I think it’s safe to start this review by saying that I found The Innsmouth Case very hard to score. I wouldn’t really say this is a video game in the traditional sense; it’s not one that can be measured by things like visuals, audio, and gameplay – which is odd, I know. But stick with me.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Well written choose-your-own adventure|
|+ Good time killer for a long journey|
|+ There’s some good humour|
|Negatives||– Way too short for a fully-fledged game|
|– Lack of narration|
|– Not suited to console gaming|
|Our Playtime||3 hours 30 mins|
|Available On||Android, iOS, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4|
The Innsmouth Case is a text adventure-type game produced by Robot Pumpkin Games; it takes inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft and builds a weird and wonderful world for you to explore from the moment you turn it on and over the next few hours. The game is essentially a digital version of the old choose-your-own adventure books I used to read at length as a kid. A favourite of mine was the Asterix series; I have particularly fond memories of running through Asterix Against All Odds and felt that there was to be similar choices for me during this adventure. Innsmouth has a nicely presented and simplistic user interface for the adventure and sets you up with umpteen different finales for you to try and achieve.
You play as a private detective and start off in your Boston office before being immediately thrust into the story. You meet Dahlia, who is straight out of your average film noire and who’s trying all the well-worn tricks from those old movies to try and get you to take up her case. The writing style is quite playful and a little bit silly but there’s also a good element of suspense and mild horror in there too. Reading on you find that Dahlia is missing her daughter, and upon seeing a picture of her, you wretch in your mouth and are given the option of swallowing or filing the bottom desk draw. This option gives you a good idea of the kinds of choices you have to come to, and the humour style of the writer. Whether you’re interacting with the crazy locals or having to deal with Lonny the cool surfer dude (yes, he fit’s the cliché perfectly), the story offers a varied and strange experience for you as the reader.
Initially, being who I am and liking to find out how what would happen if the proverbial *ahem* does hit the fan, I rejected the case just to see what would happen, and it led me to my first ending – just like that! Taking me back to the main menu, it’s now that I discover that there are multiple endings available and that I have the option of loading my game from any of the previous chapter points. And as I play further in to the book, I’m grateful for the option of replaying from the previous chapter; even so, I found myself still having to click through a lot of repeated prose. Having to read all of this text really highlighted the need for the option to have the text narrated, not only as a better accessibility option but also to better immerse yourself into the story with some character personalisation. I found myself thinking if “I wanted to read a book…I would read a book”.
The lack of narration is offset a little by thematic looping music which sets the tone of the particular area you are in, but not entirely. Wistful and playful in areas where you are safe and meeting some of the wacky characters, but low and foreboding when you find yourself in perilous danger. The only downside to the music is that if you’re a little bit of a slow reader, like I am, it does loop a lot and can become quite repetitive. The text is supported occasionally by some simple animation and the artwork here is really quite fitting with the style of the story. It’s a little bit odd and a little bit grim, and it reminds me of the stop motion works of Tim Burton, but in a digital art format. Lastly, there’s the occasional sound effect that are definitely designed to give you the odd jump scare or to make a particular bit of dialogue have more weight. Although, this again just left me thinking how much more punch these moments would have had if they were voiced.
There’s several funny moments in the game that are well delivered – not to spoil anything here but I did find myself having a good chuckle at some of the sudden shifts away from horror and into comedy. The writing of this whole tale is well done; it flows nicely and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time manages to make the interactions you have with the different characters and locations feel eerie when necessary.
Overall, I’d say that The Innsmouth Case is incomparable to what could be considered “regular” video games (action, adventure, sports etc.) and so it seems unfair to give it the scores that I have, as I don’t think it’s really right to judge this book by its cover using these particular metrics. Think of Einstein’s quote about fish climbing trees and you’ll understand my feeling about the measure of this game. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Comparing Innsmouth with other games is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges.
So, like my preferred childhood adventure book, these scores come with an Asterix. It’s certainly a well-made choose-your-adventure book and is perfect for a bus journey or train ride on a mobile gaming device, but is not something I would say is suited to a fully-fledged console like the Xbox One that I played it on. If the game becomes available for a couple of quid it is absolutely worth a purchase and will be a good time killer because of the engaging story and intriguing characters that really suck you in. *wink wink*
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.