With an insatiable taste for Lovecraft at the moment, what with recent Lust From Beyond and the release of Innsmouth Chronicle Mountains of Madness tomorrow, it was time to finally play the Lovecraft Tales demo.
It’s been sitting in my library with the best intentions since the Steam Game Festival, but workload commitments mean it collected dust. With a brief lull in news, as it’s a Monday morning, it was time to enter Dunwich.
The Lovecraft Tales demo is a puzzle-based platform game with stealth mechanics. In this introductory gameplay, the goal is to get through the forest to reach Dunwich. The protagonist’s name isn’t stated, but there are all the Lovecraft hallmarks, and those well-versed with The Dunwich Horror and the Cthulhu mythos will be in familiar territory.
We learn from the stylish intro that Wilbur Whateley’s diary has been retrieved, and in it are cryptic instructions and rituals that may be the Necronomicon. The protagonist heads to Dunwich to rid the monster that has been terrorising there while deciphering the papers that have come into their possession.
The police accompany this fellow, but immediately upon arriving in the ominous woods, you’re on your own. The build-up in the Lovecraft Tales demo is in a comic book style with dark undertones and shares aesthetics with Alder’s Blood – coincidentally released by the same publishers, No Gravity Games. On the panel are developers Red Dev Studio S.A. and A2 Softworks.
Besides peeking at the controls in the menu, there are no tutorials, in-game guidance or hints: you’re on your own in every way. Initially, it’s the art style that’s striking. If you were to compare it to something recent, it would be comparable to Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, or a grittier Creepy Tale, accompanied by a menacing score that is well suited.
At your disposal are a handful of commands: jump, stealth, interact and a flashlight. Due to the lack of instructions, you have to work things out yourself, such as shining a torch on vines so they recede into the dirt so you can pick up an item or two. The same applies to the jumping action, and soon realise how dire it is.
The problem is the response time to commit the jump, as it’s very awkward. In a very early part of the 15 minutes played, you have to release some barrels while standing underneath them. Inevitably they’ll crush you, but what they do in this case is push you into the water, killing you. You can’t move once in momentum, and it took a few tries before completing. Super Mario Bros. perfected this in the 80s, so it would be nice for this Lovecraft Tales demo to follow suit.
On that note, there are no tool-tips as such to indicate if you can interact with anything or not. This works for discovery but frustrating when you’re unsure whether your character is engaging with an object or not.
Still, the tone is pretty good – the score being a highlight for me, as well as the cutscenes. The gameplay’s visuals are very nice and have this pseudo filter that makes it look quite visceral, but the platforming aspects put a damper on it, just a tad.
Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to this. At the time of writing, I’m reading through The Dunwich Horror, so on a personal level, the premise intrigues me more and not put off by the mechanics. However, when it is released, it would be nice to see a few tweaks to the jumping aspect as Lovecraft Tales has potential.
The Lovecraft Tales demo is available to play now via Steam. Wishlist it for future notifications and the release date.