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Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth Review

Posted on May 6, 2005 by Flames


Available at Amazon.com

…was okay.

There were parts that I loved, terribly, which were almost all thematic and setting/scene based. There were parts that I very very much hated, and that was all gameplay-based.

Here’s what I loved:

The sanity system. If you look at stuff closely (the priest crucified on the cross, for example) you get More out of the game, but you also lose more sanity points (which gradually recover over time). When you’re low on sanity, you start talking to yourself and hearing things. Apparently when you run out of sanity, you take whatever gun you’re holding and kill yourself.

Innsmouth. It really felt like a creepy, cold, windy, unfriendly New England port. Creepy feeling, great atmosphere. The sounds and music worked great. The voice acting was superb, especially the main character.

The crossover: Slight spoilers, but they take my favorite CoC fiction (The Shadow Out of Time: The one with the Great Race of Yith and the Flying Polyps) and blend it with the Innsmouth one (Is it The Horror of Innsmouth? Or the Shadow of Innsmouth? Whatever, the one where the townsfolk turn into deep ones because of a town-wide pact). They did the Yith stuff very favorably, I only wish they had more. And man, the flying polyps were SO FUCKING RIGHT ON, but I only wish there was more (you only see/fight two, but they are freakish and scary). They took some liberties with the Yith mythos (if you get the special ending, and there’s an EXE hack to make sure you do, you find out something written backwards at the bottom of this post).

Some of the gameplay: There’s a big advantage to being sneaky than rushing right in and shooting stuff. The interface was smooth, and very few buttons required to do stuff.

Here’s what I didn’t Love:

Not. Enough. Research: You collect some books and scrapbooks here and there, but you never dig into books. If I wrote the game, I would have had books been some sort of portal, or side game, where you have to “go into them” somehow to retreive the information you need. Whether it was metaphorically and surreal (going into the pages, curcling notes with the mouse), or maybe in the form of taking the form of the author at the time the book was written and going on a quick mini-adventure, I would have had more books.

A little too much fighting: Sure, you can try to avoid it, but chances are if you don’t kill everything you see and try to sneak past it, it’ll just find you later.

There was a subplot with a little girl, who is a ghost. It doesn’t make much sense, feels forced, doesn’t jibe with the mythos in any way, and doesn’t really impact the plot at all. I dunno why they did it, I suspect that this was the producer making demands of the game after hearing that “F.E.A.R.” had a cool scary little girl character.

Here’s what I hated:

The difficulty: I played on the basic difficulty, and it was entirely too fucking hard. I patched my EXE so that I could totally cheat and have no problems with it. There are limited save points, so you’ll restore, and have to go through a high-stress 10 minute segment of doing nothing but running and jumping PERFECTLY, and if you miss one jump or dally for a second, then you die and have to reload from the beginning. It reminds me a lot of the Original old-school Prince of Persia or Tomb Raider, which also drove me fucking nuts.

The worst offenders were a sequence where people come for you in a hotel, so you have to run through a hotel bolting doors behind you while pushing cabinets, running and dodging, climbing on balconies, jumping PERFECTLY to avoid falling and dying, where one single second made the difference between success and restarting. The other one was the end sequence, where true to adventure game form the cave around you starts collapsing and you have to flee: The message boards for the game are filled with people who simply cannot do it because it was like they calculated the absolte time necessary to complete getting out in time if you were a computer, then added 0.5 seconds or something. I got out on my second try only by turning on God Mode. Jumping puzzles in intense time pressure just IS NOT FUCKING FUN.

Another sequence involves the above with Combat: You are in a cave prison and have to sneak out, weaponless and vulnerable. The next save point is like 15 minutes of game time away. If anyone sees you, you’re pretty much dead (unlike Thief games where you can run away and hide somewhere else). But they find you ALL THE TIME.

In the end, I like what they did with the story overall, and the puzzles were just on the fine line between too easy and too hard, which is a very fine line to manage, so for that I give them props. But the gameplay for this kind of game just sucked. It needed less explosions and shooting, and more sinister horror and research: Turning up the creepiness produces as much tension as having to jump on ledges in perfect keystrokes to prevent dying and reloading, but it’s MUCH LESS FRUSTRATING.

Furthermore, since Mike Gentry is working on a text-based-adventure revisit of his excellent Anchorhead, I think I’ll warily pass the upcoming Mountains of Madness CoC video game and just patiently wait for that instead. Actually, Mike, that would be an interesting thing to try: Have books as “rooms”, where you “explore” them for knowledge, or sometimes dive in and take on the role momentarily of the madmen that wrote them as they were exploring dark secrets…

—————-
.naihtiy a yb dessessop elihw rehtom ruoy detangerpmi ohw ,rehtaf ruoy nekat osla dah snaihtiy eht

I know, sounds kinda lame, and not really in line with the Yithian stuff, but overall it felt like it worked, and it also explained the character’s “Frank Black-like” powers. Overall, not bad, and this is from a fan of that short story.

Reviewer: Andy Kitkowski

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