Rule of Rose

Jennifer, unwilling heroine of Rule of Rose, has fallen in with the kind of crowd her mother warned her about: the kind that would lure her into the wilds of 1930s England, ritually humiliate her and bury her alive.

And that's all in Rose's opening half-hour - after which she regains consciousness in the groaning, creaking bowels of a Zeppelin, finding herself a galley slave of the Red Crayon Aristocrats' Club.

Spiteful and quite possibly murderous in the way only children can be, the Aristocrats demand monthly tribute, a series of chapter-by-chapter goals along the journey of understanding Jennifer's place in this fairytale gone awry.

She's aided by an equally abused dog, Brown, who provides a likable twist to adventure progression: while you're still led through the game by the nose, it's by the canine's nose. Most items can be offered to him to scent, and then finding their connecting item or container is a matter of following his determined snuffling and scratching.

Rose's wild-child premise crackles with menace and unexpected perversions, but unfortunately the setting isn't the only mustily historic aspect of the game.

This is a survival-horror that never grew up, the process of fumbling through the dark from one event trigger to the next making something like Killer 7's ruthless streamlining seem all the more inspired. Combat is such an awkward, joyless routine that its inclusion at all is doubly disappointing.

After all the possibilities the setting evokes, locking Jennifer in a room until milling enemies have been bludgeoned with an iron bar is particularly cheap and artless.