Have You Played… Scratches?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Skrit skrit skrit. There’s something in the walls, in the cellar, in the attic, in your skull. Skrit skrit skrit. The last thing you hear as the lights go out. Scratches.

Scratches shouldn’t work half as well as it does. There are plenty of superficially similar horror adventure games that have failed to scare, entertain or intrigue me – The Black Mirror and Dark Fall series come to mind – but Scratches works on almost every level.

The static first-person scenes create a convincing environment – a rural English home in the seventies – and while the setup is more unsettling than the denouement, the initial mystery makes something deeply macabre out of the mundane. That an atmosphere so thick with dread can be created using an interface that places so many barriers between the player and the world is a remarkable achievement.

22 Comments

  1. Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

    Scratches is my favourite horror game of all time. I think it’s the only horror game that actually made me nervous and that despite a couple very difficult puzzles.

  2. golem09 says:

    Why yes, I have, just a few weeks ago. Like it despited it’s cheesiness, or maybe even because of it.
    The playthrough then inspired me to then finally play through Lost Crown with my girlfriend. Good times.
    Then we saw that there is a Sequel to that coming soonish. Yay!

  3. Anthile says:

    I have! Although the Myst-esque graphics are unimpressive and sterile, it still works as an effective horror game. It doesn’t rely on gore or big scares but instead builds up atmosphere. It helps that the story never gets too ambitious for its own good and stays down to earth. You’re not exactly going to ram Cthulhu with a boat.
    So yeah, it’s definitely more of a slowburner.

  4. Oakreef says:

    It’s rare that there’s a game on “Have You Played…?” here I haven’t even heard of. Interesting!

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    john_silence says:

    I second this tip! Scratches boasted fine writing, interesting puzzles, and an oppressive atmosphere with a great sense of escalating horror.
    There is another full game called Asylum currently in development as golem09 pointed out, and for those who can’t wait Agustin Cordes is also credited with developing Serena, a highly-rated free game on Steam. I am yet to play it.

    • golem09 says:

      Actually I was pointing out the sequel to The Lost Crown, called “The Last Crown”. Asylum… will probably take time.

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        john_silence says:

        Oh right! The Lost Crown didn’t really gel for me, but there’s a lot to like about it.

  6. Pink Gregory says:

    Huh, thought this used to be available on GOG.com, apparently no more?

  7. Risingson says:

    Tried to, many times. And my friends love it, and I admire Agustín Cordés, but the overexposition kills me.

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    basilisk says:

    It’s certainly atmospheric, yes, but I found it a chore to play. There is too much reliance on pixel hunting combined with an almost total lack of any guidance on what to do, and even if you do something, nothing ever happens. I ended up being bored far more often than scared.

  9. captainmaelstrom says:

    Me and my wife loved this one. I’m typically pretty picky with my adventure games, but this one was special to me. The voice acting and sound design did wonders for layering up the creepy atmosphere.

  10. Voxel lens says:

    Strange. Checked my gog library and indeed, this game has no store link.

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    john_silence says:

    I like that this is tagged “fature”. Although “phature” would be better, and the default tag for manly first-person mass-murder simulators set in the near future of warpocalypse. Those With Eminem singing over the trailers for instance.

  12. Risingson says:

    Adam, didn’t the first Dark Fall scare you? Black Mirror was another thing (gothic melodrama) but the first Dark Fall STILL has the power to scare me.

  13. Agustin Cordes says:

    Thanks for the write-up! Sadly, due to a legal mumbo-jumbo, Scratches is no longer for sale on Steam, GOG or any official channel. I sincerely don’t mind if you acquire the game for free elsewhere. Hope you enjoy it!

  14. Stuart Walton says:

    A good read for those familiar with Scratches is the Adventure Gamers Community Playthrough where Agustin Cordes joins in on the fun.

  15. PoulWrist says:

    I did, and enjoyed it. Good fun.

  16. Jokerme says:

    One of the best games ever created! Of course I did.

  17. Gotem says:

    Is there a way to get it? can’t seme to find it in any store

  18. The_Player says:

    Yes, and I really enjoyed it. Replayed it several times lately, game still holds fantastic.

  19. DevilishEggs says:

    It’s one of my favorite adventure games as it’s realist (outside of the horror elements) and builds up a tremendous amount of quiet tension. The end is pretty good, in my book, but I’m a much softer critic of endings than most.

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      john_silence says:

      I’m with you there. The ending managed to wrap things up very well while increasing tension to as frantic a pitch as can be managed in a game of static screens. The sound design was very effective.
      The Director’s Cut managed not to botch up an even more perilous task, which was to add an epilogue and a second ending to the same story.