Nutshell Review: Scratches: Director’s Cut
Reviewer: Cliff Davenport
Adventure games are a dying breed these days, long gone from consoles and fading
even from the PC market. I hadn’t realized how much this trend saddens me until
now, after Nucleosys’ Scratches: Director’s Cut so ably reminded me of many a fond,
excitedly anxious childhood memory. As a purely mystery/horror puzzle-
Very nearly coming off as a book on tape rendered unto an interactive medium, Scratches
tells the story of Michael Arthate, a burgeoning horror author who’s off to spend
a secluded weekend in the Blackwood Manor, a Victorian estate in the English countryside
which his first book’s sales enabled him to purchase. Upon his first arrival, he
quickly discovers the old home’s dark history, and loses himself in the rush of dusting
off its mysteries. At least, the in-
Click ALL the things!
Before I whip out the red ink, though, I have to give the guys and gals at Nucleosys credit. They know how to invoke a subtle, creeping sort of dread from their environment, especially with the help of Cellar of Rats’ audio. Scratches’ unsettling soundtrack and nuanced use of atmospheric sound effects really bring the creaking old manor to life, and are best experienced with surround sound. The game’s narrative is genuinely gripping and suspenseful, successfully walking the line between gradual revelation and mounting mystery, always raising more questions than it answers. The citation of H.P. Lovecraft as an inspiration for Scratches’ writers clearly shows through, as its narrative deftly weaves strands of unsolved murder, ancient occultism, and questions of madness together to form a uniquely insidious atmosphere from beginning to end.
Unfortunately, environment isn’t everything when it comes to video games, even for
adventure titles like this one. Scratches’ simplicity proves in this regard to be
both its greatest strength, allowing players to focus more upon the task at hand
than upon wrestling with its controls, and also its greatest weakness, as any flaw
in its system becomes nigh impossible to ignore. I wholeheartedly believe that as
a book or film, Scratches would shine far brighter than its current incarnation.
This belief stems from the simple fact that Michael Arthate is not MacGuyver, and
players are not Michael Arthate. Thus, players cannot be expected to think, react,
Case in point: one of Scratches’ more contrived means of producing apprehension is
Oil? Where? It must be behind all that stuff that goes in cars.
The trend of limited and impractical problem solving only seems to worsen as the
game goes on, and it’s worth noting that there is only one viable solution to each
puzzle, stifling players’ creativity in lieu of trial-
Speaking of “illogical,” someone at Nucleosys obviously had a bit of a logistical
lapse when implementing Michael’s one and only lifeline throughout the game; his
phone. Not his cellphone, mind you. His landline, electric powered, Cruella Deville-
If there’s no electricity in this house,
HOW DOES THAT DAMN PHONE WORK?!
It’s also worth noting that, despite its gorgeous, 360 degree environment panels
and impressive attention to detail, Scratches looks a lot older than it is. I was
actually surprised to discover that this game was released in 2006, and not ten years
earlier. Skies and exterior panels look quite dated, contrasting rather sharply
with the game’s comparatively standout interiors. Players’ ears aren’t in for many
treats beyond the soundtrack either, as much of the game’s voice acting is sub-
My advice, if you’re this far into the review, and still curious enough to give this game a try, is to savor its story every step of the way, because unfortunately, after weaving such a grippingly intense tale of murder, betrayal, and ominous dread, Scratches trips at the finish line with an underwhelming conclusion that falls tragically short of its buildup. I’ll spare curious readers any spoilers, but suffice it to say, Scratches’ background is disappointingly wasted on its ending.
Even the addition of The Last Visit, a sort of mini-
Generating more dread curiosity and creeping anxiety from its players than cheap
jump scares or the threat of obvious violence, Scratches: Director’s Cut brings a
much deeper psychological element to the table than many titles on the market today,
but its railroaded puzzle-
Controls & Mechanics: 4
Atmosphere & Experience: 9
Entertainment Value: 6
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Consoles: Windows PC
Publisher: Got Game Entertainment
Release Date (U.S.): Mar 8, 2006
Release Date (U.K.): N/A
Release Date (JP): N/A
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