By Michael Fontanini / May 20th, 2015
|Title||House of Caravan|
|Release Date||April 16, 2015|
|Genre||Exploration, Puzzle, Horror|
You are a young boy named Lester Barnard, growing up with no resources in the streets of a suburb of Boston in the 1910s. One day, on your way to school, you are taken away by some strangers. A long car drive later, you find yourself left alone in a strange mansion. You can’t leave, as the front doors are locked. Of course, you start exploring the mansion and unearthing unexpected dark secrets that start to reveal why you are there. Some of the secrets uncover parts of your own past that were not known to you. Can you solve the mansion’s puzzles and discover what is happening to you, or will you just stay locked in the room they left you in and hope for the best?
House of Caravan is about the events in a single night of Lester’s life. The game is inspired by the gothic fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, classic horror films and the Death in Candlewood universe. The entire game takes place within this mansion in Candlewood. The first puzzle to overcome is how to escape the room you find yourself locked in. The controls feel a touch clunky at first, but you quickly get used to it, so it’s not a big deal. After that, you will gain access to more of the mansion as you progress through the game. Along the way, you will discover documents that will each reveal bits and pieces of the game’s story. You also find documents that will give information about some of the mansion’s puzzles, such as the code for one of the mansion’s safes. A couple documents are torn to pieces and you must arrange the pieces back into the original document by positioning and rotating them on the paper holder.
As you continue to explore the mansion’s many rooms, you will find a few useful items. These include things like a flashlight, a hammer or a key for a certain locked door. The flashlight has limited energy, so you’ll want to use it sparingly. There are a few batteries to find in the mansion, but they each only add 25% to the flashlight’s power meter. Some items are needed for some of the mansion’s puzzles. The puzzles in the mansion are generally medium difficulty, so there aren’t any terribly difficult ones. You will also find matchboxes around the mansion, which you can use to light candles to see better. Some areas are pretty dark at first, so you will certainly make use of these.
You will also encounter a few scares in House of Caravan. They are fairly tame, though, as there are no monsters or gore to speak of. The scares are composed of a sudden shaking of the mansion, an object suddenly knocked off a table or perhaps a window shattering. These things will catch you off guard sometimes, but they aren’t that scary. However, the game’s main focus is on exploration rather than trying to startle the player with jump scares. Oddly, the story never explains these odd happenings in the mansion, so they feel like they were just added to try to scare you from time to time. So, the mansion is seemingly a bit of a haunted place.
The various rooms and corridors in House of Caravan are enjoyable to explore. There is a small amount of backtracking, but it doesn’t take long since you’re not traveling huge distances. I did notice one jarring problem that sometimes happens in the corridors and rooms of the mansion, though. You can pick up things like dishes, vases or jars and drop or throw them to break them. There is nothing in them, but they break into shards as they shatter on the floor with a satisfying glass shattering sound. This is where the problem lies, however. The game’s physics / collision detection on the player seems to be a bit wonky. If you break a dish or other breakable object, the shards on the floor will block your movement. If you break a number of things in the same area, it can become quite difficult to get through that area. The shards will despawn after some time, but it’s still annoying and a bit silly to not be able to move forward because there’s a little piece of a broken pot on the floor.
As you can see in the screenshots, the graphics are pretty good. They did a good job making the mansion feel believable. The textures are very detailed, but don’t expect super HD. This isn’t a big AAA game, after all. That does not detract from the experience at all, though. As far as graphics effects are concerned, there aren’t too many. One is clouds of dust in a couple areas that make the room feel a bit more spooky, but it doesn’t hinder your view. It makes you feel a bit on edge, kind of like mist or fog in a cemetery will do. The only other major visual effect is a screen shaking effect that you will see when the mansion starts shaking for a few seconds (this happens periodically throughout the game).
The sound effects are good and get the job done. There is some voice acting with documents, and some basic voice clips that play when you find certain items. The game has a very ambient style, too, which really helps draw you into the mansion. There isn’t much in the way of music while you play the game, aside from the main menu music. It’s a nice piece that helps set the mood for the game with a mix of mystery and a dark overtone. It embodies the mysteries and dark secrets you are about to uncover as you begin your adventure in the mansion. The lack of music isn’t a bad thing, as it heightens your attention to the ambiance of the environment around you.
Overall, I enjoyed my time exploring the House of Caravan‘s mansion and discovering its secrets while unraveling hidden truths about my own past. The bug with the shards of broken pots mentioned above was biggest negative in the game. House of Caravan is a fairly short game, taking a handful of hours to complete. If you miss some of the documents in the mansion, there is some replay value in that you can play again and go for them all. The scares aren’t the best, but they aren’t the focus of the game, either. If you like spooky exploration games like this, then you might want to check this game out. House of Caravan puts you in the shoes of a kidnapped boy, left alone to discover what’s happening, and the dark deeds that have been done.
Review copy provided by publisher.
House of CaravanRosebud Games