The White Chamber (PC)

By Phill Parker

Published on Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Graphics: 9.00
Sound: 9.50
Gameplay: 6.00
Replays: 7.50

Point-and-click adventure games aren’t supposed to be cool. Sure, back in the day they topped the sales charts, but by modern video game standards, old school adventure gaming is nostalgic and quaint, not hip. Well, nobody told Studio Trophis, because their totally free (yes, free) horror game, called The White Chamber, manages to break out of the Kings Quest rut with outstanding artistic design and a dark, twisted story.

Your character, a girl named Sarah who sports punk hair and cargo pants, awakens in a gloomy chamber with no idea how she got there. Sarah activates the windows and discovers she’s floating in space – trapped in an empty orbital station, actually, with everyone else dead. The tone of The White Chamber feels like another gaming classic, System Shock 2. You move your avatar from room to room, discovering grisly clues, overcoming mechanical obstacles and experiencing gruesome flashbacks. No, this isn’t a game for the kiddies, because stylized animated gore awaits behind almost every door.

Besides the grungy anime graphics, probably the best feature of The White Chamber is Studio Trophis’ brilliant use of sound. Their website says the game includes a “haunting soundtrack of ambient noise and disturbing sound effects.” That description hits the nail on the head. There’s no voice acting, yet the game easily instills a choking and pervasive sense of dread through sound and music. Minimalist without being minimal, The White Chamber’s audio is exceptional.

Gameplay isn’t so hot. You walk back and forth between a few rooms, and left- or right-click on things. A much more rewarding and varied adventure experience is found in Beyond Good & Evil, but then again, Studio Trophis didn’t benefit from the deep pockets of Ubisoft. Hey, did I mention TWC is free?

It’s also tough, with a few puzzles that defy obvious solutions sitting conveniently nearby. Then again, I never had a head for logic. At least The White Chamber is free of those absurd and ridiculous brainteasers that helped kill the adventure genre (Myst sucks). It took quite awhile for me to patiently resolve each dilemma, but in the end every answer made sense.
TWC even offers replay value because the story contains four different endings, which are based on a combination of your answers to four crucial questions. Two of the endings result in your untimely death. I won’t spoil the other, more meaningful pair. Hint: Go for “redemption.”

A 306-MB download using BitTorrent, The White Chamber is easily the best old school adventure to come along in years. It doesn’t cost a dime, but you’ll gladly spend hour after hour trying to escape from its horrifying and suspenseful grip.

Overall Rating: 8.50

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