There are a lot of really mediocre Cthulhu based games out there. Necronomicon for example, is a very slow moving and dull adventure game, but it does capture the feel of “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward” pretty well. There are also some pretty bad Cthulhu based games out there as well. Dark Corners of the Earth did so many things wrong that Mythos fans the globe over were quite happy when the dev team went under. Good riddance. Beating Dagon with firearms? Ugh. Instead of focusing on the negative though, let’s try and look as some of the games that actually would have made Lovecraft proud, or knowing his technophobia, at least not writing angry letters to his contemporaries.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin/Eternal Punishment
We might as well start off with the best, no? The two Persona 2 games were an interesting combination of world mythologies, Jungian archetypes/metaphysics, and Lovecraft creatures. Any game where the end boss is Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, is obviously influenced by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Although the game isn’t a pure piece of Mythos fiction, it does pick and use various pieces of the mythology appropriately, including an appearance by Robert W. Chambers’ “The King In Yellow.” Yes, it can be a bit odd actually fighting Shoggoths or engaging in a battle of wits with an Outer God, but the explanations as to why these events are occurring and how any human being can not god mad from the mere sight of these things is expertly done. Also, any game where Hastur, That Who Is Not To Be Named can become a member of your party gets a thumbs up from me.
To learn more about these games, travel back to May of 2004, when I rated them the #2 best RPG of all time.
The Shadows Hearts Quartet
Koudelka, and Shadow Hearts 1-3 are heavily influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos. Koudelka‘s plot feels more like a Cthulhu story than any game besides Eternal Darkness, a game we covered earlier this month. Dark Young and Gug’s show up as well, showing that the writers of Koudelka were big Mythos fans. The other three Shadow Hearts games use characters, locations and monsters from the Cthulhu mythos, with Shadow Hearts: From the New Wortld being the most blatant thanks to an actual appearance of Lovecraft.
All four games are amazing, and some of the best RPG’s you can get for the PSX or PS2. I personally feel each one is a half-step down in quality from the one before it, but they feature some amazingly original gameplay and some very dark (and sometimes depressing) stories. There are no happy endings in the Shadow Hearts universe. Keep that in mind.
To read more about each game, you can step in Professor Peabody’s Wayback Machine and click on the following links:
Alone in the Dark
No, not the god awful one that came out recently that made that Uwe Boll movie look awesome, I’m talking the original PC game that came out in 1992. Man, has it really been 16, nearly 17, years? This entire game was set in the 1920’s and featured either a dilettante or antiquarian as the main character. How often do you see either of those?
So how does this game feature the Cthulhu Mythos? Well, as you can see from this screenshot, the Necronomicon itself comes into play here. Not to mention the game is full of Lovecraft type beasts you can only run away from rather than kill and that the main bad guy is an undead priest of Cthulhu whose soul is trapped in a tree.
Alone in the Dark was an odd mix of Adventure and Action game, and in fact, this is the game that was first referred to as “Action-Adventure” thus confusing some gamers ever since in regards to what games belong in which genre. Of course this is also the game that inspired bad shaky camera angles and the old school “plays like driving a tank” controls of the Resident Evil series.
Although it has an amazing plot and was revolutionary in its day, this is perhaps the weakest of the games we are looking at briefly today.
Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet
Hey, it’s got Cthulhu in the title, that should be a hint right there that this is a little bit connected to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. Man, I miss Infogrames. Okay, I know it is called Atari now, but I miss Infogrames when it was really, really good.
Shadow of the Comet takes place over a span of three days in the sleepy town of Illsmouth. You play as John Walker, who has travelled to this quiet New England port town to take a picture of Haley’s Comet, which is soon to pass by. Of course nothing is ever that simple as you eventually learn Haley’s Comet is a portent for the stars to align and for the Great Old Ones to rise and retake that which was once theirs, namely Earth. Oops. No pressure or anything, right?
Shadow of the Comet is rightly considered one of the toughest Adventure games ever made, but the reward of an amazing story, killer graphics (for the time period) and a virtual Lovecraft Museum are all well worth it.
Trivia tidbit for you: Shadow of the Comet is actually the sequel to Alone in the Dark, and the third game in this series, Prisoner of Ice rounds out the trilogy. The other Alone in the Dark games use a weird version of Ed Carnby, but are not really connected to the first. These three games stand alone in their own little universe, forever untainted by the horrible series of crap that Alone in the Dark would become. As another little extra, read some of the books that can be found in the original AitD and you’ll see the plot of SOot written within. Nice, eh?
To read more about both AiutD and SotC, you can read an old Nyogtha I wrote about them both here.
Prisoner of Ice
Prisoner of Ice is the last of the high quality Cthulhu referencing games we’ll look at today, and it was also the last of the I-motion developed Cthulhu action-adventure games. Such a pity too, as all three were incredible. Unlike Shadow of the Comet though, PoI did make it to the Saturn and PSX, albeit it only in Japan.
PoI is a direct continuation of Shadow of the Comet as both John Parker and the main bad guy from SotC appear briefly in this game.
PoI puts you in control of Lt. Ryan, an American aboard a British submarine (The H.M.S. Victoria) carrying a mysterious frozen cargo to Antarctica during a highly classified mission known only as Operation Polaris. The year is 1937, and although America has not entered it yet, WWII is raging across Europe. Operation Polaris is going smoothly until suddenly a Nazi ship appears on the radar and begins launching an array of depth charges. The submarine experiences an electrical fire and while the crew attempts to put it out, the cargo in the hull of the submarine begins to thaw…and all hell breaks loose. Literally.
From there you get to deal all sorts of nameless faceless spooky tentacled monsters. The game also features a bit of time travel and a lesser used, but still very cool Great Old One as the focal point of this game. It’s very hard to find a PC version that you can play on modern computers, but you can import the Saturn version for a mere five bucks plus shipping as the game is in English, so all you need is an ST Key.
Learn more about Prisoner of Ice here.
Tomorrow we take a look at yet another Adventure game. Odd how the best horror games ten to be point and click titles, eh?