Mountains of Madness is an adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella, and a new entry into the Chronicle of Innsmouth series. It takes you on a macabre journey into the depths of the occult. It’s a flawed adventure, but with a love for the works of Lovecraft. A love, fans of the genre will really appreciate.
Head scratchers galore
Playing through a mystery can be a solid experience all on its own. The sense of danger that builds as the story reaches its crescendo. The threads leading in all directions before coming together down the line in the most unexpected ways. Red herrings, secrets, and long, dark nights. All of these elements are found in Mountains of Madness, they’re a big part of the draw. However, add in a healthy dose of Cthulhu and heaping tablespoons of the occult and you’ve got yourself a wonderfully dark jaunt through a lovecraftian mystery.
Any good mystery relies heavily on its puzzles and riddles. Mountains of Madness does not mess around in this department. There were some seriously tricky puzzles here; at least for me. However, I feel it handled the difficulty really well. It wasn’t an overly frustrating experience, in fact it was engrossing. I kept a notebook nearby for all the clues, and it made me feel like an active part of the story. By the end of it all, I felt like some mad researcher with pages on pages of scribbled notes, numbers and symbols scattered across my desk. Being this engaged made it all the more satisfying to solve these puzzles. I’ll admit though, there was one puzzle that seriously left me scratching my head. It took me longer than I’d care to admit to figure it out.
What is going on?
For the most part, you play as Lone Carter, when not with Lone the game has you hop around between a fair share of its characters. You even spend a little time playing as a young Lovecraft, pretty wild.
Lone is a private investigator following up on a disappearance. It leads him to the strange town of Innsmouth. When you first lay eyes on him he’s severely injured. By the looks of it, missing an arm and leg. Needless to say, I didn’t think I’d be spending much time with him past that point. The next thing I knew he was awake, good as new but missing a fair bit of his coat and pants; those same limbs bare, yet unscathed. Thus began the first of many questions I’d have before the credits rolled.
Mountains of Madness does a fair job of balancing questions and answers. Especially considering the universe its set in is filled to the brim with mysteries on a cosmic scale. However, at times it did feel as though it withheld quite a lot to be revealed later. Toward the end you are bombarded with new information that for a newcomer to Lovecraft, like myself, would be a little disorienting. The plot was never lost on me, but I feel the exposition could have been laid out a little more evenly throughout the story. Because of this the pacing felt a little off. Once I had reached the climax, I found myself surprised, I was sure I still had a good hour or two to go before it was all over. However, a couple of cutscenes and my time with Lone was at an end.
Speaking of cutscenes, Let’s talk about the voice acting. If I’m being honest it wasn’t that great. Sometimes I could swear it sounded like those text-to-speech voices. At first I was sure it was due to the dialogue. It’s got this early 20th century style of speaking that’s very fitting for the setting and time period, with all the decorum that one would expect. I thought perhaps this type of speech just sounded strange to my 21st century ears, but that theory didn’t hold up under scrutiny. Take for example the 2015 film, The Witch. Here everyone speaks like something out of old world literature. It’s set in 17th Century New England and it sure sounds like it. But their dialogue is still believable, because of the quality of delivery. So it leads me to the conclusion that delivery lies at the heart of what I disliked about Mountains of Madness’ voice acting.
I quite liked the dark and morbid style of the title’s design. The colours are dark and drab, adding to the atmosphere set by the story. Dark greens, grays and browns are the majority of the palette, with bright shades of colour few and far between. There’s a sense of despair in the artwork. This growing despair is also carried over to the music, in the beginning there’s some decent background music. Lone Carter visits his offices and is surrounded by smooth jazz, and noir inspired tracks. As the locations and tone start to change, so does the music. It becomes more ambient and ominous, like the tolling of church bells in the forest around the cemetery.
That is one area Mountains of Madness does not disappoint. Atmosphere.
It’s far from perfect, but Mountains of Madness will definitely be a good time for fans of point-and-click adventures, and of the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. If you’re a fan of both, this is perfect for you. Challenging puzzles, atmosphere and a solid mystery are the order of the day.