The Charnel House Trilogy Review
Who Is Charnel, And What’s So Special With Her House?
Do you know those games that make you repeat their last chapter just to understand what the hell just happened? Well, The Charnel House Trilogy is a Point-and-Click Adventure with a reminiscent ’90s look that is simply composed by three chapters and can be completed in merely two hours, which I did twice. Despite the fact, I still have no idea of what it is all about.
I think The Charnel House Trilogy tells the story of Alex Davenport, a drug-addicted and shadow references teller that breaks up with her boyfriend and decides to take the midnight train to start a new life, and Harold Lang, a Science teacher looking for rocks, and yeah… His backstory is slightly underdeveloped and with less Journey references. They both get in the same train, which is humorously named Gloria (Latin references all throughout the game), and quickly forget their intentions, who they are, and how they even got on the train.
As previously mentioned, the game is divided in three chapters: Inhale, Sepulchre — which I still don’t know what it means — and Exhale. Inhale and Exhale have you playing as Alex, where in the former you learn the game’s mechanics by acquiring an online ticket and trying to unlock a cabin, with the latter having you to do some slightly crazier stuff. Sepulchre has you controlling the Mr. Doctor and is pretty similar to Exhale, in a way where you must do certain chores throughout the train until the plot is over.
I don’t know what’s sadder: The fact that Inhale is the best tutorial level I’ve ever played, even though it’s supposed to be a third of a game, or that I really enjoyed it? I mean, besides a lot of foreshadowing and a little bit of backstory, this chapter has nothing to do with the plot. It mostly exists so that you can get used to the game’s puzzles and writing, which is a lot more important than in most games, but really, the only thing you do is recovering a password for a metro’s website and looking for a movie. It isn’t particularly interesting.
The previous chapter has you literally doing a morning routine, but I still preferred it over Sepulchre. I don’t know if it’s because of my interest with playing with female characters, or simply because Alex is a rather interesting character — unlike Harold Lang who simply lacks personality. Instead of sleeping, Harold decides to use his precious time to get some booze to an 80-year-old guy, and that’s pretty much all of the chapter. Because in a three carriages train, there’s nothing much to do besides walking through the five available rooms and picking up every single object, that would then later be used, which makes every single puzzle quite easy.
Exhale is definitely my — and most people’s — favorite chapter. It goes back to old roots where the player recovers the ability to control Alex, everyone’s favorite non-Harold character. This time, Alex must find and discover where she is, and most importantly, how to leave that place. This isn’t the best story of them all simply because it takes more than 15 minutes to complete, as unlike what we’ve seen so far, this chapter actually develops the characters plot and picks everything we have been getting so far, just so that any remaining questions can be revealed in such a dramatic way. It got to the point where I was actually scared for the possibility that the game could give me a “Game Over” screen, which it didn’t, but is still pretty scary nonetheless.
Now that I’ve formally introduced the game’s surroundings, let me tell you some problems I have with it. First of all, I don’t really appreciate how Alex’s personality is made so that she looks like your normal hipster while also appearing to be the game’s developer ideal woman, which can definitely be seen by certain lines and actions performed by her. The difficulty level was also a problem for me because, when I play a Point-and-Click Adventure game, I’m not expecting to get stumped by every puzzle, but I wouldn’t complain if it has some challenging aspects. I also can’t forget to mention that this game has some crazy foreshadowing addiction. Because, from the first lines onto the near ending of the final chapter, you’re sure to find more foreshadow than any other game you’ve ever experienced. The writing is also slightly problematic in which, much like in Life Is Strange, The Charnel House Trilogy enjoys using vocabulary that is unsuitable and too complicated for Alex, which makes for some really weird and awkward dialogue.
Besides that, the game sustains itself quite well with a decent story filled with plot twists, enjoyable references and quotations, and even a sequel promise. You can’t forget the best thing, which is the fact that Jim Sterling provides the voice of one of the characters, and it might very well be the greatest aspect of the The Charnel House Trilogy, which says a lot about Jim Sterling’s talent and awesomeness.
The Charnel House Trilogy is far from being up there with the gods of Point-and-Click adventures, like Broken Sword, Grim Fandango and Monkey Island, but for a $5 game that only takes about 3 hours of your life to finish, provides many fantastic pop culture references, amazing ’90s-styled visuals, and a terrific plot (even if it’s filled with many plot holes and nonsensical bits), The Charnel House Trilogy can be summed up as a great game that made the beautiful choice to pick one of the best video game critics of all-time as one of the main characters.