Scratches takes place in a small town in Northumberland. A horror writer, Michael Arthate, has recently purchased an old Victorian mansion there in order to inspire the completion of his second novel.
is an adventure game that is reminiscent of older titles such as Myst. The environments are pre-rendered: although the player can look freely, movement is constrained to fixed positions. The game has a simple point and click interface to move, explore the environment, and use items to solve puzzles. The puzzles are logical and grounded in reality, as the solutions rarely involve leaps of logic and the items are everyday items such as tools. One can also call characters such as Jerry (the agent) or Barbara (the secretary) to discuss the events that take place and advance the storyline.
Michael Arthate, upon his arrival to the mansion, quickly finds something amiss about it. Although he finds the place disturbing, he is also intrigued. The previous owner was accused of murdering his wife and died in mysterious circumstances. It has since been abandoned and is rumoured to be haunted by ghosts. Michael reports his increasing unease to Jerry, his real estate agent, who, it turns out, has fraudulently sold him the mansion. As Michael explores the mansion he finds mention of a mysterious curse, as well as evidence that the past events may have had something to do with the recovery of an African artifact related to a particularly murderous African tribe. Diaries and letters reveal that ever since the recovery of this artifact the household has met with ill fortune, and the owner, James Blackwood, becomes increasingly disturbed, believing that he must perform a ritual to set things right. At night, Michael is woken up by mysterious scratching sounds, leading him to conclude that he is not alone in the mansion. Although he is eventually evicted, he takes it upon himself to rid the mansion of the influence of the mysterious artifact by performing an African ritual. He does this and afterwards discovers the source of the mansion's evil. It appears the African mask resulted in Blackwood's son being born as a freakish, flesh-eating creature that was most likely responsible for the deaths and disappearances of the Blackwood family. Michael understandably flees from the horrific creature and drives off in a hurry. Later, Jerry is arrested for fraud and Michael refuses to discuss his experiences with the media. The mansion is ultimately destroyed.
A director's cut version of Scratches can be acquired through Steam and GOG.
Although critical reception was somewhat positive (an average of 73% on gamerankings, 67% on metacritic), it also received some very low scores. For instance, Ryan Davis gave the game a 3.9 for Gamespot, describing it as a 'boilerplate adventure game' lacking in creativity and scares.