The Ghostly World Of Jonathan Boakes

By Ben Wright (@iamzavagno) | www.xgeeks.co.uk)

He is one of the most gifted British game designers in the UK, and since 2002 he has been filling our monitors with the most terrifying and compelling point and click, survival horror games known to man. Welcome to the ghostly world of Jonathan Boakes.

I love point and click games. It was playing LucasArts games like Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, that got me hooked on the genre. It was only as I got in to my late teens that I started to enjoy the survival horror sub-genre.

Back in 2010 I found myself in a game shop browsing in, the ever decreasing, PC section. It was there I stumbled upon a game that would send me on many journeys in to the paranormal and the macabre.

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The game in question was The Lost Crown: A Ghost Hunting Adventure. It was the striking cover that compelled me to pick up the game, and it took less than a minute reading the back of the case to decide to buy it. A choice to this day, I’m thankful I made.

There was something very different about The Lost Crown, it was like no game that I had ever played. From the independent feel that the designer, Jonathan Boakes, had created to its brilliant story, the game really had it all.

To begin with, the look and style of the game was striking. The black and white, real-world photograph locations were just something I hadn’t seen before. The mix of black and white with sharp, vivid colours made the game visually outstanding. The perfect transition between first and third person during the game was fascinating to me also.

I love Cornwall. The land, the people, the history, it’s something that has been part of me since I was a child. But to see real world locations, including places like Polperro where I have visited, recreated in a game was mind-blowing. It felt more real. But despite all the wonderful technical and design elements of the game, it was the story I fell in love with.

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The Lost Crown’s story is one of the most compelling, gripping and frightening that I have ever played. The classic, Britishness of a seaside town full of strange characters, intrigue and ghosts is the perfect combination.

If I can’t sell you the game enough, how about the official synopsis from the official website:

Unravel an ancient mystery and search for an ancient treasure on England’s fog-shrouded coastline, famed for its legends of smugglers, pirates and ghosts.

Join ghost-hunters Nigel Danvers and Lucy Reubans as they investigate a tale of horror and haunting. Wielding the tools of the modern-day ghost-hunter in a cinematic, richly detailed interactive world of wind-swept coastlines and crumbling crypts, you will be captivated, taunted and teased by mind-bending puzzles and interactions with the town ‘locals’.

But, be warned, there are those who will stop at nothing to prevent Nigel discovering “that which should stay hidden”. With nerves of steel and wits to match, in your search for The Lost Crown you will soon discover long lost secrets previously known only to the dead!

This was the first game that I had played by Jonathan Boakes. It wasn’t going to be the last. After all, nothing ventured…

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After playing The Lost Crown, I was hooked with Boakes storytelling and game design. I needed more. I stumbled upon the Darkling Room website where I was able to buy and playthrough Dark Fall: The Journal and Dark Fall: Lights Out. With so many winks and nods to the more recent The Lost Crown, I truly felt immersed in the world that Boakes had created. There was also the third game in the Dark Fall series, Dark Fall: Lost Souls, which was released after The Lost Crown. This mixed the story of the classic originals, with the more enhanced and refined gameplay of The Lost Crown. The Dark Fall games remain one of my favourite series of all time, and it is very difficult to find any game with a better story.

As any fan of The Lost Crown knows, we’ve had to wait patiently for another installment.  While some are eager to play as Nigel Danvers one more time, you can’t rush the process. It’s not like there is a team of 200 game designers all working on this. But that is what is so great about these games. It’s the personal touch you feel when you play them.

With the sequel to The Lost Crown due to be released in the very near future. We have already been treated to a prequel game The Last Crown: Midnight Horror (Our video playthrough will follow early April) and another, The Last Crown: Blackenrock, to follow shortly. It’s clear that 2016 is going to be a phenomenal year for fans of Jonathan Boakes and the Crown games.

I urge you to seek out the games that Boakes has created. Recently Steam have re-mastered The Lost Crown, with Midnight Horror and the Dark Fall games also available to buy.

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With news this week that Microsoft are closing down Lionhead Studios, it’s important more than ever to support the UK gaming industry, from big studios to the independents. This only happens if we as gamers, take the time to buy the games that have been so lovingly and expertly crafted.

For more information on Jonathan Boakes and the games he has created, visit www.DarklingRoom.co.uk

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