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Scratches Director's cut Walkthrough Scratches Last Visit Walkthrough

Scratches is a first-person point-and-click adventure game hailed by many as the scariest game they've ever played. The central character is an English mystery writer who, thanks to the success of his first novel, purchases his dream home - a Victorian manor isolated in the English countryside. He arrives at "Blackwood Manor" with only a suitcase and typewriter, hoping to finish his second novel, but quickly discovers that the manor hides dark secrets. He soon finds himself obsessed with exposing the truth and solving the mystery of the manor's secrets.

Let my start my criticisms by stating that I don't understand at all why so many people have such high praise for Scratches. Sure, the updated graphics in Director's Cut are excellent, and there's at least one genuinely chilling moment...but the problems with the game are far too annoying for me to give it high praise...Game of the Year award or not!

Visual Experience:  Even though the game has 360° viewing, I didn't feel immersed in the scenery. Perhaps it's the lack of perspective around the edges of the screen, or the widescreen resolution that can't be changed (and its accompanying black bars at the top and bottom of the screen). Whatever it is, it feels more like watching a kaleidoscope changing than a character moving about the grounds of an English manor - and this is with slideshow mode turned off! In addition, the scenery keeps spinning even after you stop moving the mouse, like its momentum is carrying it just a little farther than you intended it to go. I can't stress enough how irksome it is.

The "alternate controls" are a complete mess. The game manual says that you should be able to use the arrow keys as alternates to the mouse, moving left, right, up, or down accordingly. In reality, the key assignments seem random, with the right and up arrows moving your view up (but only sometimes), and the down arrow moving your view to the left. If you keep hitting the arrow keys (as I did in disbelief), you end up staring at either the sky or the ground, unable to move or look anywhere else! I wasn't warned about them, and my disgust caused me to uninstall and throw the game on a shelf for over a year before I gave it a second chance.

Graphics:  Excellent. The sky is gorgeous as it changes to pink and orange and gray and black with sundown and with thunderstorms rolling in. Twilight is rendered perfectly, and adds considerably to the mood of the game. The interior of the manor is rich in detail, from elaborate wallpaper and expensive paintings to worn mattresses. Even the wooden doors were realistic...I found myself pondering their greenish hue and thinking they must be made of Ash. The only thing missing is "moving parts" - things like rippling water, crackling fires, and rustling leaves.

Sound:  Excellent. (When it wasn't cutting out on my 7-year-old computer.) Sound effects and musical tracks are superb; credit to Cellar of Rats.

Storyline:  Very good. There is just a hint of supernatural evil, but the game does well to provide other more plausible explanations for the tragedies inflicted on the Blackwood family. It's unfortunate that I have no interest in African art, as it plays a large part in the game (an ancient evil African tribe isn't trite, is it?)...but exploring the mansion was rather fun all by itself.

Recommendation:  Buy this game if you can find it for $15 or less...maybe $20 if you're desperate for a new game. DO NOT listen to the hype and expect a milestone experience - I think that's what killed it for me.

Read my walkthrough if you get stuck or annoyed while playing Scratches. I had quite a bit of fun with the game designers while writing it!

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