In the history of video games, you'd be hard pushed to think of ones that feature a robed monk as its hero. I struggle to count beyond my middle finger. The Guardian of Darkness, Cryo's 1999 effort to rectify the imbalance, takes this one step further by adding ghosts, demons and exorcisms.
If you've read my review on The Devil Inside, you'd know that Cryo Interactive and I have a fractured relationship. While that game became an entertaining example of what they can do right, The Guardian of Darkness is unfortunately an example of the reverse. It's not as if the premise is uninteresting or the game-play without potential. The graphics are even pretty good for the time. So where did it all go wrong?
Despite everything it appears to have going for it, the game seems rushed and unfinished. It may not hit you at first, but as you keep playing what once seemed like design quirks become annoyances that should've been ironed out in the testing phase. As example of this is in conversations. You are a silent protagonist whose NPCs talk at you when you enter the vicinity. It might not sound too bad - classics like Half-Life do the same after all - but important information is too easily cut off or missed leaving you wondering what to do.
Some characters also decide to change rooms randomly, though you won't see them walk to their destination. They simply disappear from their usual position straight into another if they reappear at all. In the first level which takes place in a museum, you'd need your mentor's help to reanimate a mummy for some clues. He's supposed to be by your side so he can teach you the spell to do this but he never appeared. After about ten minutes of bemused wondering, I quit the game only to find him there when I picked it up again.
The worst aspect, and something that I find really important in a game, is the control scheme. It is entirely keyboard based, but only a few actions are configurable. The inventory is clumsy, poorly implemented and is bordering on broken. You can use the correct items on characters or objects, but if your stuck and trying everything on everything you instead place the item on the ground. It makes you pine for the simple repetitive dialogue like "no" or "I can't do that" of point-and-click adventures. Even if you are using the item correctly it doesn't always register leaving you wondering whether what your doing is right or not.
I've yet to try it on Windows 10 (an update may follow), but on Windows 7 it has a few display issues during cutscenes that I'd be remiss if I didn't mention. The rest of the game seems to run fine, but I do wonder whether some of the bugs are down to compatibility. There is a PlayStation port, which I've briefly played and you mentor does appear where he is supposed to. The item glitch does remain, but appears to be less frequent. It's still a pretty poor game though.
It's releases such as this that truly frustrate me when it comes to Cryo Interactive. The promise of the game is one that I really want to play and would no doubt enjoy, but the reality is a poorly executed mess bordering on unplayable tantalising you with some genuinely interesting elements.
To download the game, follow the link below. This is a custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber will run natively on modern systems. Tested on Windows 7.
The Guardian of Darkness is © Cryo Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me