Lurking in the shadow of a beautiful and desolate Italian mountainside, a nightmare is waiting to be remembered. The seeming serenity of the countryside gives no indication of the horrors and bloody recollections that lie within the familiar sawmill that stands before you. Get ready to uncover the past and relinquish all ties with your innocence and your sanity. Anna waits for no one...
The majority of this adventure takes place in the creepiest of all creepy structures I've seen featured in a game. Abandoned buildings alone already rate pretty high on the creep meter, but you add the element of a dead and decaying industrial edifice and you have yourself a perfect backdrop for murder and mayhem. The sawmill waits to slowly and frighteningly reveal clues about the tragic events that unfolded within it's walls.
Anna is a point-and-click horror adventure played with mouse and keyboard. The player searches their surroundings for clues and items that will help them overcome the obstacles presented. Various tomes and letters can be found which can either help the player put various clues together or serve as insights into the story and it's characters. As with a lot of games in the point-and-click adventure genre, I was frustrated with some of the counter-intuitive functions of the items used to progress through the riddles and puzzles of the game. While many items and their uses were logical and fitting, sadly, some were a little too obscure for me to figure out without the help of a walkthrough. Taking your time in this game is not really an option because the longer you take to figure something out the more your sanity (in-game and out-game) begins to wane. If you finally lose the last of your mental faculties you will wind up with an ending that you will find most unsatisfactory, so consider yourself warned.
I found the menu and interaction system far more effective in the Extended Edition than in the original release. The user interface is much less cumbersome and provides you with different “examination” icons to let you know what you can only observe and what you can actually interact with. This saves time and frustration that was felt during my run through of the original. This game was not an easy one for me. My thinking cap has wilted over the years I know, but I still consider myself to be pretty damned sharp. However, there were more than a couple of instances when I found myself stone-cold stumped. There was cursing, there were headaches and there was a sickening sense of hopelessness. After trying many combinations of random items I eventually perservered.
The ambiance is far more disturbing in the EE than it was in the original release. Several areas have been added along with many freakish mannequins that can appear out of nowhere and scare the bejeezus out of you (so now I can add mannequins next to dolls and clowns in my list of irrational phobias).
The player will start out as a confused man led as if in a trance to a sawmill he vaguely remembers from his past. He is in search of a woman named Anna, though he doesn't seem to recall much about her or how they are connected. As the game progresses, clues as to the identity of Anna and her fate are revealed through haunting ghostly conversations and strange books lying about depicting legends and various arcane ritual instructions. I would recommend taking notes when it comes to the books because you may find them sooner than you need them and it is easy to forget the wisdom they may lend to future puzzles.
To elaborate on the story any more than this would be robbing the player of the experience. Though I enjoyed this game immensely (minus the headaches, etc.), I have to confess that I found the story as a whole to be a little overdone. Whereas the original left you with very little understanding of the events that led up to the finale, the EE almost overcompensates for that with a little too much information that seemed to clutter a truly chilling and original plot. I still believe, however, that the story deserves a 7.
The visuals in this game are stunning. Seven very talented people worked on this game and it shows. The detail in the artwork and the amazing use of lighting and shadows perfectly convey the sense of being trapped in a prison of your own doing and being at the mercy of the spirits that haunt it.
If one is to set the scene in a way that invokes anxiety and horror then the soundtrack must be in complete harmony with this design. This was understood and achieved absolutely in Anna. Though the various tracks sound almost meditative at times, there is a perfect and subtle undertone to the melody that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and pay attention.
What really surprised and impressed me is that the soundtrack was done by the lead programmer of Dreampainters (Alessandro Monopoli) who on top of being able to program video games for a living, also belongs to a band called Chantry. His band wrote and recorded all the songs for this game. Overachiever!
I have included one of the tracks here:
On top of great theme music, the game also boasts some serious audio-generated terror. Babies crying, phantoms whispering, wails coming from who knows where. The effect is marvelously intimidating.
Because the game features multiple endings, and since you are most likely going to wind up losing your mind before you attain the ending you are hoping for (unless of course you use cheats), I'd say the replay card was brilliantly concocted by the developers. They give you so much to ponder and puzzle over that it is difficult to return to your normal life without knowing what the hell happened to Anna. Chances are you will belt out 3 or 4 different endings before you feel satisfied with the verdict.
I really can't estimate for you how long it will take to beat this game. It took me more hours than I'd care to admit in a public setting. Also, depending on the time you require to solve the puzzles and the actions you take during gameplay, you may end up with one of the crap endings and decide that that is enough for you. Completionists, this is well worth the $9.99. Not only do you get the EE, but it also includes the original version, the soundtrack and pictures from the actual creepy-as-hell sawmill the story was based on. Bring snacks and beverages because without a guide, you are in for a long haul.
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Time to die all over again.