The Charnel House Trilogy is a 2015 point-and-click adventure horror game developed by Owl Cave. According to their own website, Owl Cave is “is a small collective of writers, designers and general game-related people”. They have previously released Masked, Richard and Alice, which was critically acclaimed and they have another game on the way called Location Services. The Charnel House Trilogy was published by Mastertronic Group, a British software publisher notable for publishing and distributing value PC software and games such as 10 Second Ninja, 0RBITALIS , Concursion , the aforementioned Richard & Alice, and Tango Fiesta.
The Charnel House Trilogy
It’s hard to make a review of a horror game without spoiling anything relevant to the plot, but I’ll try to get on with it the best I can. The Charnel House Trilogy is an episodic game, where the episodes are named “Inhale”, “Sepulchre”, and “Exhale”. All episodes are included in the release. “Inhale” is a story about a young woman named Alex Davenport. Alex has a traumatic past that she keeps thinking of and is awaiting an important delivery at her home. She enjoys reading novels and playing videogames but hasn’t been able to concentrate on those things lately. “Sepulchre” had been previously released as a standalone Free To Play game on September 2013. It deals with the story of a middle-aged man named Dr. Harold Lang, who is a university professor and an archaeologist taking a train trip on a Victorian-era train called Old Gloria to the island town of Augur Peak to investigate some findings. Things will get strange as he starts interacting with other passengers on the train. “Exhale” ties the two previous stories together. Playing as Alex once again, she continues to decipher things from her troubled past as she is taking a train trip to Augur Peak inspired by one of the novels she read. That’s pretty much all I can tell about the plot of the game without ruining the whole experience for all of you.
The Charnel House Trilogy is a short game, a miniature. The whole gameplay took me little less than two hours and I believe that was only because I am a little rusty at point-and-click adventure games. I could have finished it faster. The game is linear, there are some puzzles, although none of them is mind boggling, all of them are quite obvious and, unlike some games from the Golden Age of point-and-click adventures, there is no “fatal error” (that means an error in gameplay that results in “game over” and having to re-start the game from scratch).
That being said, I was in for some totally tense two hours. The game’s plot takes a harsh emotional toll on all of its characters and I was able to feel that too, especially in Alex’s parts. All along the gameplay I felt submerged into a horror story that could have perfectly been written by the likes of Poe or Lovecraft and I couldn’t help but keep going. What makes The Charnel House Trilogy so maddening is that Alex and Harold are ordinary people, with issues that one can relate to, and I couldn’t help but watch them go through their ordeal. That and the plot twists, it has more plot twists than a whole Game of Thrones season.
Let’s talk about the technical and artistic departments of the game. The graphics remind me of the Golden Age of point-and-click adventure games, with each character, level and item neatly designed by pixel artists. The voice acting is superb, with stars as Madeleine Roux, Jim Sterling, Ashly Burch making every character distinct and providing them of unique personalities. Of course some are more intense and well construed than others, but the overall quality of the voice acting is really good and so are the dialogues. The music is great too, with various composers at the helm imbuing the required amount of darkness and dramatics to each scene. The sound effects are lackluster, although this does not amount to a nuisance.
All things considered, The Charnel House Trilogy is a very interesting game that will give any fans of point-and-click adventures and horror stories a run for their money. While it lacks the complexity and length of luminaries of the genre, it makes up for it with relateable main characters, smart dialogues and storytelling and masterful voice acting. I will seriously be paying attention to all new releases from Owl Cave from now on. Hitch a ride on Old Gloria and prepare for a macabre trip.