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Black Sails - The Ghost Ship

Black Sails - The Ghost Ship

 

Developer: Deck13 Interactive The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 2010.04.22
Genre: Horror / Mystery
Graphics: Realistic / 2.5D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click



 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

A man and and a woman climb aboard a ship on the sea, both having been on another ship that sank just before without a reason. While being rescued from the sea might be a good thing, there are new problems arising. Something seems to be wrong on the new ship as well, for instance there is no sign of its crew. The player gets to control the woman, who is the other protagonist in the game, as well as another protagonist, who is not actually the man, but a young girl who appears in strange visions.

The game takes place in the late 1800s and without revealing the plot too much, has some connections to the myth of Mary Celeste. This means that there are some ordinary modern things that can't be used in the game world, such as electrical equipment which would help in many a situation that emerges during the gameplay. In the context of this game, it also creates some minor problems, as the behaviour and even clothing is not really what one would assume to see on the late 1800s people, so clearly the motivation for the game has been more in the situational aspect of things, rather than any kind of historical accuracy.

The protagonist.The protagonist.
Anyway, it all builds up to create a horror atmosphere where the narrative goes where ever it goes. There are actually very few rooms in the game, although some rooms are seen through the eyes of both the woman and the young girl, which gives quite literally two different perspectives on them. All these limitations actually build to a very thick atmosphere in the game. A seemingly empty ship on the sea, with survivors from another ship onboard, in its very limited spaces with dimly lit corridors and cabins. There are no zombies all over the place, but everything feels wrong and frightening.

The story actually has some really creepy and horrific elements in it, although some alluded things actually are explained later in the game making the game take possibly a slightly less disturbing course than it would first appear to be. In that sense, keeping the story more open-ended might have benefitted the scary and creepy elements of the game, although there are still some disturbing situations in the end of the game. Which, actually, has even three possible outcomes depending on the choices that the player makes in the end.

Young girl, the other protagonist.Young girl, the other protagonist.
Everything in the game would be very immersive if there weren't some problems in the execution. A lesser problem is that some areas are too dark to see items in them, but this can be naturally solved by adjusting some brightness settings and using the hotspot indicator which the game has. The bigger problem is how the camera works. The game is done in 3D, but there is no free rotation or other player-controlled movement for the camera, it's locked so the game plays as 2.5D. Especially when playing the game for the first time this makes orientation very difficult, which is a very big issue in the corridor which is basically a five-way intersection. A critically big issue is that some items and hotspots may not be visible from certain camera angles, one critical item is not even being revealed by the hotspot indicator from most camera angles in that room.

The game would have really benefitted from being an old-school 2D game, or being a genuine 3D title with the player having full control of the movement. In its present state the game kind of combines some of the worst features from both worlds. The good thing is that these problems aren't so severe that they would spoil the game completely, but they might make the game more difficult than it otherwise would be. Even with that in mind, the game is not the longest game ever made, it is medium length, and especially in the end some puzzles feel almost rushed compared to the relatively slower pace in the beginning. Most things in the game can be solved logically, although there is one segment in the game that feels out of place and would be more in line with hidden object game logic, a situation involving getting an item that is for some reason inside a huge clockwork. At least the objectives should be clear at all times, as there is a diary which lists them.

Scary situations.Scary situations.
Voice acting in the game is superb! All actors are great, at least in the English localisation, they fit the roles and are credible and build up the atmosphere which is very strong otherwise too. For people wanting to experiment with different subtitle/voiceover combinations the game is a bit unfriendly, this can be done only by editing a settings file manually, not directly from the game menu. A quick listen on the German voices, which are probably "the original" voices in the game, revealed them to be kind of good, although not quite as good as the English voices.

With the exception of voice acting, everything in the game could be better. But that doesn't mean that everything in the game is bad. Quite the contrary. It's a very nice horror game, with some creepy aspects to it. There's very little graphical horror and no action, so for players who want to experience a more relaxed horror, for the lack of a better word, Black Sails is an excellent option. As a point and click adventure game ignoring the horror aspect, Black Sails doesn't offer much that hasn't been tried and done before, not that it necessarily should even attempt to do so.

When the game is finished, for those who want to see all the endings after a few times, it feels like a high quality game. With some improvements, most notably the camera and object placement, the game would feel even better. There is this feeling that the game is trying hard to reach something, which remains just out of reach. It has some very disturbing elements, but the narrative doesn't go that way eventually. It has some interesting ideas as an adventure, but it remains kind of mediocre gameplay-wise. On the other hand, it can be seen that there's not much to stop trying it out. It is not too scary, it is not too difficult, it is not too strange. In the category of horror adventures which don't involve shooting, running, action, zombies and such, it is definitely among the best games.

The door is locked.The door is locked.

 


 

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