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Scholar's Mate Review

Scholar's Mate Review

I have to admit I know next to nothing about chess, though I was once inspired to learn it after watching The Queen’s Gambit in the span of a single weekend. However, I never actually followed through on that burst of inspiration (just ask the chessboard collecting dust in my closet), so the title of JanduSoft’s Scholar's Mate went right over my head before playing, not realising it derived its name from a well-known checkmate move. I do, however, know a thing or two about horror games and escape rooms. As such, I readied myself for puzzles and tension as I stepped into the shoes of Judith, a young woman who finds herself trapped in an abandoned psychiatric hospital — a pawn whose next move could mean death or survival.

Scholar’s Mate’s narrative begins shrouded in mystery, as every conversation you have and document you find at the start drums up confusion and curiosity about who exactly Judith is and what happened to this abandoned facility. You’re dropped right into your predicament with little preamble, waking in a locked room with blood smeared on the walls and booming stomps of a monstrous creature outside your door; you really don’t need much dialogue or story, as your goal is crystal clear: get out. You’ll explore nearly every corner of this hospital in search of keys and clues, all while picking up items that unravel all the hows and whys of Judith’s tale. Without spoiling anything, I can say the narrative is decent yet a bit average, reusing familiar tropes of the genre. Seeing the pieces come together is still satisfying, but if you’re looking for a more captivating or innovative story, this might leave you wanting.

scholars mate eddie

Drawing from escape room titles, the confined space of the psychiatric hospital is full of codes and keys to find, and the more you progress, the more doors of the facility you’ll open, with your end goal being the chained front doors on the first floor. This brings me to Scholar’s Mate’s challenging puzzles, which are your main mode of progression; if you love a good head-scratch moment, you’ll be happy to hear this game has several. Nearly every puzzle left me stumped for longer than I’d like to admit, requiring me to think outside of the box to find the solution.

There’s a thin line between puzzles being satisfyingly difficult and frustratingly obscure, however, and I’d say Scholar’s Mate struggles with that balance. If you’re up for a very challenging experience and love a gloomy atmosphere, then I’d recommend it. But for me, some puzzles were just too complex to be enjoyable, and I honestly spent most of the time gritting my teeth in search of answers.

scholars mate environments

Scholar’s Mate has no shortage of tension either; in fact, you won’t ever explore or puzzle-solve in peace. Judith is being hunted by her invincible captor, known as Eddie, all throughout the game. He stalks the halls, following a set route, but he can see your flashlight and hear you when you’re walking or running, so you spend much of the time hiding, waiting, and listening. If he manages to catch you, it’s immediately game over since you can’t fight back. While some may enjoy this game of cat and mouse, it quickly became annoying for me, as I spent most of my time being a sitting duck. The times that Eddie did (or didn’t) spot me also didn’t make a ton of sense. Sometimes, he’d see me crouched behind a desk in a room but wouldn’t see me out in the open in a corner. He was also a fairly uninteresting antagonist, repeating the same lines over and over and following the same route over and over, which kind of took me out of the immersion overall.

The graphics and animations do their job, but it’s definitely the sound design that goes above and beyond. As I said, you spend a lot of time crouched and listening to Eddie’s footsteps, which sound terrifyingly loud when he draws near and grow quieter the further he gets. From distant screams or creaking doors, there’s a lot of auditorial suspense that will get your heart rate going. While I wasn’t a fan of how much hiding and waiting I had to do, at least the soundscape made the experience interesting.

scholars mate enemy

Scholar’s Mate is much more of a puzzler than a horror game, but there’s definitely enough tension and atmosphere to make it a good scare. However, the captor’s oppressive presence made it difficult to actually enjoy the puzzles; this, paired with elusive, obscure solutions, made the experience more annoying than fun, but if you’re looking for a challenge, this might be exactly what you need. All in all, it’s not for everyone, but with a fairly reasonable price point, it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.

6.50/10 6½

Scholar's Mate (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

Scholar’s Mate is an interesting entry in the horror genre, blending an eerie atmosphere with escape room gameplay, but its tricky puzzles might not be for everyone.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Alyssa Rochelle Payne

Staff Writer

Alyssa is great at saving NPCs from dragons. Then she writes about it.

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