[INFORM] The Awakening

The Awakening - by Dennis Matheson

You start The Awakening at the bottom of a muddy pit. Hardly the most enthralling of locations to begin a game in you might think, and with precious little to do here aside from move out of the mud perhaps not the best start the author could have gone for. But, after this, things begin to pick up quite nicely.

Leaving the muddy pit (fairly easily done but it had me stumped at first as climbing out of the pit - surely the first thing anyone is going to type? - didn’t work), you find yourself in a graveyard. A quick glance round shows there’s precious little to see in the graveyard. Aside from, naturally, a church. Move towards the church and the game begins to open up a little.

The Awakening takes place in little more than a dozen locations. Attempting to leave the graveyard faces you with the default message of “You feel that you are unable to. Some force on you increases as you try to leave the area.” No such restriction affects your entering of the church and so the game inevitably moves you inside.

Puzzles await you in most locations. At their best - leading the dog around the church until it chokes on the chain and the one involving the bell - they’re excellent. Others - placing the railing below the trap door (“drop railing” doesn’t work) - left me wanting to punch the monitor. Actually, most tasks involving the railing/ladder were awkward to say the least. Whereas a simple “drop” command would have sufficed, the writer instead went for a far more confusing system of allowing the player to put the ladder wherever he wanted. So whereas you could drop the ladder directly below the trap door, you would be unable to climb it because you hadn’t used the “put” command. Confusing. Another puzzle that got the better of me, and one I doubt I would ever have figured out if I hadn’t cheated and resorted to the walkthrough, was rubbing ashes onto the pages of a book in order to read what was written there. Even afterwards, I was a little baffled that the writer expected anyone to figure that out. Or maybe I’m just getting worse at these games in my old age… :slight_smile:

Descriptions were particularly good - lengthy and atmospheric - and added considerable depth to the game. The graveyard is presented as a creepy place, not one I would really want to visit in real place. The church itself, larger inside than it appears from the outside, has few locations but the ones it does have are well described.

What the storyline behind The Awakening is all about is a difficult question. The background, two lines at the start of the game, gives nothing away, and as you progress around first the graveyard and then the church, brief glimpses into your past are revealed. Alas, these are seldom conclusive enough for you to gain any real idea of the events that led you to the bottom of the pit. Some conclusions can be drawn from the old man you encounter in the upper reaches of the church, by examining the eyes of the Christ portrait in the sanctuary and studying the mirror, but even after finishing the game I was left at a loss as to say exactly what had occurred. Maybe this was deliberate, in order to leave the player able to make his own mind up about what the game was about, but I would have liked it if things were a little clearer.

My own interpretation, although I could well be wrong, was that the player had made some kind of pact with the Devil that had gone badly wrong. Whether this is right or not I couldn’t say but from the old man’s words near the end of the game I suspect I might well be heading in the right direction.

Character interaction in The Awakening is at a minimum. A pity. The only character you can speak to is the old man in the church but I found it difficult to get much out of him. Most of what he said was unhelpful, although eliciting a response from him was a task in itself. I found this a tad disappointing as I had been hoping, now that an NPC had finally shown up, that I might be able to question him about a whole array of subjects and get the answers I was seeking. Unfortunately not. Then again, it could be that the old man had a few dozen programmed responses and I was just unable to hit upon the correct words. It’s often difficult to tell.

Summing up:

Good and bad points, but the good far outweighed the bad in the end. The Awakening is a very well written game that certainly kept my interest until I had finished it, even if I spent most of the time wondering just what was going on :slight_smile: The puzzles were a little too hard but the game came with an excellent hints system which proved invaluable.

7 out of 10

I’ve heard the game draws heavily from Lovecraftian themes, and makes a bit more sense if the player is familiar with HPL.

I know of Lovecraft, though I’ve never actually read anything by him. A couple of horror writers that I have read - Brian Lumley and Ramsey Campbell - draw heavily on Lovecraftian lore in some of their novels, so I’m familiar with who Lovecraft is and the general style of things he wrote about, although I wrote this review a while back and I can’t remember whether I found it Lovecraftian or not.

EDIT: hmm… italics formatting seems to be messed up again. :frowning:

Out of curiosity, have you ever rated a game higher than 8? If so, which one(s), if any come to mind. :slight_smile:

Not a vast amount of games, but some. There’s a list at:


It’s not a definitive list by any means, as it just lists the games I’ve written reviews for. I’ve played plenty of others that I’d say were worth 9:

Retro games: Sherlock (incredibly hard and unfair detective game, but lots of fun); The Boggit (spoof of The Hobbit).

More recent ones: Invasion (comedy space invasion game); Guilty Bastards (the first IF game I played after getting on the internet five years ago); Gateway 2: Homeworld (huge IF game from the end of the commercial era).

Quite a few others besides but I don’t remember the names of them offhand.