Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet

aka: Shadow of the Comet
Moby ID: 132
DOS Specs
Buy on Windows
$5.99 new on Steam

Description official descriptions

In 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.

The GOG.com release of this game includes both Floppy and CD versions of the game. The main differences are new graphics, mouse-driven interface and full voice-acting whereas the Floppy version doesn't feature any voice-acting. The CD version's launcher screen additionally includes a Museum mini-game where character can walk through a museum and look at various mystical objects and paintings inspired by H. P. Lovecraft.

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Credits (DOS version)

27 People (23 developers, 4 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 78% (based on 21 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 49 ratings with 2 reviews)

May lead to a heart attack!

The Good
Well, at least your protagonist will get a stroke or two. And that's only a minor spoiler, since the plot of this wonderful adventure is so multilayered and so twisted, that it will keep surprising you till the end.

Shadow of the Comet is one of the most lovingly designed horror games, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft or not. Since it IS inspired, this, of course, helps to build up a strong storyline based on a rich universe. It starts simple enough, in a year 1910, with an American photographer John Parker arriving in a small port town of Illsmouth in order to take pictures of Halley's Comet passing by. He also has a diary of a madman in his trunk, who dared to do the very same thing 76 years ago, but that's a secret, so please keep your mouth shut!

Actually, this skill - keeping some stuff to yourself - will become useful very soon, since you'll meet many suspicious characters immediately after your arrival. Some of them are friends, others are involved in a sinister plot. Act carefully, think twice and save often, as they used to say. Or die a horrible death.

The gloomy atmosphere grows quickly on you, and the wonderfully disturbing music helps a lot. Yet it is the story that builds tension. You will spend 3 days and 3 nights in Illsmouth, but the game is so cleverly designed, that you'll never feel like going around in circles in order to trigger some stupid event you've no idea about. Parker will get access to new town areas every now and then, search a nearby forest, travel to a few islands. There's always a lot going on, and if not - look closely, follow suspicious characters and read your journal! This was one of the important innovations, since in early 90s games didn't keep track of your progress. Well, Shadow of the Comet did, and did masterfully, without turning into a step-by-step walkthrough.

The puzzles vary from easy and logical to complex and hair-pulling, so don't count on the journal much. Sometimes it requires you to think out of the box, sometimes it's just a straightforward inventory puzzle. The game also futures several not-quite-arcade sequences in a sense you have to watch your step and not be eaten. This adds adrenaline to an already nervous experience.

While Shadow of the Comet doesn't follow any particular novel, it manages to deliver the general atmosphere very nicely, with creepy environment, familiar life stories and a number of references, starting from a diploma of Miskatonic University on the wall and ending with ancient Gods in person. The developers were so obviously into Lovecraft and horror genre, that even characters are portrayed as B-movie horror stars and Lovecraft himself! Seriously, it can't get any better.

The Bad
It can get worth though - for some at least. You really should find and play the CD version that came out in a year after the original one. Not only it adds voices (some nice work done there), an intro and a short tour around 'The Lovecraft Museum', but, more importantly, removes the dead-ends and invents mouse support! Since the diskette version was keyboard-controlled, it led to some brave experiments and frustrating path-finding.

The same can be said about the graphics: not everyone's cup of tea. While the cut-scenes and close-ups are beautifully stylised, the main playground looked nothing special even back in 1993, with Sierra and LucasArts overshadowing the picture in every aspect. This is probably the reason why the game was robbed of the public attention. But should one care about it today?

The Bottom Line
That wasn't a question for me! The story had so many memorable moments and shocking details, that I couldn't care less about the dated graphics. And you shouldn't too, since there are very few horror games of such caliber out there. Even the official sequel - Prisoner of Ice - that came out a couple of years later, made by the same talented team using the same license, was nowhere as good as Shadow of the Comet. A highly underrated and deeply involving classics made by fans for fans.

DOS · by A.T. (66) · 2012

The BEST H.P. Lovecraft game (so far...)

The Good
Shadow Of The Comet would have been a pretty standard point and click adventure game ala the old Sierra King's Quest line. What makes it stand out is the atmosphere. It perfectly creates the sense of creepy tension that the best Lovecraft stories convey.

There's all sorts of things going on 'just beneath the surface' of the story. When you talk to most of the characters in town, you'll see a nicely rendered portrait of them. In a nice little throwaway touch, most of these townsfolk are based on people from old scary movies. In the course of your adventure, you'll run across cameos by Vincent Price, Jack Nicholson (watch out for him!) and even H.P. Lovecraft himself. There's many others. I just can't remember them all now.

The voice acting for Parker is very good. The rest of the cast is at least decent. (Except for that nurse. Most wooden voice acting ever.) They did a very good job of making you feel that they were hiding something without making it too obvious or over the top. Everybody oozed the sense that they were thinking 'You've found what you want. Now leave!' while being polite to your face.

The Bad
While the gameplay is pretty straightforward and the puzzles are amazingly logical for an adventure game, there's one point at which EVERY player WILL GET STUCK.

There's a part where Parker receives a map (if I remember correctly) and needs to look at it to move on. Simple enough. Unfortunately the only way to look at the map is to head back to your rented room, sit at the desk and view the map. There are no clues suggesting you should head back to your room or any good reason that that should be the only place to view it.

Simply having Parker saying he didn't feel safe viewing the map in public or something along those lines would have been a huge help.

Also, the maze full of monsters, while not terrible or even out of place wasn't quite as good as the rest of the game.

The Bottom Line
Aside from the one TERRIBLE 'puzzle', Shadow Of The Comet is a great adventure game. The puzzles are logical and the atmosphere is fantastic.

If you're a Lovecraft fan, you owe it to yourself to pick it up.

Followed up by Prisoner Of Ice, though it isn't as highly recommended as Shadow Of The Comet.

DOS · by Atomic Punch! (186) · 2003

Trivia

CD-ROM version

The 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 protection

The 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.

Demo

Before 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.

Development

The 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.

License

Shadow Of The Comet is licensed by Chaosium, owners of the Call of Cthulhu trademark.

References

The 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 game

Referenced 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

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  • 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.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by xroox.

Windows, Linux added by Sciere. PC-98 added by Unicorn Lynx.

Additional contributors: MAT, martin jurgens, Patrick Bregger, Atyth.

Game added May 23, 1999. Last modified February 19, 2024.