Of all the licenses to base a computer game on, director extraordinaire Alfred Hitchcock wouldn't necessarily be the first choice. I'm not talking about a specific movie license like Psycho or The Birds but the man himself. Arxel Tribe's 2001 effort, Hitchcock: The Final Cut, confounded game-players and did just.
In case you're wondering, the game is loosely based on the maestro's life and works. A Hitchcock obsessed billionaire named Robert Marvin-Jones has taken it upon himself to make his own movie on his own estate-slash-backlot. The only problem is that almost all of his cast and crew have gone missing. Enter Joseph Shamley, our protagonist, who just happens to be a detective with a little bit of a psychic ability. You see, his parents died in a car crash the night of Hitchcock's funeral 'cos that's all it takes to gain the second sight.
At first, our not-quite regular Joe was not interested and planned to spend his time on a fishing trip. However, in the first of many contrived plot points, the billionaire's mute niece, Alicia, crashes her car into his in a ploy to hire his services. And what do you know, it works!
It's in your initial encounter with Alicia where alarm bells are raised as to the game's overall quality. And we haven't even got past the opening cinematics. She talks in overly-gestured sign language but just in case you don't know what she's talking about her pet mynah whistles and screeches her words in English. Are we introduced to this bird in any way? Nope! And the tiny black bunch of polygons that represents him are camouflaged in the background. When I first played it I thought they were making fun of the character by adding cartoon sound effects that wouldn't be out of place in a Tom & Jerry short.
In the beginning, you have access to very few rooms in the Marvin-Jones mansion that looks suspiciously like the Bates Motel from Psycho. This, along with the tank controls and cinematic pre-rendered visual style makes it very reminiscent of Resident Evil. The difference is in the game's puzzles where we jarringly jump to mouse controls. The first puzzle is also your first real clue that this game is actually based on Hitchcock. You are required to complete the names of some of his most famous films in order to open a cabinet in the study.
It won't be long until you leave the house and explore the expansive estate and come across a sound stage. You meet one of the few crew members still around and get to be a stand in for a scene as the main actor is missing. For the uninitiated, this moment could be seen as a tutorial of sorts. You get to move, run, jump, equip a gun and shoot it. Don't get too excited though, you won't get to do many of these with any regularity, and you certainly won't encounter enemies to kill. This is first and foremost an adventure game.
So, it falls to the story and puzzle design to keep you interested. As you can probably expect from my description of the opening cinematic, the story is contrived and convoluted and it's not helped by its confusing presentation. Too many things are not shown to you, and if they are it's often after it's been presented. For example, we can conclude that the mynah bird speaks for Alicia once we know it's there, but did you know its name is Alfred? When it was first mentioned I thought I'd missed something until I figured it out. His name is a homage to the game's namesake, but other winks to the director's work will confuse all but the most knowledgeable of movie buffs. The words carved onto the hands of a dead thespian, "actors are cattle", are those from his infamous interview with Francois Truffaut. It has no real relevance to the game's story.
Occasionally, our psychic will have a flashback to a Hitchcock film. It's not a full scene, but a five-second shot of a peeping eye or a foot in a sack of potatoes. Again, they have little relevance to what's actually happening in-game and add little beyond shouting REFERENCE or HOMAGE in your face. What's weird is that the plot, once you get to grips with it, is more Lynchian than Hitchcockian. Strange things are happening in this small-town movie set.
You can pour over nearly everything you've interacted with using your trust PDA (yes, this was before smartphones). This is how all of the menus work and I think it's rather neat, even if it takes a little getting used to. You can do all of the normal options like save and quit here but you also have access to your inventory. It can get a little cluttered later on, but some related objects like video tapes are consolidated in their own folder. There's even a handy map that allows you to quick-travel to locations you've already visited. This all-encompassing gadget was a thorny subject for many reviewers at the time, but I had no problem with it once I knew what everything did.
By far the worst thing about the game is the controls. While serviceable, there's absolutely no reason for this game to have keyboard controls. Outside of puzzles, I often found myself trying to move Joe with the mouse in a more tradition point-n-click way. It's not like combat is a thing so I don't understand why they did this. Perhaps it was due to it being released at a time when the genre was sadly dying and the survival horror genre was going strong.
So what does Hitchcock have going for it? Well, the graphics are nice. The static backgrounds flit between okay and beautiful while the polygonal characters look nice from a distance. Close up they're a little janky and also a bit behind the curve for 2001 but this was never meant to be a blockbuster title.
If you are a cinephile like me, you'll probably get more out it Hitchcock: The Final Cut than most. The puzzles are a little too easy for adventure purists and the story too badly presented for more casual players but I found joy in finding what reference I can find next. It's rather long at around 20 hours and you do become more accepting of the eccentricities the further you get into it. It will eventually make some kind of sense if you keep at it.
That being said, this is nowhere near as good as the films it is inspired by. If you want a game more in line with the many schlocky horror B-movies the great man influenced, Hitchcock: The Final Cut is it.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber runs natively on modern systems. Follow the instructions in README.txt is you don't install to the default directory. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 1.11 Gb. Install Size: 1.19 Gb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Hitchcock: The Final Cut is © Arxel Tribe
Hitchcock's featured movies is © Universal Studios
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me