I like it when games mix up genres to try and make a unique experience for players to dive into, with some clever titles releasing over the years that have blended mechanics in a creative and enjoyable way. Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story tries to do the same by mixing up a 90s-style survival-horror adventure with point-and-click gameplay, which sounds like a pretty neat idea on paper. Unfortunately, it actually makes for a frustrating experience that feels cumbersome to play throughout.
Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story puts players in the role of Haruka, a young demon-hunter who finds herself in trouble when her teacher is attacked by a snake-like monster and turned into a frog. I’ve seen this before: you’ve just got to kiss the frog to get them back to their original form, right? Well, apparently not… instead, you’ve got to explore the demon-filled Azuma Manor, vanquish it of its demons, and try to find a way to save your teacher.
There’s no doubting that Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story knows exactly what it wants to be: an original PlayStation survival-horror game (or, more appropriately, one developed by Capcom). Whilst the lower graphic quality and the 4:3 aspect ratio go a long way in re-creating that vibe of a PlayStation release perfectly though, it also comes with the caveat that it feels as clunky and dated as an early PlayStation title too.
Oh, and it also tries to add point-and-click elements to the mix, with not a whole lot of success. Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story is certainly one heck of an interesting release…
It feels appropriate to mention the things that Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story does right first of all, because there are some neat elements of its gameplay that really appealed to me. As a fan of the Resident Evil series, I loved the way that some of its puzzles were presented. You get to explore a manor that has puzzles that’ll require quick-thinking and the use of items to solve… sound familiar? Add to that some hazards that’ll catch unwary players off-guard and you’ll quickly feel at home if you’ve played the Resident Evil series before. It’s something I appreciated though, with the style of design certainly bringing back some good memories of playing through the original Resident Evil on my PlayStation when younger.
I quite liked the combat too, even if it was guilty of being a bit janky. The enemies you face off against are certainly creative in design, whilst some made for tricky encounters where you’d have to pull off your attacks with perfect timing if you were going to have any chance of survival. There’s a big emphasis on learning attack patterns too, with boss encounters in particular following an old-school style of design where you have to wait for your moment to strike. It’s far from perfect, especially since you have to clumsily switch between three different weapons to attack specific enemy types, but combat has this precise feel to it that I quite enjoyed.
Unfortunately, it’s with the other elements of the game’s design where it starts to fall apart. Remember how I said it adds point-and-click elements to the gameplay? Well, that comes with interacting with your surroundings too, meaning you move the character with the left stick and then also move a cursor with the right. This means you have to manually move the cursor around the screen and press on things in your surroundings, whether that’s when picking up an item, using an item, or even just opening a door.
This becomes annoying quite quickly in-game, especially since you have to be right next to an item or object to interact with them. Nope, your character won’t move there automatically like in a typical point-and-click adventure… you’ve got to do it yourself. The cursor doesn’t have flawless precision thanks to the fact you control it with the right stick too, so lining everything up perfectly can be pretty cumbersome. It just feels incredibly clunky and I don’t know why the developer couldn’t have made it as simple as being next to an item or object and interacting with it with a simple button press, like pretty much EVERY other similar game out there.
Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story also utilises fixed camera angles like in Resident Evil, but even these managed to annoy me. It made noticing items in the environment a bit more difficult on occasions, which could be frustrating given that there are often hidden things to look out for that’ll require some additional clicking with the cursor to interact with… provided you’re standing next to them, that is. It just drags out everything you do in the game, with the slow pace growing more and more tiresome the further you progress.
I was intrigued about the idea of mixing up survival-horror elements with point-and-click gameplay, but everything about Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story is executed in a clunky and unenjoyable manner. It does have its good points, with the puzzling pretty clever and the combat decent, but everything else about the game is just awkward and incredibly dated in design.
Kwaidan: Azuma Manor Story isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played, but it’s certainly one that I wouldn’t recommend – even to those who are looking for a 90s-inspired adventuring fix.
Publisher: Rainy Frog
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC