Indie

Published on November 14th, 2012 | by Joe Matar

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Cellar Door Purgatory Review

At least this purgatory only lasts a couple of minutes

Cellar Door Purgatory from Progressive Games (a company name that functions as a huge bull’s eye) is a horror game and sequel to the free, online flash game Cellar Door. It picks up right where the first game left off: the lead character has just escaped from the cellar of a building where he helped a little ghost girl recover her lost marbles (as in actual marbles). Now, finding himself in the woods, the protagonist is again approached by the ghost girl, who this time tasks the player with finding the bones of the witch who imprisoned her so that he can burn them, which will finally destroy the witch’s spirit… or something.

In its appstore description, Cellar Door Purgatory avoids making clear what genre it actually fits into, but once begun, it becomes immediately apparent that this is a hidden object game. Hidden object games are the bastard children of adventure games. While adventure games require the player to find items and then think of creative ways to use them, hidden object games remove all brain-related requirements by simply instructing you to find a bunch of stuff and then telling you where to put it.

The game is played from the first-person perspective. Tap around the environment to move, search, or get a closer look at something. The primary goal is finding bones, but you’ll pick up other junk too, like a key, a shovel, and a necklace. These items are used to complete what it would be generous to call “puzzles.” Tapping the bag icon in the bottom-right corner brings up the inventory and tapping a possession uses it. The key goes in a lock and the shovel is for digging up a mound of dirt. The necklace belongs on a bust, which, when examined, the narrator spells out (in his strangely Native American sounding tenor): “Looks like a necklace is missing.”

Since the puzzles are brain-dead, the only challenge is derived from searching for items. One hindrance is that there’s little indication of whether the scenery might be hiding something, forcing you to madly tap around every inch of every screen. The graphics don’t help either. They are real photos of a forest area (for some reason constantly subtly bobbing up and down), but everything looks muddy, not to mention most of the screens are quite similar to one another, all leafiness and the occasional weird statue. Some objects are purposefully partially obscured or shadowed to generate more “fun” in rooting them out. This is effectively pixel hunting, perhaps the worst vestige of adventure gaming to draw from. It makes for a game most challenging to those with small phone screens and/or suffering from cataracts.

Navigation is stunningly poor too. Mercifully, there’s an option to turn on arrows that display every possible direction to go on each screen, but it’s still difficult to get a handle on what tapping each direction actually does. Pressing the bottom arrow usually makes you face the opposite direction, but on occasion it just makes you back up. Further, tapping left or right sometimes makes you face that direction, but at other times it makes you turn and move forward. Considering first-person adventure gaming has been decently sorted out for some time now, it all feels shockingly unintuitive. Fortunately, you can call up a map that you’ll eventually come to rely on, as traversing the environment by your lonesome will result in circuitous confusion and frustration.

There is a story here, plus a bunch of diaries and letters to be found that, once opened, reveal pages upon pages of stuff written by dead people, who ramble off the contents in voice-over. This technically deepens and colors the existing storyline, but in the most lazy, ham-fisted way. The voices are creepy enough, but whether you read the text yourself or sit quietly and listen, so much information is thrown at you at once that it doesn’t engross you or inspire unease. It’s just boring.

Regarding the so-called “horror:” It’s nothing more than jump scares. For example, there’s a live-action clip of a clichéd “spooky girl” screaming her head off because you tapped on a part of the woods she didn’t want you to visit. Admittedly, this is scary enough if you’re playing by yourself in a darkened room, but such frights are fleeting and, in a post-Silent Hill gaming culture, we all know that games can screw with our psyches in much more educated ways. Further, some of the scares, like a CG hand that grabs at you from a hole, are just cheesy.

Ironically, the original and free Cellar Door is a lot more playable. The visuals are clear, the controls make sense, and the objects are hidden in a way that doesn’t feel so cheap. Cellar Door Purgatory, however, isn’t even worth the buck it costs. Considering it can be finished in minutes, it’s hard to even call it a game. It’s more of a novelty to show your friends to give them a quick scare or, more accurately, a chuckle. Such was the reaction of my friend when he finished it without jumping once then saw it was developed by “Progressive Games.”

Cellar Door Purgatory Review Joe Matar

Is it Hardcore?

Summary: With game design so regressive, it’s scary, "Progressive Games" hidden object game offers jump scares and not much else.

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About the Author

Joe Matar hasn't stopped gaming ever since he first played Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders for the Commodore 64. He is always on the lookout for solid game narratives and never gets tired of writing about the games that do it right. Or terribly wrong.



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