There was a crooked man who walked a crooked mile. He found a crooked six pence on a crooked stile, he bought a crooked cat and it caught a crooked mouse, and they all lived together in a crooked little house. The Crooked Man from the Strange Men series of games is the latest game I played on Steam and I’d like to share my thoughts and opinions on it with you today. Warning for spoilers of…..well everything.
The Crooked Man’s story follows David Hoover and down on his luck young adult who is at the very beginning of the game moving into a new apartment building. The apartment is a little bit odd though. It’s still fully furnished (which to be fair is a thing that happens) but for some reason when the previous tenant ‘left’ no one bothered to clean out some of his belongings, there are a suspicious amount of things that belonged to the former renter. It doesn’t take David very long to realize that his apartment is in fact actually haunted. Instead however of moving out (like any sane person) or seeking an exorcist David instead decides that the thing to do is hunt down the former occupant to ask him if he had any strange experiences while he lived there. So his search leads him to an abandoned hotel. Thus begins a journey of a man that as I played through this game I referred to as and I quote “Too stupid to live.”
So the story is substandard horror fair with David travelling from one horror movie set to another. Hotel check, school check, hospital check. All abandoned, all in shambles every last one. In each of these buildings you meet one new character, the first being the hotel where you meet the girl Sissi. She is the most prominent female in the cast, but not the only one in the story. True to her namesake Sissi is kind of a sissy. She’s a crybaby whose boyfriend recently broke up with her. They used to visit this hotel when they were together. She was looking for a small decorated box that her ex gave to her. She is scared of the monster in the building, and ashamed of being a coward, but David’s kindness convinces her that there is nothing wrong with being nice, or with being scared.
The second character you meet is D. D is a fresh faced young college student who was studying law. David finds that D was studying law however he could not pass the bar exam, his professor Andrew told him to keep on trying though and gave him the nickname D. Over the course of travelling through the law school though you find that D’s teacher actually disliked him and gave him the nickname D for Dreamer and “the grade he would always get”. It’s through encouraging words of understanding that D learns that it’s ok to give up on one dream and find another.
The third character that David meets is a little boy nicknamed Fluffy. This kid is waiting for his mother to come back and pick him up at the hospital. You know the abandoned building with no power? Yeah his mom left him there. And the same monster from the previous two buildings is still stalking David down. Fluffy is naïve and innocent. This is the only character whose fate you don’t affect through words of encouragement. For him it’s combat or no dice.
Paul and Marion Martin are two of David’s friends. They are extremely good natured people who just want what’s best for their mutual friend. Paul is the one who steps in near the end to save David from himself.
Shirley Webber is David’s ex girlfriend. She’s barely featured in the game fortunately.
Rachel Hoover, David’s mother plays an extremely prevalent role in the story. She has a brain tumor which has caused memory loss including but limited to being unable to at most times recognize her son. This causes clear cut conflict between her and David. Which is in fact one of the main focuses of the game and almost causes the hero to lose.
The Crooked Man himself is Duke Macgahan, shockingly the former resident of David’s apartment……
So what do all these people have in common, what do they all bring to the table? A lot each and every person in the story…..with the exception of Marion is so important that it’s almost painful. The three people that David worked so hard to save Sissi, D, and Fluffy are in fact not people, but aspects of the past of the Crooked Man. Sissi is a failed relationship, D is the death of his dream job, and Fluffy was his mother abandoning him. That’s right you actually get a deep in depth view of the horror movie monster’s past in a deeply human manner. But that isn’t all. Each of these things is also represented in David. His relationship with Shirley that fell apart because he wasn’t willing to take risks, his dream of becoming a pilot dashed by colour blindness, and lastly Fluffy’s relationship with his mother represents David in a fit of rage trying to strangle Rachel before coming to his senses.
All of this connects into the fact that Duke hates David for being so similar to him, while simultaneously desperately wanting him to succeed where he himself failed. It’s such a human story that it’s hardtop not feel emotionally attached to…..every single thing that’s going on….
The ending is a little cliche with David and his mom making piece before her death and with Shirley and David getting back together but it doesn’t feel bad or overly forced. It does however feel entirely necessary like he earned his right to be happy by not going the same route as Duke. And finding Duke’s body so he could be put to rest after a cool bout with the Crooked Man and the declaration of “I’ll never be like you.” Was all really cool
So I suppose the next thing after characters and story is gameplay. The game for the most part controls really well with the possible exception to combat. Combat is a wonky mess, especially once you get your hands on a gun. Just kill me. That aside the puzzles are easy enough to solve, nothing that flexing a small handful of grey cells can’t accomplish. Well aside from the point where I was not allowed to pick up the hammer to break the door to save Fluffy because apparently the situation wasn’t urgent enough yet (or I needed to examine the wall to break that instead but I digress I think breaking bathroom door would be easier than a cracked wall personally).
The soundtrack is simple. Not too over the top and the Crooked Man makes some great moaning sounds!
Overall I really enjoyed The Crooked Man. I enjoyed it enough honestly that I jumped right on into playing Sandman. I will however be honest the clunky combat and the mass amount of find this key to unlock this door might frustrate a lot of people. The characterization and the mass amount of human emotion in this story really sells it. It is also always on sale on Steam. Right now it’s currently in a bundle at 10% off with the other games in the line for eleven dollars. And let me tell you it’s worth it.
I can’t wait to see where the rest of Sandman takes me.