The House of Fear

by Gwen Katz profile

Surreal/Historical
2011

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A lovely and unusual game, May 1, 2014

"The House of Fear" is an entry in a genre I haven't seen much of in IF: pure historical fiction (no speculative-fiction twists here), populated by people who actually existed. The PC is Leonora Carrington, novelist and Surrealist painter, and the characters who appear in her memories are mostly other artists from the WWII-era Surrealist circle. There is something a little uncomfortable, at least for me, about stepping into the shoes of a real person who was, in fact, alive until just a few months ago, but "The House of Fear" is respectful and seems to be well-researched, so my qualms quickly faded.

The game is, in a way, standard "wander around, receive plot through flashbacks" fare, but the historical twist and the quality of the writing make it feel fresh and engaging. The characterizations of Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst are well-defined in just a handful of brief vignettes, and the descriptions of the environment are lovely, if a bit sparsely implemented. That much of the imagery in the game is taken from Carrington's paintings is a nice touch as well. That being said, I don't believe it's necessary to have any knowledge of early 20th century Surrealists in general or of Carrington in particular to enjoy the game. (Before playing this game, I had only vaguely heard of her via her connection with Remedios Varo, whose work I've long been fond of.)

The puzzles can be a bit obtuse and arbitrary in a dream-logic way, but for the most part they make their own kind of sense. The penultimate puzzle tripped me up and, when combined with an unfortunate error in the walkthrough (now corrected), led to me throwing up my hands and unfairly concluding that the game was broken, hence my previous review. Upon coming back to it a little later, though, I found that the actual solution was blindingly obvious and I wasn't sure how I'd missed it, so I'm willing to put that one on myself (and the walkthrough), not the game.

All in all, this is an excellently-written game with an interesting and unusual angle on the dreamscape/flashback mode of IF, and well worth playing.


Comments on this review

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katz, November 18, 2011 - Reply
The game is indeed finishable. The walkthrough was in error and has been corrected.
The Xenographer, November 18, 2011 - Reply
I'm sorry to have impugned your game on the basis that I couldn't figure out what to do next, then! The walkthrough link appears to be broken at the moment, but I'll take another run through it with that in mind and revise my review.
katz, November 18, 2011 - Reply
Thanks! The walkthrough link should be fixed now.
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