by darksun, reviewed on
"V'hu-ehn n'kgnath fha'gnu n'aem'nh. V'glyzz k'fungn cylth-a v'el cyth-Cthulhu k'fungn'i. I'a ry'gzengrho, I'a Hydra"
What lives in the dark corners of the earth? Jack Walters has glimpsed it - and that sight drove him to suicide. Thus opens Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, with the death of the main character. Hope? Purpose? Pleasure? To him, all meaningless. What events drove him to such depths of despair? The only way to find out is to play.
Drawn from the pages of H. P. Lovecraft, Dark Corners of the Earth is a tale of weird horror, eldritch events, and Great Old Ones. The tale told will test your stomach, your bravery, and your determination. It is a game unlike any other this reviewer has played, in that it contained a description of an event that honestly disturbed me (and this reviewer is fond of such tales told by Stephen King, Clive Barker, and other horror authors). It has the suspense found prolifically in good survival horror, and it has the slow build to madness so brilliantly done by Lovecraft. And let it not be forgotten, Dark Corners of the Earth has gameplay bugs that brutally mar this otherwise excellent game.
"Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places"
Dark Corners of the Earth takes place in Lovecraft's era of 1920's New England. The main character is Jack Walters, a detective who has recently had a bit of a lucky streak. One stormy night, the police call him out to assist in an investigation - and his life changes forever. Your view is through Jack's eyes, as he sees the game world - there is no head-up display showing health, amm or compass. Your interaction with this world has no such barrier between you and it.
The health readout, what there is of it, is found on the inventory screen - as a third-person view of Jack. When he gets injured, he actually sustains injuries - small cuts and bruises, broken bones, gaping lacerations, and poisonous infections. Certain types of these injuries bleed, and need to be treated before Jack dies of blood loss - the colors fading out of the game world, everything turning to shades of gray before Jack's heart stops and you have to reload. While keeping a mental tally of shots fired and treating every injury may seem tedious, it goes a long way towards helping the immersion and keeping up the suspense.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie / And with strange aeons even death may die."
The story itself will be familiar to Lovecraft fans, as Jack finds himself drawn to the iconic city of Innsmouth, with all its fishy problems. Jack's interaction with the world is in a narrative form - as the player attempts to use various items in the game world, Jack responds: "Books line the shelves here, all relating to black magic and witchcraft." This narration serves both to draw the player further in to the world, and to sometimes provide hints.
The audio is all extremely well done, with generally convincing voice acting and otherworldly music at various levels of intensity depending on in-game events. The visuals, unfortunately, aren't as good - the graphics look a few years old. It isn't enough to seriously detract from the game, but noticing this detracts from the otherwise excellent interior and exterior architectures that do a wonderful job of capturing the mood. The other effects are well done, including a grainy, 20's-cinema style to the cut scenes (which can optionally be turned off). The default keyboard layout is well placed and fairly simple, though certainly controls are a little too sluggish to be considered better than adequate.
No Pros and Cons at this time