Reviews - Updated on April 14, 2022

Making Howard Phillips Lovecraft horror films is, as they say, both a gift and a curse. On the one hand, everything seems to have already been invented for you and before you, there are plots, characters, motives and an army of fans of his work. On the other hand, you need to resist the temptation to fill the game with cheap “screamers” and, on the contrary, do everything in a restrained, atmospheric, intelligent, Lovecraftian way – otherwise the same army of fans will send you on a date with Cthulhu. Studio Zoetrope Interactive is coping with this exam for the third time – after the Darkness Within dilogy, it released its new Lovecraftian horror, Conarium.Conarium game review

In visions, everything is sometimes much more terrible than in reality.

Cold experiments

However, strictly speaking, Conarium is not a game according to Lovecraft, but in the spirit of his work, namely the book “The Ridges of Madness”. Intersections with it are obvious, but in general, the authors tell an original story. The action also takes place at a research station in Antarctica, which is located almost at the very South Pole. We play as one of the scientists, Frank Gilman, who wakes up and finds himself completely alone – all his colleagues have disappeared somewhere, and he really does not remember anything.

Finding various records, we gradually understand that some experiments were carried out at the station, during which scientists, using strange devices and substances, plunged into a hypnotic sleep. So they wanted to join the secrets and knowledge of the ancient alien race of Elders, whose caves are just under the station. There, the expedition members discover strange devices, wall inscriptions, stones with runes, unknown plants blocking the passage to some areas, as well as sarcophagi with mummies of reptilian creatures that replaced the Elders.

And Frank, and we, along with him, instinctively feel that there is someone or something else here – strange, dangerous, incomprehensible and therefore even more terrible …

Ridges of Madness

This, however, does not mean that we will have to constantly run away and hide from some monsters and shy away from “screamers”. Such situations, of course, arise, but in a very dosed way – the authors rely on a thoughtful study of locations and gradually increasing tension.

We find and study all kinds of documents, listen to audio recordings, periodically try to contact the others, see the events of the past and fall either into memories or into a dream – gradually the line between the present and the past is blurred, and now it’s not clear where the dream, hallucinations are. where is the reality.

Conarium game review

This story can have two endings – the choice in the final is yours.

The transition between different states of consciousness in Conarium is done very precisely and subtly. Here we see a flower and a cat sitting next to it, the shadow of which falls on the wall, and now the flower suddenly begins to grow before our eyes, covering the whole room with tentacles-petals, and the cat’s head takes on a strange shape, increases, distorts, it turns … Brr. In this situation, it is much more frightening than any other “boo” – it looks really crazy, like Lovecraftian.

The worst thing is not even when strange shadows periodically flash before your eyes or you have to run away from something terrible that rolls over you with primal horror, but when in the very final we understand what the experiments of scientists led to, what price they paid for trying to touch what a person should not touch. The logic of the narrative suggested that this was exactly what it would come to, but still, when you first see the consequences of these experiments and understand what really happened to Frank and his colleagues, it makes a very strong impression …

Mysteries of history

Compared to the Darkness Within dilogy, Conarium has fewer complex, abstract puzzles. At first, everything seems primitive at all – find the key, pour gasoline into the generator and start it, knock out the door after a few blows, pick up the item and use it in the right place.

Then you still have to destroy the stone ceilings with an ax and charge special crystals with energy so that they help to remove the plants blocking the path. At some point, you even have to sit at the helm of an underwater vehicle and swim underwater in a somewhat arcade style, trying not to crash into anything – the vehicle has only three “lives”.

Of course, more traditional puzzles appear from time to time, when we need, for example, to correctly set up radio waves or place coins with symbols on a stone pedestal in the right sequence. But there is nothing particularly complicated there either – a hint will always be found somewhere nearby or in Frank’s diary, where he carefully writes down and draws all the notes and documents found.

This does not mean that the game has become something light and sometimes even arcade. It’s just that the authors this time decided to focus on a consistent, coherent story, distracting from which with some intricate puzzles would be too dangerous for a carefully built atmosphere.

Conarium game review

The game has been translated into Russian, but the font chosen is not very good.

***

Conarium is, in fact, a game “for its own”, for devoted fans of Lovecraft’s work, who will find here a lot of references to their favorite works. The authors are not trying to revolutionize the genre and scare the player to death, but instead tell a very exciting, intense and atmospheric story. Too bad it’s very short.

Pros: fascinating story; truly Lovecraftian atmosphere; a lot of references; nice graphics; authentic music.

Cons: the game is very short; puzzles have become easier compared to Darkness Within.

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