of fluff with no real substance. I have to question why the game starts out so slow, especially when exploring is part of what makes the genre so interesting. In The Lost Crown, you can’t proceed to a certain area that the main character doesn’t “know”. You’ll be forced to listen to him say “I don’t know where this leads”. What does that even mean? You can’t just go look and see where it goes? I’ve tried to think of an excuse as to why the game was designed this way, but I really can’t think of a good one. It only hinders the exploration and fun of looking for places to go.
Everything else generally plays out like many other PC adventure games, using the mouse primarily for your movement and actions. However, one of the biggest problems with The Lost Crown is the pacing. It’s just FAR TOO SLOW, and navigating the main character, Nigel, is one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in regards to movement. The slowness really kills the mood for me because it hinders how quickly you can complete even a simple objective, such as going to talk to someone on the same screen as you. I really think there could have been more done with the keyboard, too, since using the mouse in most adventure games feels intuitive; here it feels like a chore, since you’re just guessing where you need to go without much of a clue, and if you don’t find the right “area” to click on, you’ll have to move the cursor around randomly looking for the next place to proceed.
There isn’t much in the way of music in A Ghost-Hunting Adventure. I suppose it was a technique used to immerse the player more, but I think music may have helped keep the atmosphere more alive. The sound effects are mediocre, but appropriate. However, the voice-acting is dreadful and slow. I abhor games that don’t let you skip dialogue, such as when you’re talking to someone and you just want to see the next part of the conversation because you read the text faster than the voice actor speaks it.
The Lost Crown runs on the Wintermute engine, and is in all black & white 3D, sometimes with a hint of color. You’re stuck with the default resolution of 1024×768, and the only options to turn on or off are the subtitles, so you’re pretty much stuck with the default controls and settings for the most part. There is a settings utility, but that only lets you change the colors and anti-aliasing options, as well as the sound and graphics device. Sometimes the game can look fairly appealing with the B/W visuals, but as a whole it comes off as a pretentious way to present the game. The animations are laughable, and pretty much all of the 3D in general looks outdated.
Adventure-game enthusiasts that can look past the technical and artistic fallacies of The Lost Crown might find something worth checking out here, but I personally just could not find much in the way of enjoyable content. From the sleep-inducing gameplay to the wooden dialogue and stale story, the whole project feels phoned in Hunting ghosts has never been so bad.