Fhtagn! A retrospective look at Lovecraftian video games

Gare – Saturday, March 12, 2016 6:25 PM
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When we recently talked about the upcoming official Call of Cthulhu video game adaptation, I mentioned the fact how the works of H.P Lovecraft serving as inspiration for video game project wasn’t particularly a new thing. And this is indeed true, so I took to keyboard and decided to compile a bit of a retrospective list that includes a number of Lovecraftian titles, just to get you in that special eldritch mood. The list itself is, naturally, not exhaustive.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Headfirst Productions’ terror-inducing FPS from 2005 was one of the few games aiming to emulate the insanity of the Cthulhu Mythos, in more ways than one. Most people probably remember Dark Corners as that game where your protagonist went and shot himself in the head if he was exposed to otherworldly horrors for an extended period of time. The game also focused quite a bit on survival, with fleeing (and hurriedly closing doors behind you to slow down pursuers) being your only option in a number of cases. Crazed, Innsmouth-dwelling citizens aren’t exactly the welcoming sort, you see. Headfirst also planned two other Cthulhu-based games: Destiny’s End was meant to be a third person co-op shooter in modern times, while Beyond the Mountains of Madness was developed as a first-person shooter set in the 1930s. Unfortunately, both games were cancelled and Headfirst eventually closed its doors for good.

Prisoner of Ice, Shadow of the Comet

Shadow of the Comet and Prisoner of Ice, two retro titles from the early 90s (the former released in 1993, the latter in 1995 by Infogrames) will no doubt appeal to fans of point and click adventures. In Shadow of the Comet, you take on the role of an astronomer investigating the town of Illsmouth (the name is no coincidence) in an attempt to eventually discover the cosmic horrors lurking in the background. Prisoner of Ice, as its name implies, uses a chillier setting in Antarctica, while also keeping the same old Lovecraft-inspired storyline.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

The legendary detective and his trusty assistant take part in a Lovecraftian adventure in Frogwares’ (the same company behind the upcoming Cthulhu game The Sinking City) 2007 adventure titled Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened. In the game, Holmes and Watson tackle a case of mysterious disappearances that eventually lead them to a crazed sect and a plot involving Cthulhu himself – unlike most Holmes stories, The Awakened plunges deep into supernatural territory. A remastered edition was also released, adding an option to play the game in a third person perspective as opposed to its default first person view.

All The Way Down

This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about this fan-made tribute to the works of Lovecraft, but seeing how it’s both free and quite atmospheric, it deserves another recommendation. Our hero finds himself in a strange old town with strange old people, and is told to turn back and leave – you can probably see where this is going. Either way, the game can be finished in about 30 minutes and is a worthwhile title for any Lovecraft fan, even if the ending itself leaves much to be desired.

The Last Door

The Last Door may be kind of the black sheep of this article, seeing how it’s usually likened to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, rather than Lovecraft – still, its quality and disturbing atmosphere earns it a spot on our list nonetheless, especially since back when I reviewed the first season, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Since our review, a second season has also been developed, but if you’re new to the series, you can jump into it right away, as the first episode of Season 1 is freely available for anyone to try.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Penumbra series

Amnesia is probably one of the most widely-known horror titles as far as the last couple of years are concerned, having tested the endurances of many a gamer and let’s player since its 2010 release, offering dark corridors, unspeakable abominations and no weapons to fight them with. Amnesia’s protagonist – as the title implies – wakes up in a dreary old castle with no memories, and embarks on a journey to unravel the mysteries and horrors of the past. The success of Amnesia, however, does not mean that we won’t give the necessary respect to Frictional Games’ previous titles in the Penumbra series, particularly Penumbra: Overture and Black Plague. Both games are very much worth a play for fans of horror: they are just as – if not more – terrifying than Amnesia itself.

The Chzo Mythos

The name of Ben „Yahtzee” Croshaw is most commonly associated with his video series Zero Punctuation, but the fact the British-Australian game journalist developed his own series of horror games should not be neglected, either. The four-episode saga usually referred to as the Chzo Mythos may start off its tale with a mansion mystery, but delves into more and more brutal and bizarre topics the further it advances, taking cues not only from Lovecraft, but the Silent Hill series as well. If you plan on playing through the series, make sure to be aware of the correct order of the episodes: 5 Days a Stranger, 7 Days a Skeptic, Trilby’s Notes and finally, the closing installment of 6 Days a Sacrifice.

Clive Barker’s Undying

And last, but not least, is a personal favorite of mine: a 2001 FPS that may not be directly tied to the Cthulhu Mythos, but the influences of Lovecraft and Poe can both be found in it. Clive Barker’s Undying begins with protagonist Patrick Galloway, who, answering the urgent call of his friend, visits the latter’s mansion to try and help him. The simple visit soon turns into something far more deadly as it becomes clear and evident that the mansion holds its fair share of terrifying secrets and family curses. Putting aside the gothic setting of the game that simply oozes atmosphere, a particularly memorable element of Undying is the mysterious green stone held by Patrick that allows him to see the world through different eyes – what had been invisible to the average man is revealed, adding an extra layer of uniqueness to the game. Undying is a horror classic that no fan of the genre – or atmospheric FPS games in general – should miss out on.


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