Written by  :  Afterburner (496)
Written on  :  Mar 20, 2001
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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One of the last great text-only games ever made

The Good

By the time "The Lurking Horror" was published, Infocom had reached its peak of popularity. Computer graphics at the time were improving dramatically from the 300x200, 16-color graphics of the Commodore 64 (the standard for most of the 80s). The Apple IIgs had been around for a year or two, and the Amiga had been released, as had color Macintosh computers. All had significantly better graphics, both in terms of higher resolution and more colors in the palette, than the Commodore 64 or the Apple IIe. This spelled the death knell for text-only games, as the average gamer wanted some bang for his graphical buck -- a bang that text-only games simply couldn't provide no matter how good their gameplay was.

(It's interesting to note that this trend continues to this day. Game companies frequently put out games that are heavy on the latest graphics and sound technology, but light on actual gameplay. And the reason they keep doing this is because it seems to be a successful marketing strategy.)

(But I digress...)

But forget all that. This is 1987. Text-only games are still fairly popular for the home computers of the day, thanks to the absolutely outstanding quality of the text-only games released by Infocom. "The Lurking Horror," their first (and, as it happens, their last) entry into the Horror genre, carried on this fine tradition of quality.

You start off as a student at George Underwood Edwards (GUE) University, an MIT clone. You're working late one night in the computer lab, when suddenly you're thrust into a tale that would do H.P. Lovecraft proud. As with Lovecraft, the horror is rarely "in your face." The horror is subtle, and relies on atmosphere rather than monsters or "jump out and go 'BOO'" tactics. Indeed, given the limitations of the text-only genre, the writers were really prevented from using the less subtle tactics. It worked so well, it's a wonder Infocom hadn't done a horror game any earlier.

The Bad

Nothing to dislike. The story was well crafted, the puzzles were challenging without being absurdly difficult, and the text parser performed admirably.

The Bottom Line

If you've ever wanted to actually be in an H.P. Lovecraft tale, "The Lurking Horror" is the game for you.

(And if you've ever wanted to actually be in an H.P. Lovecraft tale, seek counselling.)