Demon Wagon Studios. Ring any bells? Yeah me neither, I’ll put my hands up and freely admit that. How about Kraven Manor? If you’ve heard about it raise your hand…. really? Well I’d better go change that then hadn’t I!
Demon Wagon Studios are a collection of level designers, game designers, programmers, artists, and producers from the Southern Methodist University who offer up Kraven Manor as a game showcasing their talents for everyone to enjoy. Having played it myself I’ve come here to tell all of you why you should go get it! Especially since it only took this team of 13 people 6 months to do this. It takes me longer than that to grow a pathetic beard or get some certain streaming services to cancel my subscription finally [guess what I spent today doing].
First of all, its free. Important price stuff out of the way. Now to the good stuff.
What Demon Wagon have done here is make a fantastic showcase of their abilities without letting themselves go over the top. Kraven Manor’s story is its first little gem. Sat in the darkened recesses of a pitch black room opening its petals slow to reveal the sweet nectar within while maintaining enough mystery and tension to keep you guessing for its short but tense and at times terrifying run. Clues to what has happened creep out of the walls and bounce off the pages of the mysterious literature, notes and scrawlings scattered around. It is a mysterious story which edges into the supernatural, I would say more but spoiling the journey would be the most terrible crime I could ever commit. Even down to the twist at the end you find yourself gripped.
The games interface follows simple WASD and you use your mouse to look around and click to pick stuff up. Oh yeah and you can turn off your flashlight. Not that anyone is going to do that, oh you are? Come tell me that after the wine cellar after you get that brown stain out of your big boy pants. The game doesn’t need anything else to allow to traverse Kraven Manor’s deep tangible atmosphere. You swim smoothly through the tension and darkness only to paddle when you freeze in fear at the creaks which follow. The use of these controls in a couple of interesting mechanics during boss encounters close to the games conclusion is inspired, when you work out what you have to do. It doesn’t exactly require a master’s degree but this is the only weak part of the game for me. No clues, at least not in the open although both are related so when you have the first the second is a little easier.
The Manor itself plays the biggest role here. With its haunting sounds, its changing walls and a brilliant little system for unlocking new areas that again I am doing my best not to spoil here it becomes a character all unto itself almost talking to acting as both an assistant guiding to swiftly to your next location only to then trap you in a small room and try to rip your skin off through your navel. The combination of sound design; which in the last quarter has perhaps the best tense music I’ve ever heard in an indie title, and a graphical style that manages to make the Manor both dark and yet welcoming to your prodding and investigation adds yet more to this triumph
There are some drawbacks of course but they are not overly present. The game sometimes chugs a little even on a high spec machine and for just under one hour of content there isn’t a great hulking deal of gameplay here but on the whole, who cares? Its a free title and it is well worth a look. Its the weekend, go give it a try you will not be disappointed. The only reason this does get a 90+ score from me is because the tears and lines that show this is an indie title are there, they aren’t something I can really complain about as a reviewer fair enough but they do bring the experience down a touch. Combined with some misguided design in places and the two instances of not giving the player much in the way of guidance do make the latter section of the game a little frustrating
If you’re still here and you haven’t been to get this then you must be looking for a link. Well head on over to www.kravenmanor.com and look to the big green buttons at the bottom to get to a download link. If I haven’t made it clear yet then here you go. Kraven Manor has a story made great due to the games length and the story’s pacing beautifully entwining like a well directed ballet with thick tension and atmosphere. Plus one of the final stages is trippy as a drunken hurdler with his shoelaces tied together. You’re still reading? Well thanks for reading! Now go scare yourself for an hour for free. Its even better than delving into the dark depths of YouTube.