Tag Archives: point and click

See what horrors The Doll Shop holds at your own risk

Naturally, I was drawn to The Doll Shop for its beautiful watercolor artwork and depiction of life in the Japanese countryside, not its focus on dolls. I’m not into dolls in general, but I’m really not into dolls that look like little children or come alive and are violent. Maybe I watched Child’s Play when I was too young or maybe I still can’t get that episode of The Twilight Zone out of my head where a ventriloquist’s doll is both alive and neglected, replaced by one called Goofy Goggles, and exacts revenge on his master by flipping their roles; that said, I’m perfectly fine with nesting dolls. Either way, they aren’t for me, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t for others. Such as the main protagonist in The Doll Shop, a young man in his twenty-somethings that repairs dolls for a living, though I don’t think we ever learn his name…

The Doll Shop comes from Atelier Sentô, which is a French duo, specifically Cécile Brun and Olivier Pichard. Their work is often based on their travels throughout Japan. This one is set in a small, desolate village during the winter. The village is still reeling from a girl disappearing weeks ago, but life goes on, especially for our leading lad, who is repairing broken dolls while also collecting butterflies in his shop’s back room. However, he is harboring a great and terrible secret, and when a childhood friend returns to the village and reconnects with him, he finds himself unable to not contain what he has done.

The game is a mix of horror, romance, and light puzzle solving. It’s both a point-and-click adventure and visual novel, and the game offers you several choices to make throughout your days in this cold, dark village. These will affect your ending, of which there are three to see, and you can also collect posters as you explore around. The only tedious part of The Doll Shop is when you have to constantly dip your paintbrush in the paint after each action you take to fix the doll, but that’s a minor complaint at best. Everything else is sublime and beautifully done, though I do wish there was more things to click on and get descriptions of, especially when it comes to things like bath-houses and shrines, which, as an American who has never really left the country, except to go to Canada, I do not have a lot of experience with.

The graphics for The Doll Shop were hand-painted with watercolors by twenty-three students over three days in January 2018 during a workshop at the ECV art school in Bordeaux, France. Each student selected a part of the background, such as a tree, house, or mountain, and drew a sketch of it on paper. Next, they used a light pad and an 8B pencil to copy it on to watercolor paper. After that, the drawings were painted with watercolors. Finally, all the drawings were scanned, cut out on Photoshop, and incorporated into the game, which was made in Unity with the Adventure Creator add-on. The results are simply stunning, both in motion and as simple stills; I personally loved the look of all the buildings as I explored the village while the snowfall changed from light to heavy and back to light, all backed by a wonderfully quiet yet atmospheric soundtrack.

Anyways, just like with every Metal Gear Solid game, you get a progress screen at the end to tell you how you did and what is left to uncover. If I was to make up a title based on my work, I’d say I earned Gossamer-winged Butterfly. Right. Moving on, my results after the first playthrough of The Doll Shop are as follows:

I don’t plan to replay The Doll Shop. My story is my story, and those choices I made are locked in place. Ending B is all she wrote. I tried to play the main protagonist as a broken man breaking down, desperate for help, but sometimes unable to speak the words. He did terrible things and is terribly troubled, and soon everyone will know. I hope he gets help, and I mourn for those in mourning, now burdened with extra trauma. Yet another doll story to forever stay in my mind and haunt me for years to come. Thanks, Atelier Sentô.

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2019 Game Review Haiku, #5 – The Doll Shop

Desolate village
Dolls are family, secrets
Charmingly creepy

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

2019 Game Review Haiku, #2 – 10 Gnomes in Paris

Search around Paris
For the ten tiniest gnomes
They are well-hidden

And we’re back with these little haikus  of mine. Go on, gobble ’em up. However, if you want to read more of my in-depth thoughts about these games that I’m beating, just search for them by name on Grinding Down. As always, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry, even if they aren’t instant classics, such as the works of Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, or Kobayashi Issa. Hey, not everyone gets to be that great.

Return home to familial strangeness with Azurael’s Circle: Chapter 1

I am one of those people that grew up in the ’90s reading those various More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books by Alvin Schwartz, and, yes, I was extremely disappointed when they got reissued with all new art, illustrations that did not immediately make your blood run cold and stay with you for years on end. One of my favorite short stories from these horror collections–favorite is actually a weird choice here, but I think you get what I mean–was “Harold,” which is mostly about two farmers mistreating their scarecrow and then getting their just desserts. Both the story and Stephen Gammell’s intro art for it have never left me, and I mention all this only because Azurael’s Circle: Chapter 1 features a scarecrow up to no good. Alas, it’s not as terrifying.

Azurael’s Circle: Chapter 1 is a horror-mystery, point-and-click adventure game where you must find the truth about your mother’s death. It’s free on Steam…well, this first chapter is, and it should only take you about a half hour to get through it. The police came to the conclusion that Helen Lancaster’s suicide, where she gutted herself with a kitchen knife, was due to the grief of losing her husband. However, her son, Clint Lancaster, doesn’t believe a woman as deeply religious as her mother would do such a thing and plans to investigate. As you further explore your childhood farmhouse, you’ll discover that nothing is as it seems; in fact, things are getting stranger by the minute.

Gameplay is fairly simple. You can use a mouse to click everything or use a controller…though I stuck with the keyboard mostly. Like, the up, down, left, right arrows and the enter key; I’m a relic. Item use and item combination is all automatic, which some people may like, but it results in a lot less thinking when it comes to solving puzzles. Oh, this cabinet door is stuck? I’ll just immediately use this cane from my dead grandfather to prop it open. No, no, don’t worry, I got this for you. I really didn’t want you to have to try out all the other items on it first. Again, it’s fine, if a little dumbed down. Also, a couple of items are tricky to spot, so there is a small amount of pixel hunting to deal with. Other than that, you are mostly exploring different rooms in the farmhouse and watching them change as you go, with your true goal being getting into the cellar.

Over the years, I’ve grown to dislike a many RPGMaker-made games. They all contain a similar look and menu UI, and, at first, I thought it was really neat and awesome, but I’ve grown tired of seeing the same pixel art and character portraits and start screens. It seems like the “new releases” tab on Steam, on any given day, contains at least one or two creations like this. I don’t know if Azurael’s Circle: Chapter 1 was made with RPGMaker, but it feels like it; that said, it has a better design to it, and I do like the small circle of light around Clint, which does obfuscate parts of the room you are exploring, leaving room for scares and surprises. The writing, while a little rote in places, does a good job of leading you along, revealing enough dribs and drabs about Clint’s parents for you to fill in the rest with your imagination.

According to the Steam page description, there are three endings to discover. I’m not sure if that is meant for Chapter 1 only or the series as a whole. Not exactly sure how different of an ending I could have conceived as I felt like I found every item and solved all the puzzles, but maybe there was something I missed. Oh well. Honestly, I would have preferred not to see the [redacted] at the end, but that’s me, an animal lover. Looks like Chapter 2 is available now, with more chapters to go down the road, but this didn’t draw me in enough to have me foaming at the mouth for more. I’ll leave Azurael’s Circle forever closed.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #37 – Subject 13

Stuck in a strange world
Retro, out-of-touch puzzles
Embrace Minesweeper

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #31 – Quidget the Wonderwiener

Quidget, dog genius
Must solve a bunch of problems
Booby assistant

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #30 – How to Cope with Boredom and Loneliness

Harold is grounded
For thirty years, find out why
Free hint–ask his mom

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.