Eldritch castles and elder signs, squatting squid-headed statues and hooded cultists, fishmen and shoggoths, the dreaded Necronomicon and talking cats… what do they all have in com…. wait a second… talking cats? In my quest to play a few more Lovecraft themed games before HBO completes its season of Lovecraft Country has been far easier than I expected. There are a lot of Lovecraftian games out there. Alas, I didn’t play one for each week of the show, but I have managed to keep a few going with unexpected results. This latest had me quaking but unlike most Lovecraft stories, it was not quaking in terror. I was quaking with laughter.
Adventure games are not my thing. Adventure games that are “dark scifi a’venchir” games, however… that might get me. The truth about adventure games is that I like them but rarely commit to them. I play games for action mostly. I do like puzzles, but don’t like pixel hunts. Who wants to be hunting a pixel on a 32″ monitor with bazillions of pixels all over it? Sure, I’ve played all the Sherlock Holmes games, but I’m a fan of Holmes. That doesn’t mean I liked hunting a random dot that couldn’t be scene without a black light. No, I hate having to move the mouse over every pixel looking for that one special clue. But Gibbous got such great reviews, and I did want to stick with Lovecraft, so… I dropped the $20. (Actually, I dropped $17 during a sale and even got the soundtrack with it!)
I admit I used a walkthrough for a bit in chapter one, which put me off for a solid day. I felt like I shouldn’t need a walkthrough already. Games are supposed to ramp you up, not make you feel dumb. But what I learned was that I needed to understand the dynamic of the game. After chapter one, some puzzles took me a bit but they were worth the effort and I didn’t need to go back to a walkthrough at all. In fact, the penultimate chapter has a puzzle room that’s very hard and I was so close to looking up how to get through it, when I had a revelation and it all clicked together. The lightbulb moment made me very happy indeed.
The game has you playing 2 characters in alternating chapters. The first is a detective named Don R. Ketype. It took me ages to realize who he sounded like: Batman. But this Batman has some damned funny lines. Think of the How It Should Have Ended version of Batman – the one that’s great, and you know why? Because he’s Batman! (Sorry, couldn’t resist!) Ketype’s description of things in that clipped tone adds a magnificent sense of humor that had me talking that way to my wife until she eventually told me to stop talking like that. (By eventually, I mean, I got one sentence out!) He was by far my preferred character. At one point in the game, he wants to say something profound. You get options on which of four choices you will go with. I selected the most meaningful one. The one that summed up freedom and something intrinsic to all that is right and good in the world. I was rewarded with a one word comment that left me in tears! Mind you, this might be the funniest chapter too because of what I ended up doing with a fire extinguisher moments earlier which had me in full-on belly laughs. Buzz Kerwin is the local librarian who you play as who accidentally humanizes his cat when he finds the Necronomicon. Kerwin is a good character as well but the cat really adds the comedy. Her annoyance at being humanized is outstanding. However, Buzz has his moments especially when he ends up in Transylvania and has to have a rap battle to move the story along. I am no fan of rap, but again found myself wiping the tears from my eyes. Truly outstanding.
If the game has one weakness, it’s the dialogue periodically goes on too long. I’m all for banter and comedic dialogue, but let me move while it’s taking place. Or give me a back and forth that is just that: back and forth… and done! In other words, I wanted something akin to: “how’s the weather?” “I’m a cat, how would I know?” Ok, short and sweet, I can move on. “Well, you can feel can’t you?” “Yes, I feel like you’re asking me too many things!” “But that’s what I do.” “Well don’t do it with me…” etc. That gets old real fast. Not that this was an actual example – I am not going to ruin anything more than a couple reference for the purpose of my article.
But that really was the weakest element to the game. Everything else about the game was amazingly good and I still have a chapter to go! The voice acting is brilliant and the use of the space bar to illuminate all the clickable items means there’s no worry about pixel hunting – a quality that diminishes Adventure games. As I mentioned above, I picked this up during a sale, which gave me the digital soundtrack as well; this should tell you that there’s a soundtrack worthy of inclusion. The cast of characters is utterly marvelous and some of them really enhance the experience. I’m looking at you Piscilla. (No, I don’t mean Priscilla!) And you Finman! And Css Css. And of course, Otis!
One thing I have not talked about is by far the most obvious element of the game: the artwork. It’s animated. You’re literally playing a cartoon and as the ad says, its traditionally drawn and hand painted. It looks great. Developer Stuck in Attic really showed a love for the source material while adding enough humor to it to give players a run for their money. This isn’t adventure gaming the way I remember it; this is something fun. I didn’t need to look for random pixels to keep the story going.
I’ve invested 10 hours into it so far, have one chapter (of a total of 7) to go, and have laughed a lot! Worth the money? I’d say so. Check out the trailer here: