In 2019 I finished The Lurking Horror. The experience was bumpy. But I had a great time. TLH was my first IF game that I finished. With it came a learning curve. Four years passed and I find that I’m burned out on modern games. Maybe it’s because I’m older. Maybe it’s the endless exploitation of the consumer. Either way, modern games don’t spin my disc drive like they used to.
Returning to IF I knew I wanted Lovecraftian. In 2019 I did finish a handful of smaller games after TLH. But I wanted something long to sink my teeth into. The critically acclaimed Anchorhead called my name. I started with the original release. Overcome by a nagging feeling, a feeling of spoiling my first experience, I picked up the steam release. And there’s no regrets here.
In the twenty hours it took to finish Anchorhead I didn’t use hints. Mind you… I was paranoid.
I saved 111 times during my playthrough. Something that paid off several times. Without the saves I’d have found myself softlocked frequently starting with the third day. I don’t consider this a flaw. When playing a dangerous game, you stack the deck in your favor.
I learned from the error of my ways after The Lurking Horror. Using Tizbort I created a detailed map. Creating this map created a detail layout of the game space. Something that made solving puzzles less difficult.
Notes. Notes. Notes. Some with notepad. Some by taking pictures of the screen. Not going into spoilers. But this came in clutch.
Michael S. Gentry crafted something special that will stand the test of time. And I mean that. This is a timeless experience. The writing is strong. The puzzles well-balanced with good clues. The author respects your intelligence. But knows when to stop dangling the carrot. There isn’t in jokes. Or “clever” pun-based puzzles. Overall, this is a stronger experience than The Lurking Horror.
And what we have here may be the best Lovecraftian horror game I’ve played in any genre. With Bloodborne coming in second. Gentry understands how to work in the constraints of the genre. Again, I don’t want to spoil things. But the ending put a smile on my face. For all the wrong reasons of course.
A map crafted by a first timer:
Similar with me. Additionally I developed a disdain for most proprietary/closed source games. Exceptions are point and click adventures (which are retro, too).
The destruction of the middle market killed my interest in the industry. That’s where all the good stuff was. These days I tend to plunder old game libraries or check out niche corners.
Well said. Anchorhead was the first IF game my girlfriend and I picked up when I recently decided to get back into the genre/hobby with her after not touching it since I was really young, and I wholeheartedly agree, it is a simply incredible game that will absolutely stand the test of time. It’s actually created a bit of a problem for us, because it hit all the notes we like so perfectly that we’re struggling to recapture that high when playing other games!
I still love a lot of modern games too — Fallout New Vegas, Cyberpunk 2077 (post 1.63), etc — but IF is such a special genre and I love it so much! And it has the benefit that I can play it with my head injury, since my gf can read it aloud to me and I can dictate back, whicj can’t be said for regular games, which overtax my disabled brain.
I feel a sadness now that the game is finished. It reminds me of finishing Gabriel Knight the first time. I’ve found something that will act as a future measuring stick.
As for modern gaming. There are standouts. New Vegas is one of the final open world sand box games I enjoyed. It felt like it didn’t take shortcuts with its narrative. And the RPG elements are strong.
For PC games I enjoy exploring old ms dos into late 90s Windows games. You truly never knew what you were going to get when you popped in a disc. A recent favorite is Disco Elysium.
My favorite era for console games is PSX into PS2. There was this huge wave of forced experimentation. 3D wasn’t figured out yet. So it was experiment or die. Worth all the jank, haha. Plus, I love liminal spaces. Silent Hill 2 and MGS 2 are a couple console favorites.
Innocent and brand new to gaming as I am when I played Fallout New Vegas and found it to be basically my favorite video game, I immediately went out and got Fallout 4 (it was on sale) and tried to play it. My disappointment was immeasurable. For me cyberpunk 2077 after the huge amounts of effort that the developers have put into fixing it and improving it and expanding it and revamping the mechanics and stuff scratches somewhat the same itch that fnv did, thankfully. Not nearly as well (the amount of interesting choices you could make in how you deal with the various interesting NPCs and side quests in FNV is unrivalled) but I like it.
I definitely plan to get around to DE when I heal and can play visual games again. I loved Planescape Torment so I’m hoping for a similar sort of isometric CRPG roleplaying experience, where it is text, dialogue, and philosophy heavy.
I know exactly what you mean. It’s hard to go back to games that are just good when you’ve played something so long, immersive, and extraordinary. You wish you could forget it so you can play it again for the first time.
The thing about really good long hard IF is also that it makes you feel smart to progress in it. There are relatively few games outside of IF that twingle me in that way. It’s fun to solve puzzles in The Room games, or to have fast enough fingers to progress in platformers, but none of them make me feel like I do when solving the puzzles in a world I’m immersed in like a really good IF game does. Anchorhead in particular does such a good job of balancing story and puzzles-- it’s easy to find games with great narratives, and easy to find games with good puzzles, but getting both of them in such harmony is such a joy.