The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow Review
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow
Developer: Cloak and Dagger Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Website: Home (weebly.com)
Genre(s): Point and Click, Adventure
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: 28/09/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
An Unsettling Adventure
Upon watching the trailer for The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, I was intrigued by not only its mystery aspect but by its use of pixel art, unsettling at times. It was clear this wasn’t going to be a whimsical adventure, but something sinister lurked underneath. I also love a good point and click game! So, was this game a hidden treasure, or should you keep digging for more? Keep reading this Rapid Review to find out.
Digging for Truth
Taking on the role of Thomasina Bateman, an antiquarian inspired by her father, you have been summoned via letter to Bewlay. This small village in rural Victorian England, in the Northern moors, is meant to be the home of Hob’s Barrow. However, the summoner in said letter is nowhere to be seen, and no one seems to be able to tell you where the barrow is. But, Thomasina’s determination means she is desperate to uncover the mystery, despite the signs that turn her away.
Based on real English folklore, the story is full of mystery; as Thomasina is constantly told to avoid the barrow, I was eager to find out why. The pacing is a little slow, since you have to complete puzzles to progress and spend a lot of time visiting areas. However, the prospect of finding out the truth kept me playing. What could possibly be so dangerous, and why was everyone in the town so secretive? The truth is dark, and it’s safe to say this is not as cosy as other point and clicks can be. It borders on the horror genre and is not for those looking for a happy game to play.
Though I enjoyed the mystery of the story, and was left shocked at times, I’m unsure how I feel about the ending. No spoilers here, but there was no uplifting conclusion. It certainly fit the dark atmosphere, but I like my games to have a little hope! Nevertheless, it was definitely unique and unexpected. I also loved Thomasina as a character; she was strong and would stop at nothing to achieve what she set out to do, and I wanted to see her succeed.
A Puzzling Mystery
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow as explained is a point and click; holding down space bar will show you what can be interacted with on the screen. Left click was to interact with an item, whereas right click would be to investigate. Double clicking at an exit teleported Thomasina there, which kept things speedy. Once you visited a place too, you could fast travel there using the map feature. Then, hovering your mouse at the top of the screen brought down your inventory. All in all, the controls were easy to use.
The puzzles I found had varying levels of difficulty. Sometimes I would work it out straight away, and others I would be scratching my head for ages, on a few occasions having to resort to a guide. The advice I would give is to make sure you’ve spoken to everyone you can and tried using everything in your inventory before looking for answers! However, there were some instances where I don’t think I ever would have worked it out without help.
Overall, it is good that the puzzles weren’t all simple, since I would have flown through the game this way. It took me around eight hours to complete, as some took me a while to work out. I think there was a good balance of story and puzzles. I also liked that you had some choice-based responses when speaking to characters, often choosing between lying or telling the truth. However, I never worked out whether this had an impact on the story or whether it went ahead the same way regardless.
The pixel art graphics were a fantastic choice; it felt like an old school retro horror game, giving it a unique vibe in the modern age of hyper realistic graphics. The locations were very detailed as you can see from the screenshots, for example creating textures in the brickwork and landscapes. Grass would blow in the breeze and the weather, from fog to rain, encapsulated the mysterious atmosphere.
Some cutscenes would then have even more detailed pixel work, which was grotesque at times. It left me feeling unsettled, tapping into the horror genre. The up-close animations of the vicar vomiting, and the snarling of cats, had my skin crawling! Overall, I was really impressed with the art style and they were a perfect choice.
Dark and Dreary
Just as The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow has a dark story, the soundtrack complements this too. It felt eerie, and often sad in the emotional moments. Nothing particularly stuck out, but it did its job of creating a dreary and at times frightening atmosphere.
The voice acting was extremely good, from Thomasina herself to each of the side characters. They all had so much emotion and made them feel like real people! The Northern accents of the townsfolk in comparison to the ’posh’ accents of Thomasina and Lord Panswyck helped develop the world building, and accuracy in where they were from.
Overall, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow was a very unique experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was determined to find out what happened, and though I was a little disappointed by the ending, it at least subverted expectations in a way. Though I struggled with the puzzles at times, I think the difficulty was a good level to keep you from speeding through it. There’s also a range of achievements to discover. The only thing I would say is that it is a rather depressing game; this point and click is not the one for you if you’re looking for an uplifting boost! If you don’t mind something unusual or horror-based titles, why not visit the village of Bewlay and uncover its secrets?
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.