Halloween Countdown Day V – Scratches


We’re over halfway through this absolutely awful, awful countdown and I wanted to start veering in the way of unconventional horror tropes in what would most likely be considered tame games. It’s not often that the video game market titles disappoint me considering the wide breadth to sample from, but even more amazing is the soot-covered diamonds peeking out from infinitesimal niches of Steam’s archives. As a side note I just wanted to say that however infrequent these may be, don’t be afraid to take a gamble in the right direction every once in awhile.

Day Five – Scratches

(Note: This game is no longer supported on Steam at the time being)

“What the hell is this P&C bulldrizzle?” You violently spew as I slink into a corner avoiding a wall of pitchforks. I know, I get it, the trailer is glorious and beautiful, the assets are gorgeous and supported on a stable frame with little cause for overheating. The price was scrumptious and the reviews were gracious. But there was one caveat that may turn some people off and I can’t help but notice. I’m no stranger to point-and-click adventures as the kinetic gameplay takes a back seat to the storytelling, puzzle mechanics, and most noticeably the art. In this case I was more than willing to try my hand at a genre crossover I never thought could work with modern gaming.

I was terribly surprised.


You go to a house plucked from history in Nowhere UK and get trapped for a bit (go figure) with a phone to a faceless confidant as your only lifeline. Weird things and bad weather transpire and the night quite easily devolves into a paranoiac nightmare. The inference of your predicament is never apparent but always rests just beneath the surface of perception. The house reeks with a sort of antiquated horror, that the past has stained the walls and gives the house an eerie personification.


The events were unobtrusive to start off and managed to slowly creep up on you. What little interaction you had with story-bound characters were measured and appropriate in every right, and subtly assists you with puzzles and clues. No one pestered you or incessantly  repeated dialogue and it really develops a sense of solidarity over the course of the game. In fact it was so effective – being in a large house by yourself that is – that the second act had me absolutely terrified to go to the second story landing. Several connotations, story clues, and the dramatic tonal shift accompanying the transition to nighttime put me on edge for what was to come.

I get it, the P&C genre managed to scare me, but that’s an achievement in its own right if I must say. The feeling Scratches invokes is one of utter dread and anticipation. It’s like being forced to look at a painting that absolutely unnerves you every time you have to go to the bathroom. You just want to close your eyes and get it over with and when it’s finally finished the realization that eventually you have to do it again is almost soul crushing. Maybe I’d get lucky playing any other survival horror game and only run into an enemy three times, but the inevitability, the eventuality doesn’t exist in those games. Scratches assumes an unconventional mantle and has no qualms about it.


The puzzle solving is a bit unintuitive in some aspects and lacks the satisfaction of other P&Cs, but what I understand as manufactured gameplay may only serve the central theme in its propagation of helplessness. The puzzles can often feel arbitrary and grating, not to even mention P&Cs’ pixel hunting which can lead you astray in certain scenarios. They’re paced very fluently and you have all the time in the world to complete them, so the player shouldn’t feel rushed if they have to take a break and come back later. It stands as a major draw for point-and-clicks and holds true for this entry as well.


The buildup was very sincere but lulls toward the end, putting you in arm’s reach of the final objective – the magician’s reveal – and then roadblocking you under the misguided attempt at suspense. I did feel satisfied getting to the end, however, and was even surprised by a couple details I had misjudged in my “infinite” foresight.  That being said, I would highly recommend you avoid the Director’s Cut addendum.

The Director’s Cut is a handful of story that nails the coffin shut for you rather than allowing you to back away and digest the ending with the appropriate exposure. It’s a waste of time and although I don’t support the myth of retroactive spoils, some people might have their experience clouded and soured at the very least.

Overall, Scratches was a unique experience and is expectedly well-received as a cult phenomenon. It sticks with me to this day and is the major reason I’m extremely anxious for Asylum so if you never get a chance to play Scratches at least you have something new to look forward to! Check it out!

About Samuel Collet

Sam is a writer for the internet, an awful graphic designer, and will work for coffee. If you wish to hire this destroyer of languages, send him an e-mail at samuelsharpe001@yahoo.com

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