Review by – Richard Winstone
Ok so any horror fan will be well aware of H.P Lovecraft, the child of two psychotic parents whom both died in the same asylum, a twisted soul who not only produced but inspired some of the greatest horror novels of all time, but in true worldly fashion died a peasant and only after the fact did is work become valuable. It was the work of this man that inspired Zeotrope Interactive to produce this Gothic horror game Conarium.
You awaken confused as Frank Gilman, alone in the midst of a snowstorm in Antarctica, an eerie atmosphere and an instant sense of loneliness. You quickly discover your part of a research team, but everyone else is missing, a tension was instant even though there was no reason you fell it, troubled by hallucinations and headaches you follow a pretty linear path, finding curious artifices all tied in with ancient history, letter that begin to explain the premise of your research, A tale of the arcane unfolds slowly before your eyes as you venture from the almost homely research base into deep ancient underground caves and caverns.
Couple this with the flash backs, apparitions and the tension remains, for a time, it slowly becomes normalized, awaiting the jump scares we have become so used to dulled the experience of the story, although this is Lovecraft’s style of writing the fear of the unknown playing a huge role in his works, for adaption to a game or any other media rather than the written word, where your own imagination allowed to portray the fear itself, couple this with the standard of voice acting, very docile and seemingly indifferent really did ruin some moments of high tension and made a mockery of the plot.
The apparitions and seldom encounters in Conarium are lackluster, not only are the enemies lacking any really horror element the game doesn’t portray them at all, nothing in the plot instills any fear, only to poisonous vegetation is really discussed, the physical entities (avoiding any kind of spoiler) seem to be added just so you have to die while figuring out the optimum route of escape. There is a redeeming feature of the game play the puzzles, although not enough of them to make the game anything more than a walking simulator, a great sense of satisfaction comes once you have figured out the star maps of arcane symbols required, although this can also be frustrating and take you out of the experience of the story.
SPOILER ALERT do not continue reading if you really want to play Conarium.
Overall it was disappointing, maybe the task of trying to truly create the work of H.P Lovecraft was to much, an adaption Could have been a far more immersive experience, no matter how hard you try and portray the fear you own mind creates, you will always fall short. The lack of empathy for the dull character, the quick drop off in tension when you realize, you’re not in any danger throughout the game besides the few run away sequences. I completely lost interest about 2 hours into the game and only continued to the end in the hope it would redeem itself.
If you do make it to the end the where your meant to break free from your physical constraints you awaken with lizard hands and it ends, I was absolutely infuriated the promise of knowledge beyond the imaginable, becoming this higher being, braking free from reality, It left me with a feeling of being cheated it was lazy. Is it asking too much to have a short cinematic showing a glimpse of the knowledge, A unembodied voyage throughout the different realities portrayed throughout the game, something just something to make you feel like you achieved the goal set out by your leader Dr Faust who was left to die just a few short minutes from the end? Nope you get lizard hands, thanks for playing.
Most troubling to myself is reading other reviews on the game I looked over a few and they agree on premise with me about 90% of the components of the game yet score it in my mind quite highly 7-8 out of ten seems to be the average. I can only wonder why that is as a game its awful if you want a mind bending experience read a few of Lovecraft’s short stories, you can pick them up in second hand book stores for pennies, and walk there that will give you the same experience as playing the game “At the Mountains of Madness” the book that the game is based on is 49p for the kindle and free with audible. Its best feature is the story which it all but destroys.