The Innsmouth Case – Review
Follow Genre: Text adventure, visual novel
Developer: RobotPumpkin Games
Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
Platform: Switch, PC, Android
Tested on: Switch

The Innsmouth Case – Review

Site Score
7.5
Good: Perfect to play in short bursts, with lots of replayability
Bad: Relies on the player already being familiar with the Cthulhu mythos a bit too much
User Score
10.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Although H.P. Lovecraft’s stories have enjoyed success for almost a century now, it appears that the legendary horror author’s oeuvre is really enjoying a surge in popularity right now. Media like Nicolas Cage’s Color Out of Space or HBO’s successful series Lovecraft Country are bringing Lovecraft-inspired stories to a mainstream audience. The growing selection of Cthulhu-themed video games is another testament to the demand for stories featuring the mythos. The Innsmouth Case is the latest entry in this niche. The twist here is that the game attempts to mix Lovecraftian horror with comedy. Is The Innsmouth Case a mystery worth solving or is it best left Not to be Named?

Story

Being a text adventure, The Innsmouth Case is very much a story-driven experience. We always try to avoid spoilers when reviewing a title like this, but given that the game features no less than 27 different endings, there is a good chance that your experience is going to be very different than ours, if only for the first playthrough. The premise is of course the same, no matter which ending you are going to get. You play as a down-on-his-luck private investigator, who is approached by a desperate femme fatale in a noir-like setting. The woman, Mrs. Marsh has lost her daughter, Tabitha. Through a combination of seduction and the prospect of a hefty monetary reward, Mrs. Marsh ropes you into traveling to Innsmouth to look for the missing girl. From there on, things take a turn for the weird, as you’ll explore the town and meet its strange inhabitants. 

According to developer RobotPumpkinGames, The Innsmouth Case is the world’s first “scary comedy text adventure” of its kind. The game is also billed as being inspired by the works of legendary horror author H.P. Lovecraft. Of course, there is a difference between “inspired by” and outright using tropes and story elements from Lovecraft’s writings, and The Innsmouth Case falls into the latter category. Fans of the Cthulhu mythos will certainly get a kick out of seeing familiar names like Dagon pop up, but for outsiders unfamiliar with the setting, things can get confusing. Much of the humor is derived from the protagonist not knowing what is going on, but many of the jokes probably fly over the head of anyone that isn’t up to speed with at least some of the core elements of Lovecraft’s 1936 story “The Shadow over Innsmouth”. Rest assured, you don’t need to be a lore expert to enjoy the game, but this reliance on familiarity with the source material might be a turnoff.

Graphics

The Innsmouth Case is literally presented as a book, which makes sense given the nature of the game. What stands out here are the designs of the various characters you encounter. Every single one of Innsmouth’s inhabitants is unique and visually distinct from the others, and they are all oozing with personality. Although the Burton-esque cast are depicted here as book illustrations, they often feature limited animation, which helps with immersion. 

Sound

Accompanying you on your case is appropriate music that changes to match the on-screen situation. While the soundtrack successfully captures the eerie atmosphere that one would associate with Innsmouth, it never takes front stage. Instead, the focus is fully on the story here. Don’t get us wrong, the soundtrack is still an essential element when it comes to immersion but here it acts as the binding holding the book together rather than as a cover feature, so to speak. 

Gameplay

The Innsmouth Case is essentially a digital “choose your own adventure” story. You’ll be reading the story and will be asked to make choices at key points in the story. A typical playthrough of The Innsmouth Case is a short but sweet affair. Our first playthrough took less than 30 minutes, but with 27 endings, the game is still guaranteed to keep you occupied for quite some time. We did find that the best way to experience the game is not to binge play through all the different scenarios but to savor the stories and just occasionally play through one when the mood strikes. What helps here is that you are able to return to previous chapters rather than start over from square one, so if you simply want to take the story in another direction from a turning point, you’re able to do so.

Gameplay is limited to choosing the actions and dialogue of the protagonist. Given that you’re playing a horror game, the consequences of your actions can be quite dire and a happy ending is never guaranteed. In fact, the endings we’ve encountered all had some kind of sting in the end, so there may be no perfect outcomes at all here. This is somewhat offset by the tongue-in-cheek humor that is ever-present and while not every joke lands, the writing is still pretty good. Some of the dialogue was genuinely funny and if you’re a fan of Lovecraftian horror, then this game is worth a look at if only for the creative ways it pokes fun at the Cthulhu Mythos. 

Conclusion

With a plethora of endings, appealing character designs and decent writing, we’re sure to return to Innsmouth a few times over the next few months. The game’s bite-sized story paths perfectly match how this is an experience best enjoyed in short bursts. The Innsmouth case’s biggest weakness is perhaps that it’s not very accessible to anyone that doesn’t have at least a cursory knowledge of the Cthulhu mythos. If you’re familiar with Lovecraft’s stories, however, you’ll probably enjoy visiting Innsmouth over and over again. 

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The Innsmouth Case - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
Sebastiaan Raats


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