Kraven Manor
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 9

There’s no denying that Kraven Manor can be completed rather quickly, but it packs a lot of scares into its short runtime. The story could probably have benefited from it being fleshed out a little bit more, but the creepy antagonist and sinister atmosphere of the manor itself makes for a memorable experience. The game doesn’t go overboard with the scares, but knows how to mess with you which makes for a startling experience, at least the first time through.

Graphics: Nice visuals and excellent use of light.

Sound: Great audio and creepy sound effects.

Gameplay. Creepy and absorbing, but a little too short for my liking

Summary 8.3 Outstanding
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Kraven Manor

Developer: Demon Wagon Studios | Publisher: Demon Wagon Studios |Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Indie / Horror / Action |Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

During a dark and stormy night you enter a seemingly empty house. There is a palpable sense of menace in the air as the heavy door slams shut behind you. A foreboding hallway stretches out ahead of you with doors lining either side. The lights are on, but if anyone is home they are not making their presence known. The only witness to your intrusion is a bronze mannequin staring out sightlessly from the top of the stairs.  Armed with nothing more than a flashlight you make your way into the manor and whatever mysteries await.

If you like rooting around in deserted houses, but found Gone Home a little light on scares then Kraven Manor is the address that you were looking for. The game started out as a project by a bunch of students with a love for Alfred Hitchcock, Resident Evil and the Betrayal at House on the Hill board game. The original alpha testing version of the game caused quite a stir which prompted the team to add some more content and polish the whole thing up. It wasn’t just the public that reacted favorably to the game as it also won both the Best Gameplay and Best Visual Quality categories at the Intel University Games Showcase at GDC 2014. Knowing that they had something special on their hands the team submitted the game to Steam Greenlight where it made the grade after only a month.

In case you didn’t have the opportunity to experience the testing version of the game, the idea is quite simple. You have access to a creepy old manor which you have to explore in order to uncover its sinister secrets. The game drops you into the experience immediately without wasting any time explaining who you are or why you entered the manor, but after a few minutes of playing you’ll be too busy watching your back to really care.

There can be no denying that Kraven Manor excels in creating a spooky atmosphere. From the first seconds that I stepped inside the manor the game had me on edge and in the brief time before the credits rolled I probably jumped more times than I have done playing any other game recently. The scares are due to a combination of chilling sound effects, great lighting effects and an antagonist that continually stalks you throughout the manor. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but anyone that has watched the “Blink” episode in the Doctor Who television series will know what I am talking about.

Visually the game looks great and makes full use of the Unreal Development Kit which powers it. One of the standout features of the game is the way that you can alter the layout using a scale model of the house. Each time you find a scale model of a room it can be brought to the main hallway and then connected to any of the doors to instantly create a passage to the real room. It’s a nice idea, but apart from one section towards the end it doesn’t really influence the gameplay too dramatically and felt a bit underused. I would have liked to see this feature used for more than just picking through which door you want to walk in order to reach a specific room.

With only a cellar, library, bedroom, attic and a few other rooms to explore Kraven Manor is not a very long game and can easily be completed in under an hour. There are a few puzzles along the way to stop you from simply strolling through the house, but these are generally straightforward and won’t really leave anyone stumped for too long. You’ll also encounter some cryptic notes that will shed more light on William Kraven, the enigmatic and twisted owner of the manor, but these can be skipped almost entirely.

Instead of throwing a plethora of gibbering foes at you, Kraven Manor only pits you against one. It pretty much only has one trick up its sleeve, but managed to surprise me on quite a few occasions and played under the right conditions (late at night, earphones etc.) makes for a terrifying antagonist. The fact that there is a thunderstorm raging outside the manor and the interior of the rooms are pitch dark without your flash light ups the scare factor considerably. The short length of the game and the abundance of check points mean that it isn’t that hard to complete, but there is some replay value to be had. First up is the optional collectibles which lead to a different ending and secondly is the “Nightmare” mode which ups the ante with a bigger challenge and a flashlight battery that slowly drains. In a game where darkness is your worst enemy the inclusion of the battery meter makes for a much tenser experience.

The game employs some common horror tropes such as trails of blood and flickering lights to put you on edge before delivering the scares. There are even a couple of chase scenes where you have to sprint away from danger with a protagonist who runs out of breath a little too quickly for my liking. The audio is wonderful and definitely adds to the tension without feeling intrusive. There’s no voice acting, but thanks to the excellent sound effects, even the quiet moments feel unnerving.

The controls are straightforward and you only have to worry about moving, running or interacting with objects. Your character cannot wield any weapons and the ability to throw items is only useful when it comes to the puzzles. You cannot jump either, but movement is generally fast enough that it doesn’t feel like the pace of the game is too slow. For the Steam release of the game the developers have added the usual features such as achievements and cloud saves.

The only thing that marred my enjoyment of Kraven Manor is that length of the game which made it feel like it was over just when things really started to escalate. The final encounter in the game also felt a little out of place compared to the preceding events, but I can understand why the developers wanted to include something akin to a traditional boss fight. The game also includes plenty of jump scares, which I know is something that not all players enjoy, so consider yourself warned.

It’s easy to criticize Kraven Manor for its short length and for not fully capitalizing on all the great ideas it has, but at the end of the day I still had a lot of fun playing it. It might be short, but there is very little filler and it contains some of the most memorable scares that I’ve had in a game outside of the early Silent Hill titles. There’s still a lot of potential here, so hopefully the team will use what they have learned to provide an even more compelling experience the next time round.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 1Ghz
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX or OpenGL compatible card
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 1Ghz
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: DirectX or OpenGL compatible card
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c

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