Review by Leigh
Iceberg Interactive and Zoetrope Games are familiar with the art of creating H.P Lovecraft inspired horror titles. The two Darkness Within games created by these teams had their flaws, but are true examples of what Lovecraftian gaming SHOULD be; a delicate balance of mystery, intrigue and horror. Learning from their previous gameplay tediums (underline this specific line of text if you know what I’m on about or else give Darkness Within a try) these two established games companies have served us a wonderful slice of cosmic horror.
Conarium is a first person perspective game created in the Unreal 4 Engine, so you know it looks pretty. The player starts in an odd dream then awakens in an abandoned Antarctic base. What was this dream trying to tell you? Why are you in an Antarctic base? What is the purpose of this place? What’s the deal with that strange device in the centre of the room? There are many questions most of which can be answered if you play your cards right.
The game is rather simple; get from point A to point B. You can stray from the intended linear path if you wish to uncover more information about your situation. In the rich and beautifully crafted environments there is a fair amount of documentation you can read and other communicative devices which reveal more plot. There are a few puzzles that must be solved to progress through the game. Some puzzles are completely optional rewarding players with some mind boggling revelations.
Information accumulated during the course of the game brings you one of multiple conclusions. Exploration is the key. Items you collect uncovering further secrets, narrative and collectable items called ‘trophies’. This game is all about story and collectables, feeling somewhat between a walking sim, adventure and hidden object game.
Conarium is a Lovecraft fan’s wet dream, figuratively and literally. It has a bit of a dreamscape vibe from start to finish making it somewhat surreal, most of the action is grounded taking place in the waking world. Conarium is jam packed with Lovecraft references that will make any fanatic of the Weird Fiction genre salivate profusely. You can find a hidden copy of H.P Lovecraft’s At The Mountains Of Madness early on in the game, one of many references that gave me a hearty chuckle.
The sound is fucking incredible! I’m biased though. I loved the original soundtrack to Darkness Within. The subtle musical score fits the game perfectly. If you’re a fan of ambient music buy this shit. The sound effects also hit the nail on the head with a satisfying, crystal clear THUMP!
The game goes for about 6 hours from start to finish which some may consider short considering the price tag of $20 USD through Steam. Of course, replayability is there. I guarantee you will overlook at least one thing during the course of the game that may warrant a revisit.
Perhaps some secret areas aren’t as well hidden as some will hope. You’ll more than likely roll your eyes at yet ANOTHER wall you’ll hack down with your axe. At the same time, perhaps some secrets are a little too difficult to locate. I assumed some items in my possession were just for the sake of progressing the main story and were automatically activated when the need arose, but NOW I realize I could have used these items at different locations during the course of the game for more juicy narrative! Do I have a spare 6 hours to replay the game? I wish I did, but instead I crave variety. I’ll move on to another game and perhaps come back to it at a later date.
The narrative is well paced but perhaps not clear enough for the general populace to decipher. More spoon feeding would be nice so the player doesn’t feel out of their depth … more than likely this is the intention. Critique over.
This little game is one of the BEST Lovecraftian titles on the market. Iceberg and Zoetrope just seem to get better and better at what they create. This is a good reason to throw your money at them. You should fund their next project. You should do it because the inhabitants of planet earth needs more games from Iceberg and Zoetrope. What’s on the horizon is available to watch as a set of micro-teasers on YouTube.
Born of a jackal, Leigh decided to devote his life to all things horror at a young age. Now that he’s an adult not much has changed. He enjoys Board Games, Tabletop Role Playing Games and Electronic games, has a loving family that have put up with his crippling addictions, and is an ordained priest of the First United Church of Cthulhu. In his spare time he is a facilitator for a bank.
Leigh is also the creator and moderator of the Call of Cthulhu Melbourne Facebook community, where he goes by the madness-inducing pseudonym of “Leigh Carrthulu”. If you love Old Squidface as much as we think you do, ask Leigh to join the Facebook community. You can also read the interview with Leigh here on Games vs Play.
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Images from Conarium used in this review sourced from the Iceberg Interactive website.