Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence
What it is with hotels? If it's not demons, it's curses or a war between evil, and some other evil. Or, well, maybe it's you, since you and your friend James (who you keep rather endearingly labeled in your scrapbook as "professional detective") seem to constantly find yourselves wrapped up in bed-and-breakfast themed trouble. In Elephant Games' hidden-object adventure Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence, James has kicked the bucket, taken a dirt nap, bought the farm, ridden the pale horse... he's totes dead, yo, and a note slipped under your door from him that was presumably written before that happen tells you the Holy Mountain Hotel is the cause of it all. You quickly discover there's nothing sacred about this place, and though it looks as if it's been abandoned for years, it's clear that the people who have visited it have all had one thing in common... guilt. If you want to survive the spectre meting out justice from beyond the grave, you'll need to hunt for clues and items to solve puzzles, and of course crack a few hidden-object scenes along the way. And you know what? Maybe the next time I need somewhere to stay while I'm traveling I'll just... I'll just couch surf a little.
Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence is spooky, but perhaps not actually scary, since all of its jumpscares are telegraphed very clearly, and it's hard for me to take a corpse reveal that all but screams, "Get in, loser, we're going shopping" seriously. Visually, it's a rare treat, with crisp visuals, rich, dark colours, and a great flair for the macabre and the creepy. If you enjoy the sort of ghoulish camp you'd find in something like Christopher Pike's Fear Street, chances are all the mysterious shadows and grinning skulls will be right up your alley. The story might move a little quick in the way it reveals things, with more pacing given to shock value than character development, but the "justice from beyond" trope is executed well. It's a fairly fast-moving game, and most of the difficulty will largely come from how much back-tracking you'll be expected to do, though the fast-travel map means that isn't quite as frustrating as it might have once been back in olden times. (Did I ever tell you about how we had to play hidden-object games uphill, in a snowstorm, while being chased by velociraptors?... no, spellcheck, not velocipedes.)
The largest problem with Death Sentence is actually that it falls into a pattern. Find out who the next victim will be, find an item in their case file, track them down, repeat, repeat, repeat. Still, the game's stunning presentation and genuinely sympathetic villain will keep you hooked 'til the end, though it's not likely to take anyone much longer than three hours or so, and it still feels like it leaves a lot of questions unanswered as to how certain things happened. The soundtrack is a particular standout, with a few genuinely pretty pieces and a creepy ditty that know when to take a backseat and let the atmospheric sounds set the stage. The ending sequence is actually pretty well executed, and if you pick up the Collector's Edition, the bonus chapter is actually a surprisingly satisfying addition... neither a simple prelude, nor something that feels lopped off of the main story, instead centering on a little girl who's gone missing at the hotel's island after the main game ends. While it all might be over too soon, Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence is still a fantastic blend of thriller and supernatural horror, with high production values and a flair for drama that makes this demo well worth checking out for any casual adventure fan.
Note: Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.