Video Game / Scratches

"I arrived at Blackwood Manor one cold Saturday morning amidst a thick veil of fog, the weather didn't look good and there was an unnatural calm surrounding the area. Yet... I soon became entangled with the place..."
Michael Arthate, on the opening monologue.

Scratches is an Argentinian mystery/horror point-and-click adventure game for the PC released in 2006, a Director's Cut was released a year later featuring an alternate ending. It was developed by the now-defunct NucleoSys and published first by Got Game and currently by Meridian 4.

It features a soundtrack made by Cellar of Rats, which helps building the atmosphere.

The game has you playing as Michael Arthate, a rising horror writer who has acquired a Victorian mansion to inspire him into finishing his new book. However, he soon discovers the mansion's horrible past with a murder committed by the manor's former owner James Blackwood followed by his sudden death and subsequent disappearance of James's best friend and house caretaker, Christopher Milton. In addition, Michael hears strange, unnerving noises echoing through the house every night.

Michael then becomes poised to solve the mystery.

Scratches provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Unusually, it's a hot air vent in the back of the furnace.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The diaries and letters of James Blackwood and Christopher Milton.
  • Arc Words: Robin
  • Artifact of Death: The cursed mask.
  • Beautiful Void: See Scenery Porn.
  • Big Secret: James Blackwood and Christopher Milton again.
  • Blackout Basement: And you'll sometimes wish you hadn't turned on the lights...
  • Canon Discontinuity: Last Visit invalidates the secret ending.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Almost anything that looks peculiar, or seemingly useless item collected, or object you can interact with in the first minutes, you can bet it will play a major part much later.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Michael's secretary, Barbara, mentions that she's been studying languages in her spare time. This becomes useful when Michael reveals a letter in Italian and sends it to Barbara for translating it.
  • Concealing Canvas: There's a safe behind one of the paintings in the master bedroom.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: See Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
  • Creepy Basement: Quite possibly the creepiest in video game history.
  • Creepy Cathedral: The chapel is a very good example, even though it's well-lit.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Certainly did for James Blackwood, almost for Michael....
  • Curse: Or is it?
  • Darkest Africa: The curse lore hails from it.
  • Dream Sequence: Two of them.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The first game: The monster (Robin) is still alive and in the mansion. And Michael left the door open when he ran away...
    • Last Visit: Blackwood manor has been demolished, Robin is implied to be in a mental institution, but the cursed mask is still out there.
  • Evil Laugh: The Mask
  • Evil Mask
  • Game-Breaking Bug: If you try to play this game out of the box on Windows 7, you are in for a nasty surprise in the form of the BSOD. Fortunately, there is a fix for it. And the Steam version has this fixed.
  • Guide Dang It: This is an old-school adventure game, so expect this a lot, especially if you want to get the secret ending.
  • Haunted Castle: Blackwood Manor. Possibly subverted according to what was found on Last Visit.
  • Hearing Voices: Early on in the game, there are the eponymous scratching noises. Later on the main character starts hearing whispering voices (that might or might not be real) mocking him during the exorcism of the cursed mask.
    • James Blackwood also heard whisperings coming from the mask's room, Christopher Milton in his diary questions his sanity when he also mentions hearing them.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: The grandfather's clock in the entrance, which serves as an indicator of progress since it advances only when a puzzle is completed; And certain events can only be completed at certain times.
  • It's for a Book: Michael tries to get information from the retired police-officer William Bailey by pretending to be a reporter writing about famous murder cases.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: First with the music box hidden in the attic, then on the nursery and near the ending.
  • Karmic Death: Christopher Milton's fate at the end of Last Visit.
  • Law of Conservation of Detail: There are many hints and codes hidden in seemingly mundane objects or apparently randomly stacked objects.
  • Let's Play: By the Gamehorder, and more recently by CjuGames. Also one by Aesthetic Gamer.
  • Mistaken for Murderer:James Blackwood.
  • Madman In The Basement: Robin
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The game never actually shows whether there were really any supernatural events in mansion or if everything was only a series of unfortunate events that Blackwood in madness blamed to a curse. Last Visit at the end gives a rational explanation for everything but the final coda hints that there's still a missing piece and something doesn't fit...
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: Blackwood's journal recounts a gruesome incident of this he'd witnessed as an explorer.
  • Multiple Endings: There's a secret ending that appears only if you perform certain tasks in a certain order.
    • The secret ending is unlocked by being a diligent writer. Going to Michael's typewriter and writing a page of his novel until it has finished gives you a story in which Michael has not experienced anything paranormal - he's gone mad, like James Blackwood before him.
    • And it explains just who was in the first casket of the crypt: Milton.
  • Musical Spoiler: Averted and played straight.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: "I strained my eyes to detect if there was anything useful amongst that junk... but instead I got the impression of a sinister presence lurking in the shadows."
  • Now, Where Was I Going Again?: The Director's Cut has Michael's journal to serve as this.
  • Occult Detective: First James Blackwood then Michael.
  • Oh Crap!: Your reaction when in the middle of the night, you find that the cursed mask is not in it's place...
    • And just before the ending...
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Found in the attic.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The dream sequences.
  • Paper Key Retrieval Trick: Subverted
  • Pixel Hunt: Probably a consequence of having photorealistic graphics in a darkly lit game, but some items can be difficult to notice.
  • Real After All: Most people say it's a Red Herring.
  • Red Herring: Possibly. The curse may not be real in the first place.
  • Sassy Secretary: Michael's secretary, Barbara Stiles.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: A mask in this case.
  • Scare Chord: Three of them. Two during Sunday night, and the third just after the curse is removed.
  • Scenery Porn: Seriously, exploring Blackwood Manor is akin to visiting a virtual art museum.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Subverted, Michael fixes his car and attempts to leave the mansion on the third day, but he doesn't because he fears that something terrible might happen to someone in the future, so he decides to stay until he solves the mystery.
  • Self-Deprecation: Arthate's working notes for his book, in which he can't decide if a supernatural force is responsible for the scary events or not, and points out the flaws in choosing either alternative. The game itself seesaws between supernatural or natural explanations, and ends ambiguously.
  • Sequence Breaking: Even if you correctly guess Robin's name and use it to open the box in the study, you will still be forced to go through the puzzle in the crypt to try and find it.
  • Shout-Out: Mostly to H.P. Lovecraft.
    • The back cover of Arthate's first book is a Shout-Out to Dark Fall: Light's Out, whose creator Jonathan Boakes worked on Scratches.
    • The entire process that unlocks the secret ending is liekly a reference to The Shining.
  • Skepticism Failure: Christopher Milton, but later he starts experiencing the same things James Blackwood did.
  • Spooky Painting: The painting called The Hands Resist Him AKA The Haunted eBay Painting appears on the second floor near the bathroom.
    • And it's just one of several.
    • The Last Visit shows that this hallway full of paintings was robbed of all but one: Chronos eating his children. "Most likely too scary for the burglars to take."
  • Sundial Waypoint: Twice: Once in the crypt and later when you use the tip of the tower's shadow as a reference to find Catherine Blackwood's tomb.
  • Surprisingly Similar Stories: The game shares several similarities with 5 Days a Stranger, namely: They are both set on England in a Victorian mansion that the protagonists cannot leave, there is a terrible backstory on the manor's former owners, the games' progress is divided in days, they also involve finding a secret room by looking at the mansion's plans, an African artifact is pinpoined as the source of the curse, theres the action of entering an inaccessible room by rappelling from the outside, and the Madwoman in the Attic trope.
  • Take That: If Michael inspects the bookshelf in his room, he finds a book of a certain someone whom he seems particular displeased with:
    "King! What a overated bloke!"
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The scratching noises.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Inverted, Blackwood Manor is situated on Rothbury, where the majority of the townspeople want to know what exactly happened in that mansion.
    • Micheal's book "Vanishing Town" plays it straight, according to the summary on the back.
  • Twist Ending: You think the potential curse from the African mask was the only thing weird about Blackwood Manor? Nope. Turns out there's a deformed monster in the mansion.
  • The Unseen: The mailman who delivers the correspondence to Blackwood Manor, and Mr. Electrician.
  • Victorian Britain: The entire game is set on a Victorian mansion and its grounds.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: There is an empty bottle of Thalidomide visible in the master's bedroom; during Last Visit the player character can make a comment on this. That drug is known to both ease morning pains for women, but also causes birth defects. This fits with the description in the newspaper of how Catherine was suffering pains in her stomach during pregnancy, and how Robin shows nightmarishly severe malformations.
  • The Voice: Michael's real estate manager, Jerry Carter and all of the other characters as none are ever seen. Except one at the very end...
    • You also see the lower body of Milton at the end of Last Visit.
  • When It Rains, It Pours: So much that the storm on Sunday is even hitting where Jerry is and many roads are closed, much to Micheal's surprise.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: Michael uses the pencil trick to reveal a letter from the former house maid, Eva Mariani.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: The Director's Cut features an additional chapter: Last Visit set after the events of the game. This chapter invalidates the hidden secret ending from the original game.