He's dead, Dave.
Being a child of the 80’s, pretty much all the lads in my class were obsessed with Ghostbusters. We had ghost traps made from shoe boxes and proton guns made from used toilet rolls. We even went on an excursion to a supposedly haunted graveyard one night, complete with a ghetto blaster playing the Halloween theme tune for atmosphere. Sadly, we eventually grew up and left to become bankers or chemists or alcoholics, and the dream died. But just because you’re a hideous failure in real life, it doesn’t mean you can’t fulfil your ghost-hunting ambitions with the help of your trusted PC and a copy of Lost Crown.
Horror adventure fans have likely heard of Jonathan Boakes. He single-handedly created the Dark Fall titles and has contributed to games such as Scratches, in which he voiced the annoyingly sarcastic lawyer. His latest project is Lost Crown, a third-person adventure game which he began to write back in 2005. He not only researched and wrote the game, but also designed the graphics, created the puzzles, and voiced the main character of Nigel Danvers all by himself. Seems like a lot of effort just to avoid paying some wages.
Nigel finds himself in trouble from the off, fleeing his old company after discovering some mysterious and troubling files sitting on their mainframe. He ends up in the fictional coastal village of Saxton, where he quickly becomes involved in a hunt for a long-lost Anglo-Saxon crown. As well as searching for ancient royal relics, the focus is on learning about various long-departed residents of Saxton, whose ghosts still haunt the village. Some of them have tragic backstories, which Nigel picks up on through conversations, diary entries and - of course - some rather nifty gadgets.
Oh yeah, it’s all about the shiny tech, baby. Nigel has everything from motion-activated cameras to an EMF meter, and you get to use them all, quite a lot. The gadgets not only help you track down clues, but also provide most of the scares in the game. You can take a recording of a seemingly silent chapel interior, but when you play it back you’ll discover sinister voices prophesising death and destruction. It’s even more spine-chilling than listening to Radio Four. A rather clichéd but effectively implemented gadget is the night-vision camera, which switches the view to first-person so you can explore some pitch black caverns, Paris Hilton porno style. The first time a ghoul jumped out at me, I needed a two-hour bathroom break to recover.
The game is generously long and should take at least ten to fifteen hours to complete the first time through. There are more than enough scares over Lost Crown’s length to keep horror fans interested, and the black and white graphics and creepy sound effects help maintain a menacing atmosphere for the most part. However, the game is far from perfect. Uncovering the harrowing events of the past provides a wedge of intrigue and suspense at times, but at others the story begins to meander a little. A sub-plot about missing cats, for example, seems rather pointless and tacked-on. Gamers will also need a great deal of patience to make it to the end. Long conversations that occasionally drag and can’t be skipped are the biggest culprit, as well as a great deal of backtracking. Nigel walks with all the urgency of a pensioner out for a stroll, and his bizarre forwards-moonwalk is likely to unintentionally distract.
Other small criticisms can also be hurled at the Lost Crown. Occasionally I was stuck with no idea what to do next, despite the journal which gives you progress updates. Eventually I’d find a character I hadn’t exhausted all topics of conversation with, or a hidden item that I’d missed. It’s a common problem with linear adventure games such as this one, and nothing a walkthrough won’t fix. In addition, I have to say that the voice acting is frankly terrible. Mr Boakes in particular, while no doubt a talented individual, should hurl his microphone into a swamp or feed it to a shark before his next project.
Regardless, this is a fantastic achievement considering just one individual almost single-handedly created the whole damn thing. The low price and lengthy gameplay should be enough to satisfy any adventure gamer, especially those who enjoyed the likes of Dark Fall. Now please excuse me while I power up my toaster-box proton pack and kick some slimy ghost arse, woohah!
A tranquil scene, before the nastiness begins...