Grim Facade: Sinister Obsession sets the mood for the game from the very first scene. And, my kids set the mood for “my” game three minutes into game play. Why did I think I could curl up on the couch for an hour or two and enjoy a few grisly murders?
My 8-year-old girl was first. As she took her place on my left, she very generously announced that she would “help” me. My son, 14-years-old and equipped with a never-ending supply of one-liners, plopped down on my right.
Thankfully, I got to enjoy the premise all by myself and it’s a good thing, too. Grisly murders of women have been taking place in and around Conti Villa. The scene opens on a lovely piano solo by a sweet young thing in the atrium of an Italian estate. An older, distinguished man sits nearby, enjoying the tune.
Also, some distance away, swaying to the music is a second young woman… of course, the swaying may be because she is hanging from a meat hook in the Tuscan kitchen’s walk-in freezer! I think you can see where this is going.
Young women are being murdered and you must discover the killer. Within minutes of entering the game, you discover that Signor Conti seeks a new wife, which begs the question, is the wealthy patriarch of the Conti family embarking on his own bloody “Bachelor” series where red roses are replaced by the crimson bloom of a blood stain?
After the introductory cut scene establishes the backstory, you meet the Conti’s maid on the dirt road leading to the villa, which, strangely, has a random telephone booth standing in the middle of the countryside. For a minute, I thought it was the Tardis. But, I digress. She offers you the murderer’s diary and begs your help. Thus begins your adventure in the Italian hill country.
From that point on, my girl was in my ear “helping me” and much to my chagrin, she performed admirably. “Mom, pick up the hammer. Mom, zoom into the birdhouse. Mom, repair the birdhouse.” Who needs a strategy guide?
My son on the other hand provided comic relief. When, at one point in the game, we drew a cask of wine for our inventory from a barrel in the courtyard of an Italian cottage, only to actually look “in” the barrel a few steps later and find one of the ubiquitous dead bodies, my son pipes up, “I hope we aren’t going to have to DRINK that wine!” See what I mean about relaxing and enjoying a few murders?
The game play is both unique and fun. I mean, you don’t encounter a cross dressing scarecrow every day now, do you? (Guess you’ll have to play to really appreciate that comment!) The mini-games seemed extremely well-themed for this Italian adventure. For example, you can try your hand at “fruit and vegetable mahjong” or take a crack at transferring the white grapes and red grapes to either side of the game board.
The Hidden Object Areas are largely of the “find 12 of something” sort. You know, 12 hammers, 12 balls, etc. I prefer the more traditional Hidden Object Areas, simply from a variety standpoint. And, these folks play fast and loose with their meanings. (Hint: A picture of a “hammerhead” shark was one of the objects in the aforementioned “hammer” scenario.)
The game also is a sort of hybrid between traditional hidden object adventure and the more interactive Nancy Drew “talk to the townspeople” type. Throughout the game, you collect golden lira that you use to buy things from Giovanni the chatty shopkeeper in this strangely deserted village.
The golden lira comment brings me to a conundrum. (I know, Tracy would say I’m going off on one of my rants.) I spent a good deal of the game trying to figure out the time period. I enjoy the stories themselves just as much as the games, and knowing these little details really enhances the experience for me.
On the one hand, the maid in the introduction looks like she’s an escapee from Downton Abbey, but then, during game play, you encounter a jukebox and pinball and gumball machines. At one point, you melt some ice with a “gun style” blow dryer, which I don’t think existed pre-1970s. And, if they are using lira, it has to be pre-2000 because the euro has been used since 1999. The village scenes showed no cars, so I’m not sure exactly “when in time” I solved these murders.
That being said, the vineyard graphics are lovely and the experience an enjoyable few hours. I highly recommend Grim Façade: Sinister Obsession for its unique games and beautiful vistas. The whole Tuscan theme had me so enchanted, I think I’ll have to duck down to Olive Garden for a few breadsticks!