|Title screens are starting to become more animated, so this still is just one way you'd see this|
Time:1 hour 50 minutes
Riverhill Soft, despite the fact that you probably haven't heard of them, are one of the more influential Japanese game companies of the '80s. Starting off as a publishing house on the PC-88 the company would become known as a Japanese-style adventure company. The J.B. Harold series has sold millions of copies. Without ever leaving Japan. Its popularity was so huge once upon a time there was a full-blown FMV game, made in America with American actors, that barely even exists outside of Japan. That one only exists on the LaserActive, a system you probably haven't heard of. Murder Club, the first, was released on DOS, but only managed to get a bit of minor controversy for its fairly hardboiled nature.
|The aforementioned DOS version of Murder Club|
Oh, they did other games between their first adventures and now, but those are all in Japanese, and my grasp of the language isn't at that level just yet...and they're all RPGs or adventures. Doctor Hauzer has a fan translation. This game is pretty comparable to Sweet Home at first glance, as these are both Japanese survival horror games that have captured the hearts of people writing histories of the genre. When I fired it up the first time I was shocked that its really more of a horror adventure game. Its close enough that you could call it a hybrid, but this feels like a weird predecessor to Alone in the Dark rather than the step between AitD and Resident Evil. Nevertheless, I was excited, since even though this is a B-team, this is a company whose work I've enjoyed.
|Apparently either a genius or really lucky|
The story is, we're a journalist who did a bunch of reports on the titular Doctor Hauzer, an archaeologist who is the greatest archaeologist ever, has gone missing. We're curious as to why he's disappeared and find a mansion he's supposedly holed up in. I hope this sounds better in the original Japanese. Apparently the other reporters don't like Hauzer, and they bullied our protagonist into interviewing him. He's as close as anyone has to being his friend apparently.
|Look at the ground, look at the fence, its all very obvious|
By the way, the CGI cutscene in this has that whiff of early CGI of it. You can tell. They're purposefully avoiding anything they can't model, and everything is much flatter than it should be. Also, there's a demo mode showing some of the traps the game has. Very Tomb Raider-esque.
After that, there's another cutscene showing our protagonist entering the building...
|...In this small foyer of a giant mansion.|
|I am actually turning right now, but because I started running before doing this, that's what animation I get|
|First-person, though in this case my guy is looking downward because I'm trying to use this|
We also get the door trick. I believe this is now hiding loading times, but I don't have those. I do get every agonizing moment of these screens though. What I do have, and I don't know if its the game or me, is slowdown. 3DO games are just going to be like this, aren't they? 30-year-old games with slowdown. Sigh...
|Those windows look into the interior room for some reason|
|This is the only time such a weird camera happens|
|Shouldn't you notice this before walking through it?|
|This is just begging to be taken out of context|
|Gee, I can't tell this game is Japanese...|
|While this does kind of make sense in English, this is also something that feels more Japanese-esque, since the language contains a lot more elements a reader wouldn't be familiar with on the high end|
|He's talking about the good doctor's wife|
|This honestly just shows how much better they were at doing sprites than everything else|
Through sheer luck, I manage to get past them. You need the picture of his wife, once you're close enough Adams throws it in. Then, Hauzer says he found his wife before exploding in a fireball. Somehow, Adams manages to escape the mansion, and says he can't publish what just happened. No one would believe him and he just wants to forget.
|The ending shows a bunch of weird alternative scenes from the game for some reason|
Its not necessarily bad, just not impressive in any way. I can see where its ideas could be executed well under better hands. Its just one of those games that you play and don't think much of later. Even its claim to fame, the 3D design, doesn't create that memorable impression, except of the constant slowdown I had.
|This is what you get if you look out a window|
There's only one real enemy, a final boss who's mediocre at best. 1/10
Yeah, its a mansion, nothing special, nothing awful. 3/10
Adams just feels bad to control. None of the smoothness even Alone in the Dark had is here and tank controls is now 100% apt, because Adams just feels like a tank. Also, jumping and slowdown. 4/10
Very few puzzles are actually interesting, and your methods of interacting with them amount to pressing A on everything or using items on everything. Even so it does manage a few clever ideas. 3/10
Despite the feeble-looking visuals, there is some creepiness in the game. Its too few and far between to pack any real punch though. 2/10
This building feels really underwhelming visually. Objects aren't anything impressive to begin with, but constant repeating textures that don't quite meet their edges properly is not my idea of good design. Adams is not an appealing-looking main character and his animations are not great. There was also this weird see-through static in a lot of objects for some reason. 2/10
Despite my intial mixed feelings on the writing, I thought it worked out pretty well. Hauzer's descend into madness was short but sweet and everything wrapped up in a somewhat satisfying conclusion. 4/10
It was nice hearing the musical track that went through most of the gameplay the first time. The tenth time it started up because I changed rooms it got annoying, and I wasn't that far into the game. The sound effects are nice, but there's this persistent skipping, which might just be my system but I find I don't care enough to check. 3/10
That's 22, a bit higher than I would have thought. Thoroughly mediocre through and through.
Reading reviews other people have made of the game, while there are reviews describing it as mediocre like me, there are just as many praising aspects of its design. The music I hated is apparently someone else's highpoint, for example. I will highlight that one person called it an interactive movie, something that describes it well. Solving some light puzzles to see what happens next. I do find someone describing the game as being worth the price tag because of its replayability, as if there is some.
Regarding future Japanese-exclusive survival horror titles. Yes, I will be playing them. I hope to be playing them by next year. I have made incredible leaps and bounds over the past year, to the point where I can recognize considerable parts of a Japanese book. Granted, at this point its still isolated characters rather than full sentences, but considering that it wasn't that long ago when even that was impossible, I'm taking my wins where I can find them. At the rate I'm progressing I should know all 2200 regular characters by the end of the year. We'll see if this results in me actually making it to those two Japanese games I set aside for later in the FPS category.