5 Days a Stranger (Windows)

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Written by  :  vicrabb (7299)
Written on  :  Dec 16, 2008
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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The Tale of DeFoe Manor

The Good

Tribly is a gentleman thief, a master chief when it comes to robberies. Today, he'll search the DeFoe Manor, whose owner just deceased. But he doesn't know that once he'll put a foot into the mansion, he'll never go out of it. He doesn't know that there are four others prisoners: Philip Harty, the treasure hunter, James "Jim" Fowler, a teenager, Simone Taylor, a BBC journalist and A.J., a mysterious man. He doesn't know that something will make the five following days bloody time...

5 Days A Stranger is a free game made with the AGS Engine, released in 2003 and made by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, the developer behind the Rob Blanc Trilogy and the Trials of Odysseus Kent. It's also the first "chapter" in the Chzo Mythos Quadrilogy (with 7 Days A Skeptic, Tribly's Notes and 6 Days A Sacrifice). As for the AGS Engine, it's also the engine behind Yahtzee's games but also the Ben Jordan series, Larry Vales or Barn Runner.

The storyline isn't weak, twists are present and well, the history behind DeFoe Manor is also interesting but you can only guess the events when you find Sir Roderick and Matthew Defoe's diaries and there, you can have an idea of what happened between the father, first owner of the manor and his son of fifteen. Fate can be cruel sometimes.

The gameplay wasn't changed by Yahtzee and will be the same for the rest of the quadrilogy except with Tribly's Notes but that's a story for another review. It's a point and click game. Players take control of Tribly and can make him interact with his environment. For making him move, they had just to select the "walk" action and then click on where they want to see him. He can also talk, observe or pick up objects by doing the same scheme: choosing the action and then clicking on the chosen person or object. Tribly can also combine objects in his inventory. For making the menu with icons appear, you have to move your cursor at the bottom of the screen. However, I found one problem during my play.

As for enigmas, they're simple to solve: using common sense is what I advise you to do. Don't forget to observe your environment, you can find the key to your problem by doing so. However, I found two tricky parts that I'll explain later.

Don't read me wrong, it isn't because I found, in my opinion, three negative points that 5 Days A Stranger doesn't have an efficient gameplay. No, it's easy to understand how to control Tribly and you don't have to do some complicated manipulations in order to advance. I'll even say that if you're used to play the AGS games like Ben Jordan for example, you'll be in your shoes.

As you can imagine, AGS Engine isn't the best engine in terms of next-gen graphics. Yes, it's "pixelised", yes, it's an old-school adventure engine but still, the graphics are good. Details are present even if the green wall on the second floor is... disgusting for me. Too much green for my eyes... But still, the engine is well-used. Don't forget that it's an horror game, so, some representations can be shocking... even if I don't find any shocking scene. The game is rated on Abandonia Reloaded as 18+ but for me, it should be 15+, after all, with all the games or the movies much gore than 5 Days A Stranger, I don't see why this little free game can be so shocking, even for 2003.

I wish that the soundtrack was present all the time. It's so good that I wanted to hear it. It's only present during important (and dramatic) sequences. Yet, the absence is contributing to maintain a certain ambiance and the music is announcing something bad that you'll fear what will happen (well fearing isn't really the word if you're used to games like Resident Evil, Doom 3, FEAR or other Dead Space).

The replay value can be high because you want to know all the secrets, if you missed something, like in Simone and Tribly's discussion at the beginning of day five but keep in mind that 5 Days A Stranger lasts no more than 2 hours (more if you're not used to that kind of games, but it can't be more than 3 hours), after all, the days are really short except for the second and third days but it's only for a couple of minutes.

The Bad

As I've said, I've found three little problems in terms of gameplay/enigmas.

It's in the menu appearing at the bottom of the screen that difficulty can be present. Indeed, I've had an hard time to change action. I mean, my cursor was an eye for the looking action and I needed to change for the interacting action or if you prefer, the hand. Well, it wouldn't change. I assure you, I needed to change by the menu/inventory by right-clicking. Fortunately, it wasn't during all the game. But I can say that when it's happening, it's very frustrating. Choosing action via the menu/inventory can be tricky: move your cursor out of the interface and it's gone.

The first flaw for the enigmas is about the pool. If you don't look at it during the second day, you couldn't know that something was in it and that you needed to drain it for closing the day. It would have been nice for players to have Tribly made the comment by a script, as he did when looking to the map and noticing that there was one more room.

The second flaw is the "search a person with one of his possessions". If the concept is great, the problem appear twice because well, you need to do it twice. When you're in the right room, where the corpses are hiding, the problem is that you need to follow the indication of southeast, etc etc. Well, it's hard to locate it. It can be a matter of millimeters. It can be frustrating sometimes.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line is that I wanted to play it since my first Ben Jordan experience in april/may 2008 but never got the courage to download a mythic game in the AGS universe, fearing to be deceived by it and fearing to be so easily killed. Well, it's not the case, so I'm happy to have play it. Little did I know that it will Tribly's Notes that will deceived me by its gameplay. That's another story though. Anyway, 5 Days A Stranger is a game that you have to download because of its quality, its storyline and its soundtrack.

Enter DeFoe Manor for a bloody trip... if you aren't afraid of it.