Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 by Blini Games
I was really impressed by 2019’s Lovecraft’s Untold Stories; despite its Rogue-like framework and propensity to cram in every H.P. Lovecraft reference but the tentacled kitchen sink, it was actually a bit more compelling than the official Call of Cthulhu video game adaptation released around the same time.
Naturally I was excited to try the sequel.
More Eldritch, More Squamous, More Vivid
At first glance, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is impressive. It’s got a familiar look – and even plenty of familiar faces, as your first three available player characters are from the first game – but less blocky and pixellated, more like hand-drawn and dripping with atmosphere, from the eerie town of Arkham to fog-drenched graveyards to the sickly green-blue hues of the asylum.
The art during cut-scenes is especially great, with thickly drawn black lines and an illustrative style that’s draws on period-accurate illustration and the grim, gritty drawing style of Mike Mignola (or for that matter, the Mignola-influenced Darkest Dungeon).
It sounds great, as well, with a languid, dreary piano-driven score that builds dread without relying on screeches or jump-scare noises.
More Mundane Horrors
Unfortunately, a new and improved look isn’t enough to save things. Where the original game was light on its feet despite some real moments of difficulty, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 feels awkward and clunky. It’s not so much that it’s difficult (although it is), but that between awkward movement, obstacle placement that’s tough to read from the game’s fixed 2.5D perspective, and a tendency for enemies to mob up and pin you in place, it feels random and unfair.
Some of that difficulty can be mitigated through a crafting system, but that too only conjures only weariness rather than eldritch inspiration or even cosmic dread. Some of the ingredients might have evocative names – “Lust of Shub-Niggurath,” anyone? – but that doesn’t change that collecting them and putting them to use feels like a massive grind.
Ordinary Randomness, Not Cosmic Chaos
The procedural generation is more sophisticated this time around, but again, it doesn’t help. There are more elements in play, but the way they’re randomly thrown together in a given run makes little narrative or visual sense (not to mention the aforementioned difficulty of being pinned between randomly placed houseplants, desks, barrels, or other environmental elements).
Blini Games went through a lot of turmoil during the crowd-funding and development of this game – and some promised features, like cooperative multi-player, ended up being dropped – and I feel for the developers, because they obviously put a lot of heart into this.
Unfortunately, though, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is everything the first game wasn’t: heavy and plodding instead of light on its feet, ponderous and overly complicated instead of goofy, pulp-inspired action, and ordinary irritation instead of creeping cosmic dread.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Lovecraft’s Untold Stories 2 below: