"Truth sleeps beneath appearance."
In 1834 Prof. Lord Boleskine was researching the passage of Halley's comet in the small town of Illsmouth, USA, where the comet could best be seen, hoping to prove his theories about a secret place that was influenced by close convergence of stars to the Earth. Whatever he found drove him to complete madness - he was proclaimed a lunatic and died in hospital shortly afterwards.
76 years later, a young British journalist named John T. Parker becomes interested in Boleskine's sketches and decides to write a story about Boleskine's work and to take pictures of the comet. He arrives in Illsmouth 3 days before passage of the comet.
That's where you start. As a young Parker you have to prepare yourself for the comet. But soon you'll find things to be very strange at Illsmouth, and at the end you'll fight a battle to save the world.
The game is divided in 3 days. With each one of them you'll get closer to the truth, avoiding death and forming friendships. Basically you wander around talking to people and picking up objects, which will disappear from your inventory if they are no longer needed in the game. The game is linear and follows a story. Oddly, that's probably the best part, because the storyline is really great and the more you explore, deeper and scarier it becomes. Bad part is that you'll have to walk, especially during first day when you meet people and get familiar with town and forest. Although you have map in the town, walking still takes time.
There are some things that you'll never think of trying which are needed to finish the game, but mostly you follow your investigation. Other people are also important since there will be enemies and friends. You'll also need to save position very often, because if you do not talk to some people properly, they won't help you, and the world is lost. Sometimes it's just about kindness, but sometimes you need to negotiate and persuade. Fortunately, that kind of conversation doesn't happen too often. Conversations are written in little boxes and mostly you choose what to say. Sometimes they speak in riddles (ah, those Indians) so you'll need to improvise. Still, for most of the stuff in the game you'll just need to explore.
After the breakthrough that Infogrames made with Alone in the Dark, they didn't turn their back on the famous writer H.P Lovecraft. Still, the game has very few action scenes where only Parker's haste is important. Most classic Infogrames adventure with seeing from the side and their unique "spotting objects". The whole screen is used for playing, and you use hotkeys for actions like (L)ook, (G)et, (U)se, (M)ap, (I)ndex and (O)pen inventory. Graphics is a little raw but still colorful (VGA). Music quality could be better, theme can be boring but after some time it starts to sound weird and fits with the atmosphere. Sound effects are very good. Still, in some parts there is no music, which is very bad. Perhaps that's the price you pay in the floppy version. Some actors appear in the game, actually three of them: Jack Nicholson, William Defoe and off course Vincent Price. They are here just to improve an already great atmosphere.
It works in most windows setups, but also works pretty well in DOSBox in case you have problems with sound. You really shouldn't play it without sound since then it is quite empty and bland. Original release had vocalizations and a Lovecraft virtual museum (a good way to fill a half-empty CD - at that time the video-games industry just started to use CDs) that contained pictures and drawings inspired by his stories.
All in all this game is not made-up to be a good looking but empty package, it is quite the opposite. Maybe this review doesn't sound really great, but my mark is highest. This is really a unique game, mostly because of the story and a spooky feeling that you get. Anyone who loves horror or adventures definitely has to try it. Besides, what else does one need besides saving the world? Only this time it's from the Ancient Gods.