Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos
First posted on 10 August 2012. Last updated on 30 January 2013.
Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos is a psychological thriller from Danilo Cagliari of Midian Design. Available in both Italian and English, the game is the fourth adventure title released by the indie developer.
Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos is a third-person, point-and-click adventure. The game's story spans out over a period of 4 days, each represented by a chapter in the game. Oz Orwell, the titular character, is a ghost investigator with his own weekly internet show called Ghosts & Mansions. After years of unproductive work covering locations in both Europe and America, Oz is sure that his next case at the Angst Mansion will provide proof, once and for all, that ghosts truly exist. With this evidence, he is convinced that he will finally be able to silence his critics, who have called him a fraud for doctoring ghostly presences in his show.
Despite the familiar premise, the game's story is full of twists and turns that you will not know what really happens until you reach the surprise ending at the game's conclusion. As you play through the game, you will find yourself asking many questions about your current predicament. What is the Crawling Chaos? Who or what is controlling you? Are the ghosts in the mansion real or imaginary? Are you a ghost hunter or a psychopathic murderer?
Installation of the game is simple and glitch free. The game can be configured (by running winsetup.exe located in the directory where the game is installed) to be played in either full screen or windowed mode. Other available settings include options for digital sound and MIDI music. Once the game starts, a menu is presented from where you can select New Game, Restore, Tutorial, and Quit. Selecting the option for the tutorial gives you an introduction to the game's main interface and brief instructions on how to play the game.
The game begins with a cinematic cut scene. Oz arrives at the Angst Mansion located at the Hill of Shadows in north Italy. He is getting ready to start recording another of his live ghost adventure show. It is the middle of the night, and the moon is out. Oz cautiously approaches the mansion's entrance. Built many years earlier by a madman named Cornelius Angst, the mansion is first rumored to be haunted after his disappearance. When members of another family, who have later purchased the mansion from Cornelius’ heirs, begin to disappear, rumor of the haunting becomes widespread. Upon entering the mansion, Oz finds the air in the place to be ice cold. He hears some noises and quickly turns on his recording equipment. Suddenly, Oz slumps to the floor and falls unconscious. When he wakes up later in a stone like cell, he finds himself trapped inside the mansion with all of its windows and exits bricked up.
Playing as Oz, you explore the different environments by pointing and left clicking with the mouse to where you want to go. Walking is done at quite a brisk pace. Left clicking on an object highlights it, while right clicking on an object describes it. The inventory is placed at the bottom of the screen and holds as many as 40 items. An oddity about the inventory items you are tasked to collect is that only about half of them are actually used by the end of the game. Alas, knowing what and where to use is rather a trial and error experience.
Saving the game is done by using the Esc key to bring up a menu with options to Save, Restore, or Quit. Clicking on Save brings up a save slot reminiscent of the old Sierra adventure games where you can insert a brief description. There are a generous number of save slots available. You cannot die in this game, so there is no real need to keep too many saves.
For an indie game built using AGS (Adventure Game Studio), I am quite impressed with the game's overall production. It is refreshing to find an indie game that is so perfectly localized from Italian to English, without a single spelling mistake or grammatical error. There is no speech, hence there is no need for any lip synching in the animations. All of the conversations are carried through dialog choices shown on the left side of the screen. The graphics are modest in quality but effective. For example, all of the rooms inside the mansion are dimly lit, which is appropriate given it is middle of the night. The effect exudes a creepy and spooky effect that befits the game's atmosphere. Most of the scenes are in color. However, upon entering the Door of Dreams to the different portals, the scenes change to black and white.
The story is much deeper that you are led on to believe at first. Just as you start to query Oz's mindset and sanity, the story throws another twist at you. I am almost certain that you will not foresee how the game finishes. The story offers up a surprisingly clever buildup that adds much suspense and interest to the game.
The number of puzzles in the game is limited. In each of the 4 portals that you visit, you have to locate items which are needed to enter the different buildings there. Eventually, you have to find a way to defeat the Crawling Chaos. Most items are easy to locate, but a handful of them are well hidden in the black and white scenes. The game is not overly linear, in that you can visit the many rooms in the mansion at random to gather items before you gain access to the Door of Dreams.
Sound effects are excellent, such as sounds of buzzing flies around a corpse, dripping water, and footsteps at a distance. The music played throughout the game is very creepy. A particularly suited choice is Ludwig van Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata No. 14, played in C# minor in either larghetto or lento. The music is almost haunting, giving an ambience of mystery to the game.
Despite not being overlong, the game took me about 12 hours to complete on first play because I got stuck several times. Once I played through the game once, though, it only took me about 3 hours to finish on replay.
In sum, Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos is a surprisingly competent indie adventure. Because the game deals with a number of mature subject matters (including drug use, killings, and hangings), it is not suitable for a younger audience. For gamers who have enjoyed this game, it is comforting to know that Oz's career as a ghost investigator may not be over.