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About the Story
A winter night at the G.U.E. tech campus with most students away on vacation serves as the backdrop for this tale of Lovecraftian horror.
Language: English (En)
First Publication Date: June 5, 1987
Current Version: 221
Development System: Custom
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
Followed by sequel The Lurking Horror II: The Lurkening, by Ryan Veeder
Innsmouth Free Press
A Pistol and a Flashlight
Beyond its mere descriptive power, however, there’s a way in which IF’s very obsoleteness contributes to the Lovecraftian atmosphere in a way Lebling couldn’t have anticipated when he wrote the game. Lovecraft was obsessed with the archaic, stylistically and technologically, as much as the arcane. Even the eldritch manuscripts that were often the bread and butter of his stories can be viewed as forgotten technologies, much like the time-obscured words on Lebling’s DOS program.
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The writing is excellent; the game is firmly rooted in the Gothic horror used by Lovecraft and Poe. Dave Lebling has captured the essence of the genre well. The plot, however, is not as well developed. It contains some nice elements, but at times the disparate plot elements felt unconnected. (Stephen Granade)
The only weakness that I found with Lurking Horror was the NPCs. I feel that they could have been developed to a greater extent, especially the hacker. I was also disappointed with the ending; it was a climactic let-down from what had been built up during the game. (Brian Reilly)
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This is an exciting story for the lover of text adventures. The game is well-written and the parser, as in the other Infocom games, works well, avoiding smart Alick replies. The puzzles are logical and not too difficult and there is a good feeling of suspense. (Laura Gow)
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On your way you will encounter a mad maintenance man, a professor who is an adept of occultism, a strange shape, all of them wanting to kill you ... and don't forget the rats! Not a game for the faint-hearted but truly an adventure to have you glued to your computer for hours. (Claire Dyard)
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|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
I played The Lurking Horror right after Anchorhead, which served to highlight the limitations of Infocom's older games. The Lurking Horror, because of the style and size limitations of the time, lacks the depth and richness of Anchorhead, where virtually nothing reasonable produced a default response. On the other hand, it shows Infocom reaching its maturity, with smooth, elegant gameplay despite some necessary terseness.
The thing that impressed me most about TLH was that I never got really, really stuck, despite having to spend several days on some puzzles. Throughout the game, I was free of the nagging sensation that I'd screwed the whole thing up right at the beginning. Instead, I was always sure that the solution would come to me if I just looked at the situation in the right way. And when the solution did come, it was immensely satisfying. My favorite puzzle was one I encountered early on, but didn't solve until several weeks later. (Spoiler - click to show)(Using the elevator to break through the wall in the Steam Tunnel. As soon as I realized the two locations were connected, the pieces fell right together.) The game provided perfect encouragement when I was on the right track and led me quickly to the solution, once I had a basic grasp of what was going on. It was a really deep level of game-world interaction that could have been a nightmare of guess-the-phrasing - yet it posed absolutely no parser problems at all.
The game is full of wonderfully reusable objects, and useless things are relatively few and relatively obvious, although you're likely to do some trekking back and forth across the map at the end, for things that you had to drop because of capacity limits.
The atmosphere of "Lurking Horror" was consistent - a few horror-appropriate laughs and not too much MIT in-jokiness, and lots of creepy stuff going on. I think perhaps the game lacked focus; there was a colorful variety of monsters, but how they related to each other or to the main story was quite vague.
Amazingly, this is the first Infocom game I've ever played that did not require me to draw a map. Along with the PDF I used from the Masterpieces collection, it was very easy to make my way around. I did eventually draw a map, simply because I was stuck at one point and needed something to do, but I ended up not using it most of the time. I have one spoilery comment about the map, which may serve as a hint without giving away too much: (Spoiler - click to show)There is a maze. I mapped the maze. But it turned out that I didn't need to. As soon as I finished mapping, I discovered a shortcut. Unfortunately, the shortcut won't help if you've left behind an item that you need, because you can't use it to go back. Save your game.
Like many Infocom games, and perhaps appropriate to a horror-themed game, there are plenty of learn-by-dying situations. It pays to save often. But none of these situations seemed terribly unfair to me: there's usually a pretty obvious point right beforehand where you can save, and if you keep on restoring from there, you're likely to sort the problem out eventually.
I have only one complaint about this game's otherwise phenomenal parser. Right at the very end, there is something of a guess-the-noun problem. (Spoiler - click to show)The final monster can't be referred to as "grey," "gelatinous" or "mass," despite being described that way in the text. It also can't be referred to as a "monster" or a "horror." The only words I could discover that worked were "creature" (not in the text) and "being" (in the text, but I didn't notice it at first). This was only a minor annoyance, and didn't stop me from completing the game, but it was a surprise after the smooth interactions I'd had up to that point. I think it might be another case of the endgame not being as fully implemented or tested as the earlier portions.
So with some great puzzles, flawless interaction, and strong atmosphere, why was I slightly disappointed? Is it just the standards of modern IF, or was this a bit below Infocom's other work? Maybe the puzzles were too easy. I really appreciated being able to complete the game without hints, and the best puzzles did seem pretty hard. But at the start, I breezed through several initial steps - making it to 50 out of 100 points - without any real mental effort. In fact, a few of these very early puzzles were more tedious than challenging, requiring multiple steps and trial-and-error of some obvious combinations. (Spoiler - click to show)Heating up the Chinese food felt like hashing out an example from the I7 manual, not a real puzzle. I think also, this was a game that could have benefited from having the plot and characters fleshed out more. There probably was no room for Infocom to do so at the time, but I sorely missed that extra depth. The characters were some of the highlights of the game. The hacker's final scene is brilliant and somehow touching. The urchin was so brilliantly painted with so few strokes, I only wished he had more than half a dozen lines. But perhaps his elusiveness made him more poignant. (Spoiler - click to show)Even the rat - and perhaps especially the animated hand - were memorable personalities that lit up the console. I think a little bit more from each of them could have taken the game from merely fun to truly powerful.
One final note: I got a bit of a teaser for the sound in Lurking Horror, but unfortunately I could not find a Mac interpreter that could both play the sound and save the game, so I only heard a couple things. I look forward to playing the game through and hearing more of the sounds - the couple I did hear enhanced the spookiness quite a lot. Since they come as a total surprise, they can be very startling - perfect for a horror game.
I went to MIT. Almost all of the Infocom team went to MIT. It would make sense that there would be at least one game set at MIT, and this is it. The GUE Tech Map is basically the same as the MIT campus. The Aero lobby sits at the entrance to the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Great Dome sits on the infinite corridor (which is what it is really called), and with some minor changes (e.g. what in real life is the Green building, is now the Brown building), the map is MIT. Even the steam tunnels are largely real (albeit exaggerated to make a game).
Given that, I perhaps have a different response to this than many others, because there is an element of nostalgia built in, but I finished this while still a student at MIT. Looking at it with fresh eyes, 30 years on, many of the criticisms leveled at the game are both right and wrong at the same time.
They are right, in that this never really becomes an atmospheric horror game. At no point are you even a little bit creeped out (compared to say Anchorhead). Rather, Lebling's silly sense of humour, which was at the crux of the Zork series) is given full rein. Be it the inscription over the western entrance to GUE Tech, or the graffitti in the elevator, Lebling regularly puts in a gag because he can. Partially, as a result, the horror never really builds. This has led many to dismiss the game as a horror-less horror game. But while that is true, it is also wrong as well.
It is not a valid criticism of an apple to note that it is not a banana. Someone going in looking for a horror game that will scare their socks off is in for a bad time. However, this is a Zork game with a horror overlay, and a decent one at that. The puzzles are generally decent. The internal logic holds together, and while it is a bit silly, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
It's hard for me to review this game (the first horror IF game by Infocom, and one of the first horror games ever) without comparing it to later Interactive Fiction based on Lovecraft's work. Specifically, Theatre, Anchorhead, and Lydia's Heart come to mind. How does this one compare?
First, size. The Lurking Horror is on the small side, due to PC capabilities at the time of publication. It is about the same size as Theatre, and much smaller than Anchorhead or Lydia's Heart.
Next, setting. The game is set in an alternate version of the MIT campus called GUE Tech during the winter. This worked well for me in the end, with the creepy Department of Alchemy, dark buildings and deep basements, and the gross muddy areas. It gave them game a more campy feel though, like Theatre, as opposed to the bigger games.
NPC's and enemies. While The Lurking Horror has a few okay PC's, it really shines in the creature department. I had played for a few hours without encountering more than one 'creature', and nothing that threatened me, so I was quite shocked when I (Spoiler - click to show)buried an axe in the chest of the maintenance man without any reaction from him. The further the game got, the more disturbing the creatures got. The enemies are more like Theatre's than the later games.
Puzzles. The Lurking Horror has some puzzles that are just dumb (especially the carton in the fridge). Later on, though, the puzzles get more fun, especially as you use the same objects in more and more ways. In the end, the puzzles are more like Lydia's Heart than the other two games, although there are much less puzzles overall.
Overall, it seems to me that the Lurking Horror was a great success that became eclipsed by later games. Theatre ('95) seems to be strongly inspired by The Lurking Horror, while Anchorhead ('98) seems to be inspired at least partially by Theatre (as it includes some similar puzzles). Lydia's Heart ('07) was more of a successful reboot of the Lovecraft idea using newer technology.
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