The Innsmouth Case
Developer: RobotPumpkin Games
Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
Genre: Text Adventure, Lovecraftian, Comedy
Age Rating: 18
Release Date: 23/6/2020
Price: £10.49 (£8.39 until 9th July)
A code was provided for review purposes.
A very fond memory of mine was choosing a Goosebumps book to read from the bookshelf in my classroom, during our designated reading time. In particular, the choose your own adventure ones. I loved being able to flip back and choose a different path if my story came to an abrupt end, being able to progress and eventually achieve the ‘good’ ending. Well, the Innsmouth Case is just this in game format.
Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s world (and not reflecting or agreeing with his racist beliefs, as mentioned in the foreword), this title is a text adventure game set in the strange town of Innsmouth. What will you find there, and how will your story end?
Something Fishy is Going On
Taking on the role of a struggling private investigator, a mother comes to you with a case: finding her missing daughter, Tabitha Marsh. Your search takes you on a ramshackle bus to the equally ramshackle harbour town of Innsmouth, where there’s something off about the locals.
The game uses the second person to truly immerse you in this role as you read through the story. It takes place entirely in a book format with text and illustrations, the pages flipping as the story continues. Every two pages or so, it will be up to you to make a choice. This can be conversation-based, such as flirting your way to safety (I was not too proud of sleeping with an old woman in order to hide from a mob…) or being blunt, or they can be choosing your next plan of action.
Needless to say from what you’ve heard so far, horror and comedy are combined to make a story that will have your stomach churning while also making you chuckle! I really can’t give too much away as it would spoil the game to reveal what happens, but what I can say is that there a wide variety of outcomes; some ending in your death, some ending in your blissfully ignorant escape, and some where you may get to the bottom of the Tabitha Marsh case.
I was really impressed by the amount of outcomes and choices that were on offer. Even the slightest change in a playthrough could lead to something entirely different, either positive or negative. Basically, one wrong choice could lead to your death.
A Dreary Harbour Town
I really loved the set up of the game being played through a book on a table with various objects scattered around it. It almost replicated that feeling of having a physical choose your own adventure book open on your desk. The colour palette of this environment also reflected the setting of the actual story: a gloomy ‘tourist’ town of greys and greens.
The illustrations and writing worked seamlessly to transport you to Innsmouth, touching on all the senses to let your imagination run wild. Combining this with the music, which reflected the tense moments of being chased down alleyways, or the 8-bit sounds of a retro arcade, as well as sound effects such as the clap of thunder, it was highly immersive.
The character design also encapsulated the ugliness of Innsmouth, with exaggerated features like bulging eyes and huge chins, or sickly green skin and rather peculiar gills…There was always that sense of suspense or horror from the get-go through simply the visuals, even if you hadn’t discovered what was happening in this mysterious town yet.
Unfortunately, the one thing that drew me away from the world was the typos scattered throughout the game. There weren’t an insane amount, but they appeared frequently enough for me to notice them. When the game is based entirely around reading, they stuck out like a sore thumb. Luckily it wasn’t as if they were on every page, only now and again, as I think any more would have really put me off playing.
Death by Ferrets or Burning at the Stake?
The Innsmouth Case revolves around replaying to discover different story paths and endings, so you can get many hours out of the game. I’ve played for over three hours and have still got a dozen or so endings yet to unlock!
Admittedly, it could get a little frustrating having to re-read certain parts when you replayed, though you could click to make it faster and load from specific chapters. I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise that a lot of reading is involved, so I think this genre of game will appeal to a specific audience and, well, people who like reading. However, for me as a reader and writer, it was right up my street!
What I did like was that through replaying and choosing a slightly different route, you could completely change the mood. You could choose to see the nostalgic side to the arcade and revel in it, or you could see it as an annoyingly loud place filled with children. Or, you could decide to back away slowly from the weird fish human orgy or get involved…
Will You Solve the Case of Tabitha Marsh?
I think the combination of Lovecraft’s horrific creations and comedy worked really well and was definitely not something I’ve experienced in a game before. Some of the comedy could be a little groan-worthy, but it all depends on your sense of humour. Personally, it made me chuckle and the sexual content just made everything that little bit more bizaare! Seriously, you could flirt with a number of beastly looking characters to try and progress the case, or just do it for a bit of fun after the horrors you’ve seen.
The writing, despite the grammatical errors, worked well with both the visuals and music to make you feel as if you were walking through the alleyways of Innsmouth yourself. Someone who is not into reading will probably steer clear upon seeing it’s a text adventure. However, avid readers or Lovecraft fans can get hours of game time discovering the secrets of Innsmouth!