Bosch's Damnation: A Carol Reed Mystery
First posted on 18 May 2014. Last updated on 18 May 2014.
Bosch's Damnation: A Carol Reed Mystery is the 10th game in the Carol Reed Mystery series produced by husband and wife Mikael and Eleen Nyqvist of MDNA Games. It also marks the 10th anniversary of this long-running adventure game series. Once again, the game utilizes the scenic backdrops of local and nearby environs of Norrköping, Sweden (where the developer is located) to great effect. As well, it features historical landmarks and makes use of real life historical events in its storytelling. This game, however, is unique to the series because it takes places for the first time in both winter and summer.
The game's story centers on the famous real life Stierngranat family in Sweden, albeit mixed with some fictional narrative elements. In the story, Malte Stierngranat, the patriarch of the family who died in 1994 (in real life, he died in 1960), was notably an engineer, adventurer, and entrepreneur. Eccentric to the core, he designed himself a pyramid mausoleum based on the Pyramid of Cheops (Great Pyramid of Giza or Pyramid of Khufu) in Egypt, where he was ultimately buried. He also owned his own private rail carriage, took his own personalized coffin with him whenever he traveled, and even built his own train station. Supposedly an avid art collector, he followed the works of acclaimed real life Dutch painter and artist Hieronymus Bosch (hence the game's title).
Upon starting the game after setting the initial configuration, you are presented with the Main Menu: Continue, New game, Load, Save, Options, and Quit. Clicking on Options gives you choices on setting the Speech volume, Music volume, and Effects volume as well as turning on or off Subtitles. Clicking on New game begins an optional tutorial. Novice players who have not played previous games in the series may want to go through the tutorial to familiarize themselves with the game's interface.
The game begins with Carol at home in Norrköping during a cold winter around Christmas. Carol receives a text message from George Pamper, who works as a cleaner for the Stierngranat family patriarch's son Erik Stierngranat. George tells Carol that the Stierngranat family has not returned for weeks from a skiing holiday trip to Norway that is supposed to last for only days. George wants to seek Carol's help to find their whereabouts. Carol also learns that Martin Jensen, who is the boyfriend to Carin Stierngranat, the Stierngranat family patriarch's granddaughter, is with the Stierngranat family on their trip. Shortly afterward, George contacts Carol again with the news that Erik has contacted him and the mystery of the Stierngranat family's whereabouts has been solved. However, months later, now summer, Carol learns from a newspaper article at Stina's store that the body of Martin has been found in the Stierngranat family's old barn, apparently killed months ago during winter. Of course, it is up to Carol to find Martin's murderer and uncover the reason behind his death.
Like previous games in the series, gameplay uses typical first-person point-and-click mechanics. Pressing the spacebar highlights all hotspots with a blue circle in the current scene. Pressing the Esc key or clicking on the right mouse button returns to the Main Menu. The inventory is accessed by moving the cursor to the top of the screen, where items can be selected or combined for use. Navigation is done by clicking on the directional arrows. The pink circular cursor is context sensitive and changes to indicate the available actions: pink magnifying glass to look at an object, pink hand to pick up or use an object, and pink gears to use an item from the inventory. When the correct item is selected from the inventory, the circular cursor turns green to indicate that the match is correct. The game supports up to 100 save slots.
The game comes with a built-in robust hint system that is accessed from the notebook in the inventory. Opening the notebook shows a list of objectives on the left page. Clicking on an objective reveals the corresponding list of hints on the right page. Exiting any location brings up the map to select a new location for travel. A total of 18 locations are available to be explored in the game.
The plot is good to solid. Most of the story is told through brochures, letters, postcards, diaries, text messages, and notes that Carol finds or receives in the game. They can provide some interesting reading if you are particularly interested in learning more about the Sierngranat legacy (notwithstanding the fictional parts). There are 6 characters whom Carol interviews for clues for her investigation. The interview is done by clicking on the questions in the notebook (until they are all exhausted) and getting a reply from each character. When speaking, each character is animated by a series of still photographs showing the character in different poses and with different facial expressions.
The game is extremely linear. You find a clue that sends you to another location to find another clue, much like a paper chase. Until you can get Carol to complete all of the currently required tasks, the game will not progress even if you know what to do. The story has an interesting twist at the end that will be a guaranteed surprise.
This time, the game uses high resolution still photographs taken on location around Norrköping and Stjärneborg to the southwest of Norrköping. The photographs are then presented in the game in a slideshow format. Swedish architecture, landmarks, derelict factories and country scenes are brilliantly captured.
The puzzles are well integrated into the story. With a single exception, most of the puzzles are reasonably easy to solve. They range from number to color to symbol puzzles, which you need to solve to open locked doors or boxes. The hardest puzzle in the game is undoubtedly the puzzle that tasks you to match a poem to a painting in order to get a coded number.
Sarah Louise Williams again lends her voice as Carol in her inimitable native English accent. As in previous games, Williams also portrays her best friend Stina who, in turn, is voiced by another actor. Many of the voices are not done by professional actors, but their performance give the game an air of unintended realism. The musical score composed by Nyqvist himself is soothing and pleasant. The organ like music complements the school and church museum locales in the game. Sound effects are excellent, ranging from rusted gates squeaking to doorbells ringing to birds chirping to iron doors clanging shut.
Bosch's Damnation: A Carol Reed Mystery is yet another worthy sequel in the Carol Reed Mystery series. The game is family friendly (with no swearing or graphic violence) and takes around 10-12 hours to finish. It has been exactly a decade since Carol's first case, and I can already envisage Nyqvist working on the next mystery for Carol to solve.