Today I’ll be looking at two approaches to Lovecraftian gaming, the delightful “The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home” (henceforth abbreviated to the frighteningly long “TRIHAYWBFRFYH” and also Eldritch, which is a “roguelike first-person platform exploration” game that essentially plays like a first-person Spelunky.I really enjoyed TRIHAYWBFRFYH, which actually came as a surprise to me. I’m not sure that I’d really say it fits into the canon of mainstream gaming, however; I’d consider it to be the equivalent of Dear Esther but for Lovecraft aficionados who want to explore a landscape as it gets more and more alien. It’s got an interestingly creepy soundtrack, and although I expected what was coming it was truly oppressive and dark, capturing the feel of the Lovecraft with the scenery as well as the recorded snippets of his works, adding in a degree of authenticity to a strangely engaging, yet unguided, experience.
My main gripe with TRIHAYWBFRFYH is, perhaps, that the bitmap graphics for trees and grass are just shoddy. There’s a difference between “retro” and “low-fi” and “thrown-together-in-MS-Paint-because-we-didn’t-have-a-graphics-budget”, which is really the main disappointing factor of the game. That said, the camera sway with player movement (which includes a jump function that is, as far as I can tell, pretty much never necessary) adds a large chunk to the immersion, and the grand landscapes manage to be pretty despite their dubiously chosen contents.
I actually didn’t enjoy Eldritch as much as I thought I would. It’s a good game, and pretty solid, but it just doesn’t feel like the experience I expected. Perhaps that’s part of the problem with being someone who plays actual hardcore Berlin interpretation roguelikes and then being disappointed when other people call things roguelikes that aren’t. While the random levels are fun, and have an air of Lovecraft to them for someone familiar with his works, they create a dungeon crawling experience that felt more like Quake than horror.
Sure, once in a while Eldritch will mercilessly crush you, and running from foes is great fun (except for the fact that it’s usually pretty easy, given the player’s massive agility), and when you can play in a high FOV and bunny hop around, there wasn’t a whole lot of depth to the experience. The difficulty feels erratic, alternating between leaving the player almost impervious to foes attacks (should they slow down enough to be hit) to devastating health bars in a single hit. While this is somewhat similar to Lovecraft, in the sense that there’s a lot of little guys that don’t do a lot and then suddenly Cthulhu fhtagns all over the place, it’s a little disappointing in a game that has an otherwise well polished, albeit simple, set of gameplay mechanics.
Fortunately, one area where Eldritch doesn’t disappoint is the graphics and ambiance. While I can complain all day about the oversimplification of Lovecraft into an action-y shooter, the levels that are randomly generated feel right, and I can see the resemblance to direct passages from Lovecraft. While it’s got retro graphics, they’re very well done for their style, and feel like they’re an artistic completion rather than an attempt to skimp out on art budget, giving an element of completeness to the work.
So, in short, check out TRIHAYWBFRFYH here (it’s free, and lasts about 20 minutes) if you feel like a romp through something Lovecraft would have almost certainly approved of (as much as he approved of anything), having an almost surreal (and certainly sublime) experience while you do so. If you’re not into the more authentic, serenely oppressive Lovecraft, Eldritch delivers a nice-looking fast-shooting bestiary through which you can experiment with Lovecraft while staying well within an arcade shooter context.