Barrow Hill Review (PC)

The Autumn Equinox, a dash of paganism, a touch of unexplained darkness and what do you have? Answer: I don’t know.

Looks can be deceiving and this game is the ultimate testament to that fact. On initial impression Barrow Hill looked “creatively cheap”. What does that exactly mean? Well that’s just me trying to be diplomatic and insightful more than anything, but it gives the appearance of a bare budget-line title.

Now that’s not to say that it is, that’s why I can’t hammer this one down which for me is quite infuriating. It’s an adventure game based in England and from what the developers say it involves some archaeology. Right so we stumble about digging stuff up is what I assumed.

We’re first treated to an opening sequence which actually comprises of real footage, enhanced with dramatic camera angles in an almost “Blair witch” amateur style. The car your character drives suddenly cuts dead with the radio silenced, blabbing on about the Autumn Equinox.

So here we start the journey, outside the car which magically has transformed into a completely different model. To move all required is the mouse, in fact for the entire game the mouse is basically it. Each scene is fixed and requires attentive scanning of the cursor for hidden elements. To move on or turn to face a direction you need to use the cursor and wait until it changes into a directional hand.

The quality of the scenes can range from quite realistic and good to just plain poor and insulting. Considering there’s not much demanding hard code in a game like this you’d have thought full attention could have been focused on appearances to really make this game stand out.

Many still like these kinds of adventure titles, especially developers as it means significantly less arduous work and a reduced chance of error in coding. Personally I find them a dreadful bore on the whole, as only so much entertainment can be offered from fixed scenes. Don’t expect to see your character either, not even a hand or leg. Though they can add suspense as it feels anything could approach and confront “you”, also it allows for the odd quick “scare” with a crow blazing out from behind trash cans.

Sound is a complex issue here; many sounds such as snaps in the woods, or the dripping of a tap are all great touches and add to the adventure atmosphere. A huge trip, fall and broken nose for the game are voiceovers which leave much to be desired. “Talking” to the guy locked in his office was a huge let down, standards bombed and I wanted nothing more than to put a bullet in the guys head. Dialog deserves to be buried and never unearthed.

Click to magnify areas and hopefully pick something up that’s helpful is what you’ll be mostly doing. This isn’t a bad mechanic if the game balances out this tedium with some counter in one form or another. I failed to see any and the whole pagan equinox angle wasn’t exactly enthralling or bubbling with purpose. It seems to lack a reason why we should actually care, and not try to burn the woods down and wait for the Police to charge us with grand arson.

Unless someone really likes archaeology or must possess every adventure game ever created by man, then it’s doubtful anyone would bother to give Barrow Hill a glance. There’s no spark or magic about the game, which in the age of shortening attention spans and next-gen expectations is a huge problem.

Top Game Moment:
Frankly I found it “not applicable”.