H.P. Lovecraft is certainly a popular author for the horror genre to reference and take inspiration from. Such is The Innsmouth Case, an indie adventure game recently released that combines its horror with a dash of comedy on top. With a demo available, I decided to take a look.
What spore of madness is this?
Set in a vague time period, you play as a private detective who finds himself with an odd case before him. A mysterious woman shows up at your doorstep wanting you to find her missing daughter who disappeared in their hometown of Innsmouth. You take the case and end up in the oddball city, which is intimidating, but also oddly welcoming and cheerful.
The demo goes up to Chapter 3 of 35, stopping right after you start venturing into Innsmouth. As such, you do not get in too deep with the story and have yet to scratch the mystery’s surface. The setup feels standard and mostly uneventful, but given that this is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s works, it certainly should pick up fairly quickly. From what the demo does provide though, it’s easy enough to get a good idea on what kind of adventure you are in for.
The Innsmouth Case is a detective adventure that’s supposed to combine both horror and humor together. The horror side certainly works well, readily invoking some creepy moments that can get you a bit unsteady. The entire sequence as you board and take the bus to Innsmouth is rather unnerving between the visuals, music, and text. It just never feels right, especially when you consider sitting next to someone on the bus.
Then there’s the humor, which, from what has been shown, doesn’t click nearly as well. The main drive of the comedy seen in the demo comes from the character of Muriel Poopingplace, who’s more or less the head of the tourism industry. Her over eagerness on selling Innsmouth as this wonderful place to visit against the otherworldly nature and hostile feelings the city gives is certainly a bit amusing. However, it doesn’t really go far enough and the interaction with Muriel is kind of dry. Hopefully it picks up in the game.
How do you play?
The Innsmouth Case is essentially an interactive storybook, almost literally in the presentation. It’s presented as a book opened before you and you read the text that appears on each page. There’s an image representing the location and the occasional character at the top, along with the location’s name on the left page. It’s basically a text-based adventure with some imagery to it.
The game is entirely choice-based. During the story a series of decisions are presented and you’ll get to choose one. What you do and what you say affects how the game will play out in the long run, essentially just like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. At least, that’s according to the game description. Outside of a few moments, I have not seen anything major come from a decision I made. It’s probably because of how early into the game the demo is, so keep that in mind.
Artistic dissonance and beauty
Then there is the art direction and technical side of things. I like the presentation, the game laid out so it’s like the player is shifting through a detective’s journal. The art for the visuals of the town and characters oddly reminds me of Wayforward’s Goosebumps game from a few years back. It has a sort of similar feel in how things are drawn and painted to the way the characters gently move in the frame. It’s style here is more exaggerated, but it isn’t a problem. It fits very well with the horror, but also the cartoony style the game feels like it’s supposed to have.
The only time the art style doesn’t work is early on. There’s a moment where the mother hands you a picture of her daughter and your character freaks out, on the verge of vomiting. The problem is that the girl doesn’t look all that odd, just maybe a little goofy in the eyes. It’s a big disconnect that took me out of the experience.
The last thing to mention is the music, which works well enough. The opening track with the detective office sets the mood quite nicely, giving off this vibe that an odd, strange adventure is about to happen. The riff that plays during the bus segment is perfectly ominous and sets the scene’s tension wonderfully. The other tracks heard are perfectly serviceable and fits the mood the game is trying to convey in certain scenes well, but are not particularly memorable.
The Innsmouth Case demo is promising. For those looking for an interactive storybook experience or who are fans of Lovecraft’s works, minus the racism, there is something here worth checking out. Hopefully the humor side becomes more prominent in the main game. Either way, I definitely give it a recommendation to try.