Posted by Jess Beebe.
First posted on 15 March 2012. Last updated on 15 March 2012.
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The waxwork depicts a scene from ancient Egypt.
A scene from the Jack the Ripper waxwork depicts a victim of a vicious murder.
The graveyard waxwork is fittingly morbid.
An encounter with an enemy can be deadly.
Inside the mine waxwork is a maze of mining tunnels.

Waxworks, developed by Horror Soft, is a game that truly lives up to the developer's name. It is definitely not a diversion for the easily scared or the amateur gamer. It is chilling, disturbing, and at times alarmingly gruesome. It is also relentlessly difficult. Still, if you are courageous enough and are up for a real challenge, this game may be worth braving.

In Waxworks, you assume the role of a nameless protagonist who has an evil twin. In fact, there have been several sets of twins in your family's history, wherein there is always in each set a twin who is good and a twin who is evil. Supposedly, this is due to a curse cast by a witch on your family in the distant past. As the game starts, you arrive at an eerie museum of waxworks formerly owned by your late uncle, Uncle Boris.

Each of these waxworks display scenes from your family's history showing the past evil twins engaged in various dark deeds. Several of the plaques mounted beside the waxworks also tell of the eventual defeat of the evil twins at the hands of their good twins. When you step into a waxwork, you will be transported to a real life version of the scene, where you take on the role of a good twin. You must enter all of the waxworks and defeat the evil twins inside them in order to break the curse on your family once and for all.

The worlds within the waxwork displays are vast. Each world has its own unique theme as well as its own kind of horror—the hallways within an Egyptian pyramid contain dozens of well-hidden booby traps; a graveyard is swarming with zombies who will attack you without warning; and the moonlit streets of London are crawling with policeman and angry mobs on the hunt for Jack the Ripper (who unfortunately happens to be your twin in this particular scene).

With such threats to contend with, it comes as no surprise that you will die a lot playing this game. You will also run into the game's many dead-ends, and you will spend good amount of time drawing maps of the game's many expansive mazes.

The mazes are probably the most challenging part of the game. Ordinarily, I do not mind mazes that much in adventure games. However, when the entire game is essentially 4 mazes made up of around 200 rooms each, my enjoyment of it starts to wane a little. Drawing maps of the mazes is made even harder when you have to constantly be on the alert for any foes wandering around there.

The enemies you will encounter are numerous. As well, it takes a good deal of practice to learn how to fight them efficiently. If you take too many hits, you will die. Alas, there are not many places where you can replenish your health. Fortunately, some of the items you pick up in the waxworks can be used as weapons (though sometimes the largest weapon available may be just a shovel!). There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the combat in the game. Further, whatever combat that exists sometimes just boils down to clicking your chosen weapon repeatedly on your rival's various body parts.

The dead-ends in this game may prove frustrating for some players. They are not insanely numerous, but they are annoying nonetheless. For instance, in the waxwork of a mine overrun by mutants that are half human and half plant, at a certain point a mine cart will come rolling down the tracks towards you. Even if you get out of its way in time, it blocks the way to the mine's exit when it stops. The only way to stop it is to find a wooden beam hidden in a tunnel and place the beam across the tracks so that it does not block any of the other tunnels branching off the tunnel along which the tracks are running. In other words, unless you already know that the mine cart is going to come rushing at you, you will not know that you have to stop it.

Though there is a lot of combat, there are more than enough puzzles to make the game qualify as an adventure. You will face tasks such as constructing a makeshift filter for a gas mask, getting past a fierce dog guarding a pawnbroker's shop, and making your way across a floor lined with tiles (some of which will bear your weight while others will lead to your death if you step on them). There are also many items that you can pick up and add to your inventory. Fortunately, your inventory is emptied after completing each waxwork, so you do not have to carry dozens of items around with you that have no other uses throughout the entire game.

If the challenges in this game become too much for you, there is a built-in hint system in the form of a crystal ball containing your uncle's spirit. He will aid you in various ways, such as by telling you what your goal is in the various waxworks, giving you subtle hints, or even restoring your health if you have been severely wounded. The only drawback is that contacting the spirit depletes your psychic energy. If it gets too low, he can no longer help you.

The interface in this game is a little awkward. It consists of lots of buttons whose function is not immediately obvious, and it requires a bit of experimentation in order to figure out how they work. Also, since dying is so frequent in the game, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time saving and restoring. Unfortunately, the save and restore system is a bit frustrating because the game saves are ordered alphabetically rather than chronologically. Moreover, the names of the saves are limited to only 8 letters in length—it is difficult to write a thorough description for a save with so few characters.

The art, including the animation, in this game is very well done, and it has stood the test of time fairly well. The amount of detail is remarkable, though the excessive (and disturbingly realistic) images of blood, violence, and mangled human bodies may be a bit too much for some timid gamers. The music in this game, on the other hand, is somewhat average. The tunes are limited and not particularly memorable, but they are not terribly annoying either.

Overall, though Waxworks is a very difficult game, it is a game that is still worth checking out if you are not afraid of a lot of gore and a few frustrating puzzles. Its unusual story and deeply atmospheric environments create a chilling, yet strangely enchanting, experience.

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