Terror of the unknown is one of the defining elements of Lovecraftian fiction. It’s a format that has wormed its way into video games, tabletop systems, film, and modern literature. Enter Chronicle of Innsmouth: Mountains of Madness, a conglomerate of the work of H.P. Lovecraft. It is the second part of the Chronicle of Innsmouth series, the first game released in 2017.
Developed and published by PsychoDev and made using Game Studio, Mountains of Madness is a point-and-click adventure game starring private detective Lone Carter. In the opening, an Antarctic expedition comes across eldritch ruins, and they’re ecstatic over the discovery. Shortly afterward, the perspective shifts to the true protagonist of the game. Lone finds the relative of Professor Henry Armitage (The Dunwich Horror, 1929) at his behest. With the assistance of Elliot, a priest, he manages to find the man in question. Unfortunately, this discovery is in the blighted tunnels beneath Innsmouth. A shoggoth appears and attacks them. Though Elliot manages to escape, Lone is ensnared and severely wounded, the best tearing off an arm and a leg. Some time later, Lone comes to, his body mysteriously intact. What follows is his investigation into why he can regenerate from grievous wounds so quickly.
For fans of Lovecraft’s work, there are numerous references to the Cthulhu Mythos. When Lone investigates a murder scene, for example, he can find a hole in the wall and remarks on it (a reference to The Rats in the Walls, 1924). The tale of Ephraim Waite and his daughter Asenath (The Thing on the Doorstep, 1937) comes up, with Mr. Waite’s donation to restore a cemetery being a major clue to progress. The opening uses Innsmouth as a location (The Shadow over Innsmouth, 1936) but this is mostly used to set up the main plot. The latter half of the game is an adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness (1936), complete with characters and alien locales. At times I wish there was more done with specific lore and plot threads, but there were a few more obscure bits that kept me enticed.
Mountains of Madness, as a point-and-click, is a very straightforward experience. Right-click something to examine something, and left-click to interact with it. Drag items from your inventory to combine them or use them with other things. Players familiar with Adventure Game Studio should pick up on the controls right away. Inventory-object puzzles are a standard in adventure games, and some of them are quite clever. An early example involved combining a broom handle, a test tube, and the marvels of static electricity to steal a list from an inaccessible apartment. Other puzzles required some thinking, a bit of math, and note-taking skills, such as mixing the antidote to a mushroom-induced trip. The only part where the game stalled for me was the Antarctic expedition. There were a lot of people to talk to and items to use, and this was a larger area than other parts of the game. The slow walking speed became apparent, and I spent a lot of time wandering around trying to trigger the next event flag for the next line of questioning. Another puzzle that overstayed its welcome a bit was getting the location of William Blanko, a future ally. Lone must call the publisher of the stories and choose the correct dialogue options to convince the woman on the other line to give him the address. Though some of the conversations were funny, solving it took a lot of trial-and-error. That said, if you like adventure games and maybe needing to puzzle things out yourself, Mountains of Madness should go a good job filling that need.
The visuals are 2D sprites over backgrounds, and they all have a charming “adventure game” aesthetic to them. There are a good number of small animated cutscenes in the game as well where Mountains of Madness shifts to a different visual style. It’s very reminiscent of Flash-style animation, and does a good job conveying details that would be lost with spritework. The player navigates using an overhead view of the town of Arkham, and though the game highlights destinations when you mouse over them, many of the buildings look the same. Thankfully, this overworld doesn’t take up too much time. The bulk of your investigations will take place in areas with only a few screens, so it's hard to miss most things.
As for the characters, I don't think there were any I actively disliked. Whether they were involved in the Mythos or not, they did a good job to help flesh out the world around them. The Mythos is forbidden knowledge, after all, and not everyone knew much about what was going on. Lone's sitting animation, with his crossed legs and glare beneath the brim of his hat, gave an unmistakable air of sass. Despite his condition, he had perhaps ironically the best grip on reality between himself and his two companions. He also looks chronically grumpy no matter his mood or situation.
All in all, Chronicle of Innsmouth: Mountains of Madness is a solid point-and-click adventure game. If you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos (and its considerable expanded universe), adventure games, or horror in general, it’s worth a shot. Be sure to check back with us at TechRaptor for the latest in cosmic terror.
TechRaptor previewed Chronicle of Innsmouth: Mountains of Madness on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is set to release on PC (via Steam) March 23, 2021.