House

by Matthew Wiltshire

2003

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Lovingly crafted Lovecraftian horror marred by some amateur design decisions, September 11, 2022

Donít be fooled by the gentle introduction, this game quickly ramps into gear. At itís best it can be incredibly bleak, atmospheric, and eerie.

The biggest problem is probably Cathy, our NPC companion. As well implemented as she is, her cheerful, gung-ho attitude undermines the Lovecraftian vibe. Itís hard to be intimidated when youíve got her by your side throwing out quips and gunning down monsters. Which is a shame because itís a stark reversal of the hopelessness you face at the start of the game. Frankly this game is better when itís being eerie than when itís trying to be funny.

Thereís also a few problems in gameplay. House is, for the most part, a traditional puzzle-based IF. But the puzzles are difficult, and the hints are cryptic, so thereís a lot of bumbling around, examining objects, and wondering what youíre supposed to do next.

Not that I have a problem with that. The problem is the time limit. Take too long figuring out what to do, and Michael will suffer a horrible death. Find out how to dodge that fate, and youíre still facing constant attack by monsters with only a finite amount of ammo to dispatch them with.
As thematically appropriate as this is, it means youíll be dying a lot, restarting a lot, and replaying a lot until you figure out what you need to do. Even with the extra life the game hands you, it can be a bit of a slog.

Thereís an impressive level of attention to detail and itís one of the things I truly admire about the game. Thereís a lot of well-crafted descriptions. Every object can be shewn to Cathy to get her thoughts (or at least her quips).
Almost every object has an alternate ďgarden versionĒ (I wonít spoil that by explaining).
And for the morbid among us, thereís a ton of unique death scenes packed away here and there. The game even alters the scenes slightly if Cathyís with you when you die.
It maybe could have done with another round of bug-testing, but I certainly canít accuse the author of being lazy.

I wish I could justify giving it 4 stars. This game left a genuine impression on me. Itís flawed, it has an uneven tone, but when it strives to be horrific, or eerie, or bleak it often succeeds.
Itís not an easy game to stick with and finish, but as an experience in hopelessness itís well worth playing.