Salem Witch Trials
From February 1692 to May 1693 a series of court trials were conducted in Essex, Suffolk and Middlesex as local citizens were accused of the crime of witchcraft. I should make clear that these three locations were not those found in the South of England but areas of colonial Massachusetts, America. Despite occurring in several townships, these trials were to become known as the Salem Witch Trials with over 150 people arrested and imprisoned on the charge of being involved in witchcraft. In many cases, mass hysteria was to blame as neighbour turned against neighbour. One particular instance records 19 men and women being dragged off to Gallows Hill where they were hanged while another episode deals with an 80-year old man who was deliberately crushed to death for refusing to submit to a trial.
This rather gruesome period of American history is the background to a new game released by MumboJumbo. The game is Salem Witch Trials which is the second title in the Midnight Mysteries series. Following a rather dramatic opening sequence, the game starts as you are sat in front of your open fireplace in your study-come-living room. The appearance of a ghostly apparition might scare some people but you are made of sterner stuff, after all you helped the ghost of Edgar Alan Poe find peace and tranquillity, and so take this event in your stride. The ghost is (or should that be “was”) Nathaniel Hawthorne who died during a freak snow storm in the village of Salem. He needs your help to free his spirits.
As part of this introductory meeting Nathaniel explains some of the concepts of the game. Visual clues play a major part as your cursor changes shape to indicate when different actions are possible while a green sparkly effect is used when you can pick up an object to be stored in your inventory until it is needed. This inventory contains a special area that can be used to join two items together to produce an object to complete a certain task in your quest to solve the mystery of Hawthorne’s death.
During your investigations, that take you back in time and to various locations with some connection with Hawthorne’s untimely demise, you will meet various characters in their ghostly form. In some cases you will need to provide them with a particular object to encourage them to provide information and answer your questions. Conversations are conducted in text mode with you being able to select from various questions in order to elicit a response. Any vital information, whether from these questions and answer sessions or examination of locations, will be automatically recorded in your notebook. You can access this feature at any time to refresh your memory.
While this game contains elements of adventure and puzzle solving game play, it also has numerous Hidden Object sessions. Unlike the earlier Midnight Mysteries title, Salem Witch Trials uses the more standard approach of giving you a list of all the objects (apart from one) that you need to find in areas concealed behind sparkly effects. Not all the objects will be immediately visible, in some cases you will need to open a drawer, box or bag in order to find a required item. The one item not initially mentioned will be revealed once all the other items have been located. In addition to the various game-related objects, each scene will contain a clover leave – collect 50 clovers and you will be granted access to unlimited Hidden Object game play.
While the method of displaying Hidden Object items has changed, the game’s developers have retained the Raven fronted hint feature used in the original Midnight Mysteries title. By clicking on any raven you find in various scenes, you can build up your quota of hints and use them when required. The raven helps by flying towards the area of the scene holding the yet-to-be-found item you have selected. Of course you might be tempted to indulge in a boat of random clicking to avoid using up your supply of raven hints – be aware that such behaviour could trigger a flash-back to the actual trials and punishment meted out to the unfortunate victims – don’t say you have not been warned.
Befitting the subject matter, many of the scenes in this game evoke feelings of dread with their dark and gloomy appearance. Just make sure that nobody can creep up behind you and you should be alright. Almost forgot to mention that there are some bonus items available from the main menu. You can view deleted scenes and some before and after views of images plus visit a panic room to check out some of the special effects.
Salem Witch Trials is a definite improvement on the first Midnight Mysteries title and should provide many hours of challenging game play. Expect to pay $19.99 for a game that requires a 1.6GHz processor, 512MB RAM, 479MB of hard disk space and support for DirectX 9.0 running Windows XP and later.
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