DescriptionIn 1834, in the small New England fishing village of Illsmouth, the distinguished British scientist Lord Boleskine lost his mind. After studying ancient manuscripts of evil repute, he had travelled to this place to observe the passing of Halley's comet. What he observed that night, however, turned him into a raving lunatic. Now, 76 years later, Halley's comet is coming back, and young reporter John T. Parker has travelled to Illsmouth to try to uncover the truth in Boleskine's wild claims, and see the comet for himself.
Shadow Of The Comet is a horror adventure game, inspired by the terrifying writings of H. P. Lovecraft. Contrary to many adventure games from the early 90s, the game has a keyboard driven interface with a system of actions activated either by pressing the corresponding key (L for look, G for get, T for talk, U for use) or selecting them from the menu activated by the TAB key. The CD release was enhanced with a mouse-driven interface. Typical for Infogrames titles (e.g. Eternam), the game contains vector-based cut scenes with enlarged graphics of the faces of the speakers during dialogues.
- "Shadow of the Comet" -- International title
Part of the Following Groups
- Gameplay feature: Journal
- Inspiration: Author - H. P. Lovecraft
- Inspiration: Literature
- Setting: Belle Époque
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CD-ROM versionThe CD-ROM version of Shadow Of The Comet (released in 1994) has the following extra features:
- Full speech
- Mouse control system
- New intro sequence
- Bonus program: "Visit To The Lovecraft Museum": This program lets you walk around a small museum and examine various artifacts on display, from Lovecraft's stories. It uses the same control system and presentation as the actual game.
Infogrames also claimed that the CD-ROM version added more characters, puzzles and locations to the game. This is not true. There are two extra people walking round the village (a woman and a child), but you only see them briefly, you can't talk to them, you never find out anything about them, and they don't appear after the second day of the game. There are no new puzzles or locations.
Copy protectionThe disk version of the game had a novel copy protection system; A small card "Invitation to Arkham Planetarium" which folded out into a box with a magnifying glass at one end and a miniature star chart at the other end. You had to squint through the glass and match star formations with ones onscreen. Despite its inventiveness, it had a tendency to hurt your eyes and be slightly irritating.
DemoBefore the release of the game, Infogrames released a demo, which included a playable section and a rolling demo. The rolling demo featured a lot of scenes and animations from the game. Strangely, though, almost none of the material in the rolling demo actually made it to the final game. The demo's music and title screen were also not included in the final product. For fans of the game, the demo makes for very interesting viewing.
DevelopmentThe development team stated that the game is based on two of Lovecraft's short stories; The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Dunwitch Horror. However, there aren't really any similarities between the events in the game and the events in either of the stories. Also, 'Illsmouth', the town in the game, is nothing like Lovecraft's town, Innsmouth.
While in development, many of the game's characters and places had different names. For instance, Parker was called Carter, Jugg was called Rugs and Illsmouth was called Isthmuth.
Here is an interesting note on how the storyline of Shadow of the Comet changed before the makers decided on the final version. The text and dialogue used in the game - just like all its data - is packed and hence "invisible" if you just try to view the game files, but by dumping memory contents while (or after) playing the game, you can read the parts that are used at certain points in the game (You can also extract the game's sounds, but that's another story). Doing this with the demo reveals some interesting information about the history of the game. First of all, we can find out that our protagonist was originally named John T. Carter instead of Parker (the company forgot to change this in the text that made its way to the box cover). Also, he was an astronomer, not a journalist. Tobias Jugg's (the librarian) original name was Rugs, and the town was named neither Illsmouth, nor Innsmouth, but... Isthmuth (a real tongue twister). But the most amazing discovery is that the demo - and perhaps even the game itself - was originally supposed to have a cameo by Howard Phillips Lovecraft himself! From what I found, it seems that HPL would be hiding behind the curtain-covered door in Jugg's house. He was supposed to have a few lines of dialogue - here it is, extracted from the memory dump: "You're there, are you? No... Don't go away. It has been so long since I had a chance to talk. My name is HOWARD PHILLIPS. We're going to follow the unusual story of a young and brilliant astronomer, JOHN T. CARTER. The adventure takes place in the most peaceful fishing port you can imagine, a place called ISTHMUTH...". Unfortunately, HPL's cameo (or at least the means of activating it) seems to have been removed from the demo. The writer, however, "lends" his face to Dr Underwood in the full game (which, for that matter, makes use of quite a few faces known well to horror fans - Vincent Price as Dr Cobble is probably the easiest one to notice!). Also, all the locations, screens and music from the demo appear in the full version of the game.
LicenseShadow Of The Comet is licensed by Chaosium, owners of the Call of Cthulhu trademark.
ReferencesThe developers clearly had real actors in mind when they worked on this game. We get to meet some very familiar faces, including Jack Nicholson, Vincent Price, Walter Brennan, Lillian Gish, Sean Connery, Katy Jurado, Robert Mitchum, Walter Matthau and - similar but not obviously identical - Willem Dafoe and John Hurt. Lovecraft himself is also cast as one of the characters. He 'plays the part' of Underhouse.
On your first day at Illsmouth, try to examine (using the 'L' key) Curtis Hambelton (who lives near the harbour) or Wilbur Hambelton (you can find him at the general store) to see something... "Very odd, indeed!". The rather ghastly meaning of what you'll see will become clear to you at a later part of the game.
References to the gameReferenced in Alone In The Dark: There were a couple of books you could pick up and read that described some of the plot of Shadow of the Comet.
Information also contributed by Eliah Pickford, Jaromir Krol and John David Karlgren
Related Web Sites
- Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet (official website)
- Game Nostalgia (Provides extensive background info for Shadow of the Comet, pictures of the cast and examples of voice-overs, full credits with shots and info about the design team, a demo of the game, specific details about the game, various goodies, all musical themes, shots of every location in the game, saved games, a list of reviews, including a "nostalgic "review and tech specs.)