Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Tale of Orpheo's Curse

1994 Viacom
Designed by Raymond Benson, Donna L. Friedman, Tony Sherman, Jake Smith. Doug Snook; Dan Duling
Reviewed 2000 April 25

Rating -2 Linearity wide
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity minimal
Difficulty easy Relevance strong
Interface 1st paned simple Real-time minor

Two teens, sister Terry and brother Alex, investigate the old, shutdown Orpheo's Theatre, formerly a venue for magic shows. Once inside, they run into the ghost of Orpheo, who wants to use them as assistants in his magic show. His magic has not worked for many decades, though, resulting in horrible fates for his assistants. Terry and Alex must defeat Orpheo to escape. You take the role of Terry and Alex, separately and teamed at various times.

The story is simple, but well told. The backstory of Orpheo, his daughters, and the curse is a nice, light ghost story. The plot of discovering and effecting the escape is simple, and the characters all uncomplicated, but the pacing is excellent. There's steady movement in their situation, and a continuous revealing of the secret of the theatre. The game is a very good representation of the franchise.

Most of the challenges are inventory based. The interface automatically selects the appropriate object from your inventory when you move the cursor over an object, making this a very simple game. It does, however, show the object before you click to actually use it, thus illustrating the idea behind adventuring. This is an adventure game with training wheels.

There are also several timed sequences. A few are chases, and a few simple fuses before something bad happens. None are arcady, and the solutions require more thought than action. If you do die -- and there are many other deaths besides the timed sequences -- there is a good auto-restore system, so you don't have to worry about constantly saving the game.

There are some structural problems with the challenges. There are some dead ends, where the game becomes unwinnable but you're not dead, either.

The actual gameplay is presented first person, with realistically painted scenes. The cut-scenes are presented using actors. There is only a little bit of video. Most of the cut-scenes are a quick presentation of still shots, and the effect is like having a comic book being read to you. Full voice is used, though, so it's not as choppy as a comic. Overall, it works very well at presenting the story and establishing the mood.

This is a fun little time-waster. It's simple and short, but it still requires a lot of active participation. It is well suited to it's targeted demographic, young fans of the show that have probably never played an adventure. It's too easy to provide any challenge to veteran adventurers, and the story is not remarkable, but if you have it (as, say, part of a bundle), it's worth a look.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.