There have been many Lovecraftian horror games released in the past few years, but the majority have failed to hit the mark. This includes the promising The Sinking City, which released not too long ago. RobotPumpkin Games’ The Innsmouth Case takes another shot at this sub genre and not only succeeds in delivering a simple yet enjoyable game, but also includes a comedic twist.
You’re a private detective, the bills are piling around you. Like most Lovecraftian heroes, you are an isolated person who prefers spending their time alone. You’re second guessing your decision to take an online detective training course when a woman walks through the door and hires you to find her daughter. Tabitha went missing in an eerie seaside town called Innsmouth, where there’s something fishy going on with the locals. In this text-based adventure game, you will make your way through Innsmouth to piece together the mystery using the clues you pick up along the way. Or you can just reject the case and continue spending your time drinking and disappointing your family, which is just one of the many paths you have available in The Innsmouth Case.
The first thing I noticed about The Innsmouth Case was the music, which drew me in instantly. It’s not too repetitive and further relaxes you as you’re moving through the text. There’s enough variety to keep it from becoming annoying and it goes well with each scene and character. It moves from genre to genre fluidly depending on the situation, from 80s-style arcade to more traditional horror-style ambience.
So, I liked The Innsmouth Case within 5 minutes of playing. The reason being is that the high quality of writing, both humorously and seriously, is present from the get go. Just within these minutes we were presented with political jokes about the internet becoming a living necessity and the perils of microtransactions (our main character appears to be an addict to in-game spending, hence the piling bills).
The story is told purely through text, aside from a few illustrations with limited animation. You are given vivid descriptions of each scene and character to really put yourself within The Innsmouth Case, further supported by the little imagery provided. It's difficult to capture the feeling of horror through words alone but The Innsmouth Case exceeds this really well. Lovecraftian horror comes from unknown cosmic entities or worlds, which The Innsmouth Case provides through the characters of town who are seemingly deforming into fish-like creatures due to their worship of a mysterious god. The writing is good enough to remain captivating throughout, though I feel the game would have benefited from a few brief cutscenes for each new scene at the very least.
The Innsmouth Case truly feels like an interactive novel with the amount of detailed text provided. But there are also so many dialogue and action choices available with up to 27 different endings. You can even pick your opinion on something in certain scenarios, really building on whether your character is actually the intelligent detective they think they are or if they truly are the idiot everyone things you are.
Each character is well-written and has their own quirky personality. From the hideous hotel owner who your character is ever so tempted to playfully flirt with, to the frustrated barber who’s going out of business due to the amount of deformed Innsmouth residents losing their hair, The Innsmouth Case is chock full of so many colorful characters. It’s a joy to find out more about them. Due to the unpredictable nature of The Innsmouth Case, there is also tension every time you meet a new character; you never know whether a certain dialogue option could tip off a potential psychopathic tendency. Tip: the barber really doesn’t like bald people!
The aim of The Innsmouth Case is not to pick the right choices until you find the "real" ending but to keep replaying the game to explore different areas and paths to gather more information about the case. The big picture is only succeeded through trial and error. Once you die in one playthrough, you’re supposed to use the knowledge you gathered and go elsewhere to find out more information, but this will only add up for you and not for the character you’re playing.
But the game doesn’t tell you this. For three hours I was wondering what I was doing wrong because I couldn’t progress any further in the storyline before I realized the whole idea is to keep replaying and try as many different variants of choices as possible. This stops being enjoyable after a while and it’s annoying to keep slogging through the same dialogue over and over again, even with a skip button. I feel The Innsmouth Case could have truly benefited from having more checkpoints to go back to or even just a pathway map similar to Detroit: Become Human so the player can see what they’ve done so far and how many other endings they could achieve in each checkpoint. It becomes quite frustrating when you die and realize you have to go through another slog of text all over again.
But despite these flaws, The Innsmouth Case is a hugely enjoyable game which is not shy of switching between horror and comedy with ease. The jokes do not become tiresome and it knows when to take itself seriously at the right moments. There are so many choices to choose from and it’s not always obvious which one will get you more information or which one will get you killed. And during your playthrough of The Innsmouth Case, you will die a lot.
Jess reviewed The Innsmouth Case on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.