Why hasn’t someone actually opened a “Haunted Hotel?” I mean, why isn’t there a real place where you could rent a room for the night and be treated to ghostly visions, ominous creaks, and special effects guaranteed to terrify all of the self-proclaiming “nothing ever scares me” guests?
I know this is a little off the subject for this review, but I do believe some entrepreneur is missing a lucrative opportunity here. People love haunted hotels (think Psycho, or The Shining, for example…), but except for the ones you see on shows like Ghost Hunters – where the ghosts barely register as flicks of light on a night-vision camera – there aren’t any tourist destinations in the real world for travelers who’d like a night of supernatural horror. If you’re an investor looking for a new hotel concept, give me a call…
Fortunately, the Haunted Hotel series of games has provided some virtual assistance in this area, and the latest release, Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward, delivers many expected pleasures.
Transplanted to a swampy New Orleans haunted hotel (are you surprised?), Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward is inspired by the dark, twisted visions of writer H.P. Lovecraft (author of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward).
Some of the characters from Lovecraft’s short novel are key players in the game, including the title character – now taking the part of your missing twin brother – and the evil relative who entices your brother to the swamps by claiming Charles is the heir to an abandoned hotel.
This relative is Joseph Curwen, and he’s not all he claims to be (side note: if the title of the game you’re playing includes the words “Haunted Hotel,” not all is as it seems to be…). As soon as you’re dumped on the hotel grounds, you’ll start collecting pages from your brother Charles’ journal, and it will become clear to you (if not your idiot twin…) that Joseph has been looking for a new body to borrow for quite some time.
You’ll run into as much black smoke as the characters from Lost as you glimpse Charles here and there for a second before he’s swallowed up by it, and you’ll find many mini-games you’ll need to figure out in order to open locked rooms and inaccessible areas.
Hidden objects? Of course. They’re of medium difficulty, and at least fit the Southern Gothic theme for the game. The overall look of the game is pretty well done – for example, the game opens with a scratchy, appropriately aged “movie” introducing the game elements.
If I have a complaint about the game, it would concern the easiness of the puzzles. Here’s an example – one of the first tasks you’ll need to complete is turning on the power to the hotel, and you’ll find you need a tool to complete this action. Once a wrench is found, and you try to use it, you’re told that the tool needs insulation. This would be absolutely fine – and frustratingly fun – if the insulating tape hadn’t been right next to the wrench when you discovered it! If you’re looking for a challenge, I’m afraid your brain will not be teased too much by the search for your errant twin brother.
So, Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward is a good-looking entry in the Haunted Hotel series, and if you’re a fan of Lovecraft, you’ll get a kick out of the references to his work in the game (even in the Hidden Objects!)
You’ll point and click your way around the Louisiana swamps to save your brother from eventual body displacement, and you’ll especially have some fun with the wide variety of mini-games you’ll need to solve to get where you need to go. You won’t, however, be scared, which is why I still believe someone needs to open a real Haunted Hotel sometime soon (preferably in time for Halloween!).