The Innsmouth Case Switch Review: A Bit Of A Squamous Plaice

Love (ha) or hate him, H.P. Lovecraft has inspired plenty of games, in this case a text-based sleuth: The Innsmouth Case.

The Innsmouth Case has been a bit of a revelation. When the press material came out advising of a launch on Switch, I scoured the interwebs to conclude that it is a game that came out on Steam mid-2020. 

Ignoring my sleuth work, this text adventure from RobotPumpkin Games and released by Assemble Entertainment is bloody marvellous. It’s important to be honest, even if I appear a fool, but I was half expecting to play through this and get a little bored due to the genre.

It’s no secret that visual novels and the like aren’t my thing, but it boils down to quality writing and character development. Recent titles such as Orwell’s Animal Farm have helped knock down that mild distaste. But this is Lovecraft; surely it’s a given that it’ll be good?

The Innsmouth Case Switch Review

Lovecraft-inspired games are almost two-a-penny, though admittedly, most of them know the source material well and that side of thing is always taken care of. Here, the developers nod to the author’s spirit, but unbolt the stabilisers and head off independently.

The ‘UI’ is a simple one as the backdrop in the game is almost the equivalent of a desktop bevel with the focal point being the text with a small area for images and occasional animation loops.

The Innsmouth Case - Newsletter
Did you sign up to my non-existent one? Source: Screen capture

Navigating around the options looks simple but wasn’t intuitive, so here’s the summary: other than changing simple things like the language and speed of the text, you can access the achievements you’ve unlocked and replay chapters on the fly.

There are 35 chapters in the game and a whopping 27 endings. It’s therefore reminiscent of a ‘choose your own adventure’ title; only you can’t slip your fingers between pages to peek at the next section. Each ending you receive returns you to the menu so you can replay the same chapter or an earlier one if preferred.

Go On An Adventure, Or Don’t

Before dissecting the mechanics in The Innsmouth Case any further, let’s summarise the story once more if you’re unfamiliar with it. You play a PI, a bit of a cliche and also a slob, but he’s so acutely aware of it and makes for a fun read as you go through the various actions and responses.

As this is a choose your own adventure style narrative, you can decline to take the job, which is what I did, first of all, receiving my first ending

A femme fatale like character comes to visit, not too distant from The Chicken Police, albeit, not as animal-like, with a job for you. That job is to locate her missing daughter. Out of sight for over a week now in her hometown of Innsmouth, it’s your job to locate and return her to a designated address.

As this is a choose your own adventure style narrative, you can decline to take the job, which is what I did, first of all, receiving my first ending. Apologies for the spoiler, but it’s a no-frills one and chances are most people will uncover it in the first few minutes.

This early choice not only made me chuckle but reassess my approach and select a dialogue path different from before. You’ll note a repeat of some of the story throughout The Innsmouth Case. You can’t have something unique for every interaction, but experimenting with each of your options is highly encouraged.

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Break my rusty cage and run. Source: Screen capture

Dark, But The Comedy Lightens The Load

Referring back to my earlier assumption that this would be a relatively quick playthrough, I would myself ruminating, but in the positive sense, fixated on exploring each path. Sometimes you can’t avoid a dead end, and there are a few paths that repeat themselves, forcing the story to end a bit prematurely.

However, a quick jump into the chapter selection and you can retrace your steps to avoid the ending you’ve just experienced, or perhaps unlock a brand new path yet to be explored.

The Innsmouth Case is so well written – it would be fatal if it weren’t, what with it being a text-based adventure

Considering the dark tones of the game, the humour is spot on. It’s neither forced, overused nor out of place and it doesn’t miss a beat. The Lovecraft influence is evident, but as per the disclaimer at the beginning of the game, it’s adjusted to being a bit more accommodating to all walks of life than the author’s perspective.

The Innsmouth Case is so well written – it would be fatal if it weren’t, what with it being a text-based adventure, that the bezels and animations are simply a bonus, as is an image in a traditional novel. The scenes are expertly crafted and descriptive, and dare I say, a little bit enchanting.

Shocks Are So Much Better Absorbed With The Knees Bent

Actions and consequences are crucial in a game such as this. Despite the criteria, The Innsmouth Case manages to offer quite a lot of freedom and creativity, considering its apparent limitations. You can’t control your character in the conventional sense, but there are several forks in the road where you can choose to go.

Do you make use of your time in Innsmouth and ask the right questions to the right people, or do you soak in the ambience (or terror?), mingling with   The Wicker Man-like locals, smelling of fish where the shadows are more prevalent at night? The choice is yours…

The Innsmouth Case - Larry
A LSL scene. Source: Screen capture

Because there are so many endings, you don’t feel hesitant to make mistakes and perhaps make decisions you wouldn’t usually make in a similar genre. I’m quite predictable, often getting the good endings and somewhat of a people pleaser, but I go nuts in endgame modes.

With The Innsmouth Case, I started on that more chaotic path, hence decline the job at the beginning. But more importantly, there were absurd situations with ferrets and sea people that had me doing things I’d never even consider (I’m talking in-game context, not real life).

Judging A Book By Its Cover

If we were to use the adage of judging a book by its cover, I’d probably have been a bit shallow and overlooked this game on face value. Lovecraft is essentially a keyword in gaming searches, as much as pixel art, so it doesn’t separate it from the crowd, nor do the visuals.

Some of the animations are a bit awkward as they’re on a loop. The character illustrations are brilliant, but in handheld mode, it doesn’t do them justice. The awkwardness isn’t bad animation, but when the character description says of Ms Marsh moving elegantly or similar, you clock The Muppets like movement of her hands and let out a laugh. It has to be intentional, right?

But after about 20 minutes or so, it was like watching a blockbuster on a smartphone. While cinema outings are better on a bigger screen, if the film is good enough, you soon forget where you are, and it doesn’t matter if you’re watching in an 80-inch screen or 6 inches. It’s what you do with it that counts. I couldn’t resist.

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Nice beard. Source: Screen capture

On that rather crap analogy, The Innsmouth Case didn’t wow me in its presentation at first. Still, after that brief period, I was so absorbed that in my head it was ‘one more chapter’, and bearing in mind there are 35 of them with so many paths, you can appreciate why this is such an engaging, funny, yet eerie tale.

The Innsmouth Case Review Summary

Like any good book, The Innsmouth Case is hard to put down, and despite its short story arcs that take you down one of many endings, the experience is so enjoyable that you want to stay in Innsmouth for as long as feasibly possible. That is, without stinking of fish or being married off to some Poseidon-bothering yokel.