Separated by Life and Death…
Luisa’s life is one that has been wrought by loneliness and tragedy. First, her mother died. Then, in the wake of that, she was separated from you, her only sibling. And then, years later, on the day of her wedding…she disappeared. Some witnesses claim to have seen a mysterious stranger push her off the bridge and into the river, but where her body has gone is anybody’s guess.
You arrive on the scene of your old childhood home, looking for answers. What you find instead might be more than you bargained for: a ghostly demon. He claims he can not only reveal to you the truth by letting you gaze into Luisa’s memories, but that you just might be able to save her as well! And knowing full well that demons are very trustworthy individuals, you accept. The only condition is that if you fail, your soul will belong to him forever.
If there’s one thing to say about the writers of Grim Tales: The Bride, it’s that they know how to grab your attention. From the opening introduction, the story does an excellent job at hooking you in, and gets more interesting as you delve further into both the manor and your sister’s mind.
…Separated from Logic Too
Unfortunately, as interesting as the story is, a lot of things about it start to not make a whole lot of sense when you take a moment to think about them. The plot implies that Luisa’s death or disappearance happened recently, with the police still investigating at the beginning. However, the state of the mansion seems to say otherwise; it’s dilapidated and in a gross state of disrepair, as if it had been abandoned for years. It seems as though the artists and writers weren’t working as closely together as they ideally should have.
But worse is that The Bride doesn’t exactly have the greatest ending either, being a tad on the anticlimactic and abrupt side. It’s a shame, because it otherwise had all the workings of a nice, suspenseful psychological horror story.
You Just Can’t Look Away
Regardless of how divorced from the writing they are, there is no denying that the graphics, much like Luisa, are drop dead gorgeous! They’re dark, creepy, and full of all sorts of macabre details. Termites scatter and crawl around disgustingly in rotting wood, cobwebs line the walls, and cracks run up and down the masonry from years of neglect and exposure to the natural elements.
The art direction is excellent at showing us The Bride’s nightmarish reality; something as mundane as a dog can easily look like a ravenous monster in a flash, and the demon could just as easily have stepped right out of a Hellraiser film. If there is some weakness in its visuals, it’s that the backgrounds aren’t always as animated as they sometimes should be. But even that doesn’t stop The Bride from being genuinely scary.
Characters are handled well, in a strange way. Now, they suffer the same pratfalls of many other adventure games, being static portraits that sit still in the background like statues. But this game manages to justify that. About the only “person” you will ever communicate with is your demonic “guide;” most other people are encountered during the memory sequences, and are seemingly frozen in time like photographs.
In fact, that’s exactly what they are, pictures you uncover while exploring the mansion and that you are quite literally walking around within! It helps make things even more eerie in fact, and adds to the surreal nature of the world.
The quality of the music if just as good as that of the visuals. It consists of the low, atmospheric pieces you would expect in this kind of game, often sifting between somber and sinister. It’s very ambient, and perfectly suits the dark, dank Victorian setting, but even on its own merits, the music is just as enjoyable to listen to on its own.
Pondering in the Dark
The Bride plays like your usual point-and-click adventure game. You’ll go from screen to screen, room to room, checking out the scenery for anything relevant, suspicious or in any way related to a puzzle or minigame. And you’ll have to solve a good number of those along the way. There are cogwheel puzzles, key boxes, inventory puzzles and hidden object games, among others. Most of them work well enough, and there’s a good mix of them to keep things from getting repetitive.
Unfortunately, things are not always handled as logically as they could. For instance, in order to pass into a hall that is blocked by police tape, you need to find something to cut it first. You can’t do it with your hands like many people could probably do in the real world, or even try something as mundane as stepping over it. This holds true for a few other puzzles, and though it’s not a game-breaker, it is nevertheless annoying.
The HOGs don’t seem to be handled as well as they could have either. Not that they don’t play well, fans of them will certainly find plenty to enjoy, it’s just that the items often consist of the same assortment of random and anachronistic clutter that feels out of place in this setting. Sifting through a pile that has frogs, snakes and toilet plungers kind of wrecks the otherwise engaging atmosphere of the game. It’s not a huge issue either, but some games, like the Mystery Case Files series, do a much better job at keeping the style of their HOGs in line with their respective games’ overall style.
Too Much Walking
But by far The Bride’s biggest problem lies in the infuriating amount of backtracking you’ll inevitably have to do over the campaign. Now backtracking is certainly a common issue in adventure games, but this one takes it to new and nearly obnoxious levels. The environments are huge, which is admittedly cool, but it means that there will be more clicking to get to where you want to go.
But worse is the fact that The Bride actively enforces backtracking. It’s not an uncommon occurrence to find the key to a locked door a dozen or so screens away. Going back and forth in the same screens just to solve a single puzzle can grow tiring after a while.
Conclusion - A Great Looking Game With Solid Gameplay
Overall, Grim Tales: The Bride has some pretty standard adventure game stuff, and is generally above average. The puzzles are solid, and the hint system is both competent and adjustable over the game’s three difficulty settings. And it’s all wrapped up in some of the most impressive production values a game of this caliber has seen.
If you’re patient enough to put up with the annoying amount of trekking you’ll have to do, then you’ll find that there’s plenty to enjoy here. There are better adventure games out there, but there are also lots of worse ones, and The Bride is certainly worth a kiss.
Review by David Galvin
David Galvin is an avid gamer and freelance writer, and has somehow succeeded in combing these two contradictory passions.
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