Delaware St. John: The Curse of Midnight Manor

Ghosts and Mysteries with Myst-like UI

System Requirements:
600MHz CPU/256MB RAM/DirectX 9
Big Time Games

The Delaware St. John game series, of which this is the first chapter, has three great strengths: beautifully painted visuals, characters you come to care about--and stories that get creepier the deeper you get into the game. Fans of adventure games and gentle horror will find a lot to like here.

Beautifully painted visuals have, however, a drawback; they are difficult to animate, so games that feature them, like this one, and like Myst, represent motion through the world by cuts from one visual to another. And in addition, they provide first-person views, and try to avoid representing other characters on-screen, since that's hard to animate in this environment. Myst solves the problem by providing an unpopulated world; the Delaware St. John games instead have the eponymous protagonist explore abandoned (but haunted) places. Delaware does Myst one better, however, by having the protagonist's friend, Kelly Bradford, available by cellphone--she can do online research from her computer, and provide hints. So unlike Myst, the Delaware games have a degree of enjoyable character interaction and banter as well.

Check out the second game in the series, too.


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Would have been a nice little game... if priced at $5

This isn't a bad little adventure, although it's a bit more derivative of the old Gabriel Knight games than I'd like -- and suffers from the comparison. Still, the graphics, while hardly state of the art, are a considerable step up from the likes of Ron Gilbert's games and the typical AGS amateur construction. There are a couple of annoying puzzles, including one which is still incomprehensible to me after getting the solution, but the game is kind enough to give you many hints and even outright answers through your assistent that you have occasional radio contact with.

The big problem, though, is that it's just way too short. It's hard to see even the most careful gamer getting more than 3 hours out of this, and at its $20 price on Manifesto Games... well, it was hard not to feel a little screwed once all was said and done. If priced at $5 like The Shivah -- a game it is only slightly longer than -- I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a fun little evening's diversion. At $20... no can do.

Devil's Advocate

Being the guy who wrote Shivah, I have to disagree. The length of The Shivah had nothing to do with the price. At the time, it was a freeware game with very low production values, so I couldn't justify charging more for it (or rather, I felt guilty about charging more for it!). I could not have expected how widespread the game would become. Had I known, I would have charged more. Not just to put more money in my pocket, but because now other (better) games are getting flak for being too expensive. Charging so little for the game, in the long run, seems to have done more harm than good.

Shivah was a little game that was made in a month, and the production values (or lack thereof) are pretty obvious. A game like Delaware St. John, however, has excellent production values and it shows. A lot of time, care, and effort went into the making of it - a $20 pricetag isn't unreasonable. As for the length, many casual games take much less time to finish, don't look nearly as nice, cost the same.

The prices of adventure games have been driven down over the last decade or so, because of idiots like me who felt that in order to sell a game it needs to be cheaper. 15 years ago, the average consumer would have paid $45+ for the latest adventure game. Now, people roll their eyes if it costs $30.