The Secret of Grisly Manor is a wonderful change of pace from the usual app fare. This is an old-school object-based adventure game, and it works surprisingly well in the handheld format.
In Grisly Manor, Fire Maple Games finds an appealing middle ground between Myst-style puzzle games and Sierra-style object-based games. Although visually and tonally it’s closer to Myst, there’s a lot less lever-pulling and a lot more common-sense inventory manipulation.
The premise is rather thin and underdeveloped. Your grandfather is a sweet but eccentric engineer who has summoned you to his house on the proverbial Dark & Stormy Night. From there, it’s mostly a straight path through the puzzles to a final epilogue that explains what grandpa was up to. A little explosion along the way would have been nice. As it stands, a story that begins with some promise soon becomes merely a closeline to support the puzzles.
Those reservations aside, the gameplay and production are uniformly excellent. Although the graphics are static screens with minor interaction animations, they are all exceptionally well done. Aside from a mildly awkward transition between the central hallway and the two adjoining rooms (caused by a perspective shift), this is all top-notch work.
The puzzles are all quite good, although none of them should stop experienced adventure games for too long. Most of the game is occupied by exploring the house, collecting any loose objects, and stitching together clues to solve puzzles. Sometimes this means using an object in the right place, and other times it means using clues from the house to manipulate environmental puzzles.
It took me about an hour to solve it, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. Less experienced puzzlers might take about two hours to finish the game. This would be too short for a standard PC/Mac adventure game, but for a $2 app, it’s just about right. You certainly get your money’s worth.
This is really a top-of the line production all the way through, and I really hope Fire Maple does more in this vein. There’s a lot of room in the mobile market for good, traditional adventure games, and I haven’t seen many indies delivering this level of quality on handhelds.