Kraven Manor

A night of perusing let’s play videos led me to a beautiful game with all the proper horror elements. A creepy atmosphere, interesting storyline, a terrifying monster and solid puzzles that don’t make me want to rip out my hair. Kraven Manor was created by thirteen grad students at The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University as a design project. They have done an absolutely amazing job and I look forward to what they do not only with this game, but future endeavors.

The game starts off in perfect simplicity. It’s a dark and stormy night and a passerby seeks shelter at a grand mansion. The visitor is locked in, forcing them to travel deeper into the lavish but eerily quiet home. I felt that the main character was this creaky, empty hull of a building due to the fantastic atmosphere and some fantastic game mechanics.

Oh my, I love what you've done with the place. It's just so warm and welcoming! Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

Oh my, I love what you’ve done with the place. It’s just so warm and welcoming! Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

The house felt even more alive in the fact it changed as you played, although it wasn’t always your doing. Although there were technically only five different areas to walk through, sections of them were often blocked off to guide the player toward the next objective. Eventually events, that often made me jump and then frantically look around, would open up new paths. The game designers effectively did this without making me feel like I was walking on rails. Especially with all of the little extra lore pieces scattered around that added to the story of this mad man’s activities in his home.

The world was also creepy in that players have to find and place rooms on a map that then phantom up a new section. It’s pretty amazing the first time you pick up this tiny model, place it on the map and hear a loud thunk as an entire room magics itself behind one of the closed doors around the entryway.

This is just like playing the Sims, except I curse in fear, not annoyance. Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

This is just like playing the Sims, except I curse in fear, not annoyance. Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

Then there was the monster. You will be stared at, chased, grabbed and scared by whatever lurks in this house of horrors. However, it’s up to interpretation who the real monster is in the end, which is how this short-but-spooky’s storyline gets two thumbs up from me. I won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to (and you should) check out this game.

The controls were very streamlined and simple, which allowed me to concentrate on figuring out what the hell was going on in this place without fumbling for my flashlight or searching for pages. There was also no jump feature, which I thought would be a problem until … it wasn’t. I ended up not missing it. There is a very tense point in the game in which I felt as though I completed a jump puzzle, without every actually leaping into the air. That may not make sense, but it totally does once you’ve done it yourself.

Oh please don't tell me I've been Professor Plum this whole time because then I would have avoided the library. Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

Oh please don’t tell me I’ve been Professor Plum this whole time because then I would have avoided the library and all of its candlesticks. Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

The most impressive aspect of this game for me was the fact this was not created by a big budget studio. This was not an accidental-success by Peter Molyneux. This game was lovingly crafted by people who enjoy making them so much they went to grad school for it. And it shows. Which is why I really look forward to continued updates. According to the website, the development team is down to six now and they still did a few changes for the 25 lucky members of their closed beta. I see this as a good sign, especially with the site continually being updated with news such as over 50,000 downloads and a fan-created trailer that gave people a chance to win copies of the physical game at its release. It’s so rare to feel like any gaming company these days actually appreciated their success and it’s encouraging to see this happening on indie endeavors. Especially something as eerie and awesome as Kraven Manor.

Don't worry, all of those big red streaks are wine ... I hope. Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

Don’t worry, all of those big red streaks are wine … I hope. Screenshot by Alexandra Kocik

For those looking to check out fantastic work and be super creeped out, please, please, please check out Kraven Manor.The final battle, if you could even call it that in a game with no weapons, was a little tedious but not enough to make me quit prematurely. None of this game was frustrating.Its very forgiving when you are attacked and if there is a slip-up, the auto-save will get you right back where you need to be. Plus, the ending, just like the rest of this game, is just beautiful. I used that single word to describe a lot of this game for a reason, so check it out for yourself.

To Sum It All Up:

Pros:creepy atmosphere, interesting storyline, scary chase scenes, excellent controls, unique interactions with the environment, a few simple puzzles, streamlined controls and a fantastic conclusion

Cons: Final battle a little clunky, previous visitor to Kraven Manor was really messy with their wine

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