H. P. Lovecraft was a phenomenal story teller that often relied on minute details and atmosphere to convey his stories. Instead of action heavy conflict, a lot of the turmoil was deeply seeded inside the character and the surroundings that followed him. The atmosphere was what really gave you the chills, and enhanced the already riveting story… Conarium, developed by Zoetrope Interactive, offered exactly that but in video game form.

The Story

You play as Frank Gilman, who awakens in a quiet room with only a pounding headache and a funky light up machine. It seems like Gilman had the party of a lifetime… And that party wasn’t all fun and games. As you wander around the molding food, untouched coats, and scientific notations of experiments gone awry, poor Frank starts to realize that something very wrong happened. Where are his friends? What happened to them? What on earth happened to him? This headache isn’t just a nasty hangover, and the things he is feeling are perhaps not quite normal.

Conarium is a somewhat of a continuation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. The main character is geologist William Dyer, who led the expedition to ancient ruins that were found in the Antarctic. I won’t spoil the novella for you, but let’s just say the expedition didn’t go so well. The point of Dyer narrating the story was to discourage people from trying to study it again. Some things just aren’t to be messed with, especially scary ancient ruins that somewhat represent creatures in the Necronomicon.

I assume that poor Frank Gilman was a member of an expedition party that didn’t heed William Dyer’s words. What actually happened though is a great mystery that you must solve.

The Gameplay

Gameplay for Conarium can be broken down into two parts – walking, and puzzles. Mostly walking. I very much enjoyed this though, because it stayed true to H.P. Lovecraft’s feel. Instead of having conflict after conflict, there is a story buildup through atmosphere with an occasional intense hiccup.

Walking around never once got boring due to the clues scattered throughout the game, and the detailed landscape. Little snippets of staff journals, photos still sitting on the dresser, and medical diagrams can be found everywhere. Everything looks like the team members just went outside to smoke.

The puzzles weren’t anything to write Cthulhu about, but they were enough to keep your mind going as you walked around opening cabinets and digging through lockers. I found them to be pretty simple, but also very random, which can get annoying. It was very frustrating to make multiple rounds around the building searching for something, only to find out that you were just supposed to guess.

You’re never really put in harms way while playing Conarium. The horror builds up due to atmosphere, not monsters jumping out at you. This also isn’t a total “pick up the pages and find out the story” game which was a pleasant discovery. Instead, you are guided by shadowing figures. These figures cause your character pain, but offer great information and help you piece together exactly what happened on this fateful trip.

The Graphics & Sound

Turn the graphics on high, sit back, and enjoy the stunning atmosphere. At every turn, you’re greeted with pretty great visuals. The developers paid pretty great attention to detail when crafting this game, much like Lovecraft did with his books. While I didn’t find myself peeking over my shoulder like most spooky games, I was enthralled by the way the story was laid out before me. Every room contained something unique and highly relevant to the story.

Usually, walking simulators pay a lot of attention to the sounds of the game, because that is a very large part of the feel… Conarium missed the mark in some aspects. The soundtrack itself was great, but in some places the voice acting was repetitive. The actual story telling portions of the voice acting were interesting and fluctuated in all the right places. The phrases that are said while searching? Even just a couple variations would be a massive improvement.

The Judgement

H.P. Lovecraft would be pretty darn pleased with this game, as am I. If you want a walking simulator with a great atmosphere, a very interesting storyline, and some simpler puzzles, this game is right up your alley. Conarium offers about five hours of game play so it is something to play over the course of a couple nights and have some solid weekend gaming entertainment.

There is something new to discover around every corner, which is something that is usually lacking in walking simulators. I enjoyed the fact that not every single item that you picked up held substantial meaning but was still a piece to the puzzle. For example, the picture frames that I mentioned earlier had no significant meaning, but they helped you relate more to the character as a person. Because of small details like that, I felt drawn to characters whom I hadn’t come across yet.

Overall, Conarium was a breath of fresh air when it comes to horror games and walking simulators. Though I wouldn’t call it a true horror game, you felt as though impending doom was around every corner. The game was meant to be a continuation of the H. P. Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness and greatly succeeded at that. Occasionally I was disappointed by the randomness and simplicity of puzzles but that didn’t dull the sparkle of the game.

Listed at $20 for five hours of gameplay via Steam, this may be a game to hold out on buying until the next big Steam sale arises. If you walk into this game expecting it to be a horror game that is full of suspense and scares you’ll be disappointed. For those who love walking simulators and a great story, buy it and fall in love with it like I have. This will definitely be a game that I come back to after a couple of updates.

 

 

Conarium Review
The Good
  • Atmosphere
  • Storyline
  • Attention to Detail
The Bad
  • Repetitive Dialogue
  • Simplistic Puzzles
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
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About The Author

Lexie P.
Editorial/Review Staff

Lexie's love for video games started early when she was rarely seen without her GameBoy, and traded Oreos with the neighbor kid to play his N64. Throughout the years Lexie has developed into a PC gamer, specializing in horror and MOBAs. She has been a game writer for a few years now and has previously worked at PAX West.