Kraven Manor is full of creepy statues, dusty corridors and locked doors, but rather than searching for keys, the player can only make progress by reconfiguring the layout of the building. It’s a shifting prison-nightmare, a mechanical puzzle mansion with horrifying contents that bring back memories of Amnesia, particularly in the audio department, some of which is distractingly familiar. It’s a remarkable thing though – a student game, free to download and as attractive as a professional release. The ability to change the mansion’s layout, collecting and moving rooms on a scale model, is a superb idea and ties back to the story rather than simply being a playful mechanic. A work of distinction.
The trailer doesn’t quite communicate the slow-burn nature of the game’s atmosphere. While it’s short and therefore gets to the point rather more quickly than I reckon the designers would ideally like it to, there are texts to read and history to uncover. There’s the occasional ‘BOO’ moment but I felt they were earned and effectively telegraphed. Not too obvious and not too cheap.
Kraven Manor is the work of a team at The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University in Texas. I have no idea what the rest of their classmates are producing but this but this seems like the sort of assignment that probably stands out from the crowd. It’s as effective a short-form frightener as I’ve seen in a good while and the construction and deconstruction of the manor is the sort of thing that I’d love to see revisited.