The Innsmouth Case is an H. P. Lovecraft inspired text-based adventure where a (not always) respected private investigator must uncover the mysteries behind the disappearance of young Tabitha Marsh. In this game, you'll flick through the pages of a novel, enveloping yourself in the story as it unfolds based on the responses and actions you choose. However, the coastal town of Innsmouth is not all it seems to be on the tourist brochures and its hidden secrets will present themselves the further you delve.
If you're not one for action but love a good story, The Innsmouth Case may be just what you are looking for. The gameplay is simple; read what's happening and choose how you wish to proceed - that's it. It's incredibly simple and the game doesn't promise anything else so if you can't see yourself taking in a story entirely through text (you know, like one of them fancy books your parents keep telling you to pick up), then perhaps you may need to look elsewhere to get your crime horror fix.
Although, for what The Innsmouth Case does, it does without overcomplicating things. Simply move up and down and select your response. That's it, nothing else to it, aside from the ability to play in touchscreen in handheld mode which isn't particularly surprising.
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Story / Personality
The entire story is told through a second person perspective, with the narrator referring to "you". From my university days, I learned that this approach is used to draw the reader into scene, allowing them to imagine themselves as the protagonist. In a text adventure video game setting, this works wonderfully as you'll choose an action and then the narrator will tell you how that affects the game (think of a Dungeons and Dragons setting where the Game Master sets the scene and dictates the consequences of your responses).
Whilst we're making the comparison to improv tabletop games, The Innsmouth Case presents a wide array of options that lead to multiple branching paths and 27 possible endings. Each playthrough takes approximately an hour to complete, but this can certainly vary depending on the routes that you choose, as well as the ability to restart from a later chapter. Therefore, The Innsmouth Case is perfect for anyone who wants a text adventure with a whole lot of replayability.
The occassional grammatical errors are a little disappointing, especially as the game takes the literal form of a novel which should have experienced a similar editing process. They are fairly infrequent and shouldn't be too jarring if you are skim reading but when you need to do a double take when a sentence doesn't read right, it can unfortunately break the immersion that the game excels at.
RobotPumpkin Games describes The Innsmouth Case as a blend between comedy and horror and that is absolutely spot on. The humour is dark, most commonly commenting on obsurdities within the strange town that is Innsmouth, as well as its inhabitants. As the detective, you assume the role of someone who is unfamiliar with the town and you learn of its quirks as they do. The horror aspect creates a sense of uneasiness, making you feel out of place in a world that is far beyond the norm.
The story takes place in modern times, making references to in-game purchases, the internet and the obsurdity of someone playing with such an outdated toy like a yo-yo and yet, it proceeds with adopting a classic 1930s noir motif. It's a little jarring at first until you progress through the game and realise that the entirety of its bizarre circumstances are, in and of themselves, jarring. It accompanies its sense of uneasiness, lost in space and time that is, itself, unique.
Graphics / Art Direction
The art direction is clever with a rustic aesthetic. The plot unfolds entirely through a novel that has an image at the top of each page to set the scene. As the characters begin to interact, their animated likeness will appear at the foreground of the image, providing a face to place to their respective names. It's a simple yet effective approach which doesn't demand too much from the animators.
The left page of the book simply discerns the location and around the hardback novel is a desk, a candle, some dice always rolled with the numbers six and three and a tourist advertisement poster for the town of Innsmouth. Occassionally, the game will also surprise you with interrupting objects appearing around the book, such as slimey tentacles when you're confronted with them within the plot.
Music / Sound Design
The music may seem repetitive at first, but it certainly has some impressive variety when read quickly enough that helps set the mood. It doesn't demand too much attention and simply acts as background noise, but if that's too distracting and you prefer to read in silence, you can always adjust the volume in the settings.
Final Score: 78%
Choose your own adventure novels were, pardon the pun, novel as a child but in 2021, having them tackle the video game medium is simply a match made in heaven. Despite The Innsmouth Case's shortcomings, such as its infrequent grammatical errors and occassionally shoe-horned endings, it shows how video games can elevate the art of storytelling. Now it just begs to question as to whether more choose your own adventure novels take on this method of storytelling - I'm all for it!
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