The Charnel House Trilogy

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
The Charnel House Trilogy Game Poster Image
A disjointed, clunkily written, too-simple adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

A dark, mature-themed adventure about people facing their demons. Contains zero positivity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters -- a young, 20-something slacker girl and an eccentric 30-something professor -- both are troubled people struggling with emotional, mental issues. Both firmly on negative side of the role-model spectrum.

Ease of Play

Simple point-and-click controls; easy to learn and play.

Violence

Frequent instances of implied violence (people disappearing into large suitcases); player has to stab someone to end the game. The game's primitive pixel art prevents violence from being too graphic.

Sex

No sex is depicted, but characters mention it. One instance where main character talks about having her hand down someone's pants.

Language

Frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," other words.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character talks a lot about needing a drink, is seen drinking alcohol. She also smokes, has a pot plant growing in her apartment. Alcohol shown during handful of scenes in a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Charnel House Trilogy is a mature-themed downloadable adventure game featuring flawed heroes on a dark and violent journey to an unknown destination. Characters within the game smoke and drink, with some game scenes taking place in a bar. A marijuana plant is shown in one character's apartment as well. Profanity is frequently used, with "f--k," "s--t," and other phrases stated on a constant basis. Though sex is not shown, it's spoken about, and there are instances both of implied and shown violence, although the pixelated imagery limits the impact of these acts.

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What's it about?

The Charnel House Trilogy is alternately about a slackerish young New Yorker and a troubled scholar who coincidentally set out on a midnight train to a mysterious place called Augur Peak. Both think they're taking a simple journey; neither suspects it will force them to confront their own worst fears.

Is it any good?

Playing The Charnel House Trilogy should be a terrifying experience. It's not, though, and the reasons are many, including clunky dialogue; contrived, boring design; and bad voice acting. Though it sometimes delivers some truly unsettling moments, there's just not enough meat on the bone because it lacks meaningful structure. The separate hero/heroine story lines have their own chapters, and though they eventually meet (which prompts you to believe this is significant), their stories never really coincide. This leads to a disjointed, poorly conceived narrative that never delivers, even with the attempted scares thrown in. Every so often, you see ever-changing perceptions and nightmarish images that the characters are subjected to; on occasion, it works, giving a creepy and unsettling feel to the confused, disconnected setting. Now, if this could only be translated into a good adventure game.

Players are subjected to limited exploration and uncomplicated puzzles, with the result being a 90-minute game completely lacking in challenge where you simply walk back and forth doing chores that require no thought whatsoever. Also, the dialogue is odd at best, bizarre at worst, and often pointlessly obscenity-ridden. Perhaps the writer thought Alex would sound more "adult" or more "real" if she said "f--k" every three words, but the effect is juvenile and embarrassing. The ironic thing about The Charnel House Trilogy is that it's designed for mature audiences, but it feels half-grown and underdeveloped. That's a shame, because its handful of good moments point to its potential for having been a truly scary, profound adventure. Though it starts with a good premise, contains nice graphics and music, and has one or two scary moments, it cries out for more depth and sophistication, better writing and acting, and a more complete, well-conceived ending.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about loss. How do different people deal with losing someone they love? How have you, or how would you?

  • Discuss the idea of ghosts. Do you think ghosts exist? If so, do you think they can affect the real world?

  • Think about memory. Two people can remember the same event in very different ways; can you think of something you've done with a friend that each of you remembers differently?

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