This article originally appeared in Dev.Mag Issue 21, released in April 2008
We’re back with the third installment in the Chzo Mythos series by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw. Trilby’s Notes takes place 4 years after the events in the DeFoe manor from 5 Days a Stranger. The titular handwritten notes from the original game’s protagonist serve as a narrative to the story and inspiration for the game’s title. A lot has happened to Trilby in the past few years; he has left his “gentlemen” burglar ways behind and is now an agent for the Special Talents Project (basically some kind of secret government agency). A new career is not the only changes Trilby has gone through; he is still haunted by what happened in the DeFoe manor, and not a day goes by without him thinking about it.
The game starts off with Trilby reflecting on the past few years and it seems his nightmares from the past might be coming back. His investigation leads him to a hotel in efforts to try and solve this mystery once and for all. This is where things really start to go crazy. One minute, a room in the hotel can look perfectly normal, and then, as if Trilby has just moved to an alternate realm, the very same room is covered in corpses and the walls are splattered with messages written in blood. It’s now up to you to get your grey matter working and solve this mystery.
Gameplay has also gone through some major changes; you can throw your mouse out of the window for this adventure game, for one. It makes use of text parser, so it’s all keyboard in this journey. While this may seem quite different and cumbersome at first, especially if you have never played a game with a text parser before, it is polished and works fairly well once you have wrapped your way of thinking around the concept in a fashion the parser will understand. Conversations are much more interesting as you get to type out carefully thought questions rather than just clicking an option. Nevertheless it does have some flaws; misidentified objects and forgotten names can hamper the text parser’s understanding of your intentions. However this can be solved by tweaking your approach: for example, more general commands such as “look at table” can help identify that the object laying on it is, in fact, an envelope and not book. As with the previous games, there are still points where you can die and get taken back to your last save, so you make sure you save regularly!
Yahtzee has once again raised the bar in terms of style and creepy atmosphere that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end. From the mysterious characters you meet to sudden changes in your surroundings, this game will draw you in and have you wondering what twist lies around the corner. There are also a lot of little touches that really add to the creepy experience, such as the eerie whispering heard in the alternate realms. There was also nostalgic trip into a room from the last game in the series, 7 Days a Skeptic, which was a really unexpected shock.
The storyline is well paced and has you guessing what will happen next without leaving you feeling confused. Along the way, Trilby has visions to events in the past which not only flesh out the story, but are also playable, which is a great immersive touch. Many gaps are filled in with regards to events in the past games which make the story even better, and players are treated to an exciting end indeed!
As the game can only run at a maximum resolution of 640×400 you can’t really expect much, but the drawings and animations are fairly impressive and get the job done, plus what it doesn’t have in pixels it makes up for in style. Sound is also fairly simple but a lot of effort has been put into it making it quite effective at setting a scene’s mood.
Overall Yahtzee has produced another great game in this series and manages to keep things new and interesting, partly thanks to the text parser, but also by filling in lots of gaps in the story. While not perfect, it’s a great game and definitely worth your time.