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Lovecraft’s Untold Stories – Necronomicon and On

Lovecraft's Untold Stories game feature image
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories – Necronomicon and On
4.5

Platforms:

Windows PC, Steam

Game Name:

Lovecraft's Untold Stories

Publisher(s):

Blini Games

Developer(s):

Blini Games

Genre(s):

Action, Adventure, RPG

Release Date:

January 31st, 2019

Lovecraft’s Untold Stories by Blini Games

Lovecraft’s Untold Stories had me skeptical from the get-go. How could H.P. Lovecraft’s signature move of slowly building cosmic horror possibly work as an action Roguelike?

Surprisingly well, actually.

Lovecraft's Untold Stories game screenshot, fight scene

Necronomicon and On and On

The trick is that while the levels are procedurally generated, the clues are written so that they can be explored and pieced together in a random order that reveals a deeper truth – The Dunwich Horror by way of Her Story.

It’s an unexpectedly sophisticated and effective approach for a game that really boils down to the basic concept of The Binding of Isaac: running through a series of randomly generated rooms and murdering up a bunch of gross…things.

Each room can potentially include loot, traps, enemies or bits of story – a torn page of notebook, a ritually defiled corpse, a machine used for some infernal experiment – that adds to the story if examined.

It’s a simple enough set-up that Lovecraft’s Untold Stories puts to use in lots of brilliant little ways.

Lovecraft's Untold Stories game screenshot, detective

Cops and Grave Robbers

There are multiple characters to play – you start with only one, a private detective, then unlock more as you play – and each plays through the levels in a different order.

Each also reacts to clues in different ways; the scientist, for example, gets more information out of the various experiments in the creepy hospital, while the witch can divine occult significance from the remnants of ritual sacrifices.

Lovecraft’s Untold Stories even incorporates the “Sanity” mechanic from the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG. Certain objects – the remains of a human sacrifice, for example, or a glimpse at unearthly dimensions seen through a mad scientist’s monstrous invention – reduce your character’s sanity; lose enough, and you die of fright.

Even though the heart of the game is its random nature and its monster-blasting, the different clues and interactions were compelling enough to keep me playing just to learn more background details.

Lovecraft's Untold Stories game screenshot, flavor text
Thankfully, the flavor text is well written, paying homage to Lovecraft’s favorite themes and plot elements without falling into parody on the one hand or ponderous pretension on the other.

The Callback of Cthulhu

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Lovecraft’s Untold Stories and last year’s Call of Cthulhu game (itself based on the tabletop RPG).

Both incorporate every Lovecraftian element but the kitchen sink, from ancient cults to unspeakable medical experiments to haunted seaside towns.

 

Lovecraft's Untold Stories game screenshot, shop
A familiar shopkeeper

It’s especially amusing the way this game crams these elements into the Roguelike framework: H.P. Lovecraft himself shows up as a merchant, as does the Yellow King, and the between-levels storage area appears to be one of the libraries of the Great Race of Yith (a time-traveling species of alien scholars, if you haven’t read The Shadow Out of Time).

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Those bits aside, I actually found Lovecraft’s Untold Stories to be the more compelling of the two.

While its pixel art and simple, semi-randomized action is less sophisticated, it’s more stylish, with streaks of rain, flickering candles and snippets of flavor text creating as much atmosphere as 3D rendering and awkward voice acting.

Lovecraft's Untold Stories game animated GIF, rainy graveyard
And each character’s play style, both in terms of action – melee-focused ghoul vs. explosive-wielding scientist, for example – and their divergent stories give this game’s levels more replay value than any number of inventory puzzles or frustrating chase sequences.

More Lumley than Ligotti, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories is silly pulp action rather than the video game equivalent of avant-garde horror fiction. But it takes a couple of disparate concepts that have been done to death – action Roguelikes and the Cthulhu mythos – and turns them into something that actually feels fresh and fun.

Lovecraft’s Untold Stories is available via Steam.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Watch the official trailer for Lovecraft’s Untold Stories below:

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