External Links


2018 version is a commercial game; visit itch.​io to purchase. 'Play On-line' link pertains to original, free 1998 version.
anchor.z8
The original .z8 game file, first published in 1998. This version is still free to play.
Requires a Z-Code interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
AnchorheadDemo.gblorb
A proof-of-concept demo written in Inform 7, published in 2007. Also free to play.
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links.
Anchorhead 2018 Map
Full map of Anchorhead 2018 edition
InvisiClues Hints for 1998 edition *
Rot13 Invisiclues for Anchorhead, both the 1998 and 2018 editions
anchmap.zip *
map in GUEmap format (for 1998 version)
GUEmap file. Requires the GUEmap viewer - visit http://www.cjmweb.net/GUEmap for information.
anchor.sol
solution (for 1998 version)
AnchorSolve.txt
solution (for 1998 version)
Guided Tour (for 1998 version) *
Contains ​_Read Me First
Everything to enhance the enjoyment of Anchorhead for new and veteran players alike. There are 11 map files, a playthrough in a spreadsheet format created in Google Docs for compatibility, a large glossary, also created in Google Docs, and more. This is a work in progress, and I invite any feedback or suggestions.
* Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.

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Anchorhead

by Michael Gentry profile

Horror
1998

Web Site

(based on 384 ratings)
32 reviews

About the Story

You take a deep breath of salty air as the first raindrops begin to spatter the pavement, and the swollen, slate-colored clouds that blanket the sky mutter ominous portents amongst themselves over the little coastal town of Anchorhead.

Travel to the haunted coastal town of Anchorhead, Massachusetts and uncover the roots of a horrific conspiracy inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Search through musty archives and tomes of esoteric lore; dodge hostile townsfolk; combat a generation-spanning evil that threatens your family and the entire world.

The original version was and remains freely available.
To mark the twentieth anniversary of its initial publication, Anchorhead is now available in a special Illustrated Edition. Every aspect of the game has been rebuilt and redesigned from the ground up:

  • The code has been rewritten in Inform 7 and compiled to the glulx format, allowing far more detail and interactivity than before.
  • The prose has been revised and polished to reflect 20 years of accumulated writing experience.
  • Additional puzzles, scenes, and background information to explore.
  • Decorated with over 50 gorgeous illustrations by Carlos Cara Àlvarez.
Anchorhead: the Illustrated Edition is a commercial game. See the itch.io page for purchasing information.
(The website, no longer active, allowed ordering feelies.)


Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: May 7, 1998
Current Version: 6
License: Commercial
Development System: Inform 7
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
Baf's Guide ID: 17
IFIDs:  ZCODE-5-990206-6B48
ZCODE-1-980506-3B01
F76B2529-27F8-44ED-B643-C5F03492881D
4928959B-92B6-4304-B07B-EA8B68500BA1
TUID: op0uw1gn1tjqmjt7

Referenced in Cragne Manor, by Ryan Veeder, Jenni Polodna et al.
Show other authorsAdam Whybray, Adri, Andrew Plotkin, Andy Holloway, Austin Auclair, Baldur Brückner, Ben Collins-Sussman, Bill Maya, Brian Rushton, Buster Hudson, Caleb Wilson, Carl Muckenhoupt, Chandler Groover, Chris Jones, Christopher Conley, Damon L. Wakes, Daniel Ravipinto, Daniel Stelzer, David Jose, David Petrocco, David Sturgis, Drew Mochak, Edward B, Emily Short, Erica Newman, Feneric, Finn Rosenløv, Gary Butterfield, Gavin Inglis, Greg Frost, Hanon Ondricek, Harkness Munt, Harrison Gerard, Ian Holmes, Ivan Roth, Jack Welch, Jacqueline Ashwell, James Eagle, Jason Dyer, Jason Lautzenheiser, Jason Love, Jeremy Freese, Joey Jones, Joshua Porch, Justin de Vesine, Justin Melvin, Katherine Morayati, Kenneth Pedersen, Lane Puetz, Llew Mason, Lucian Smith, Marco Innocenti, Marius Müller, Mark Britton, Mark Sample, Marshal Tenner Winter, Matt Schneider, Matt Weiner, Matthew Korson, Michael Fessler, Michael Gentry, Michael Hilborn, Michael Lin, Mike Spivey, Molly Ying, Monique Padelis, Naomi Hinchen, Nate Edwards, Petter Sjölund, Q Pheevr, Rachel Spitler, Reed Lockwood, Reina Adair, Riff Conner, Roberto Colnaghi, Rowan Lipkovits, Sam Kabo Ashwell, Scott Hammack, Sean M. Shore, Shin, Wade Clarke, Zach Hodgens, Zack Johnson


Awards

Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best Individual NPC - 1998 XYZZY Awards

4th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2011 edition)

4th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2015 edition)

3rd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2019 edition)

2nd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2023 edition)

1st Place - The Top Five IF Games (Adventure Gamers, 2002)


News

Anchorhead: the Illustrated Edition is now available for purchase on Steam and Itch.io; see the game's website for details.
Reported by Michael Gentry | History | Edit | Delete
I had finished and posted a Guided Tour, which includes 11 maps, a playthrough, a glossary, and a list of musings about the story. I hope this helps to enhance enjoyment of the game for novices and veterans alike. There is still some work to be done, like drawing relevant artwork on the maps. Google Docs is what I used to help maintain compatibility. Anybody who has anything to contribute to this should be free to let me know.
Reported by mjhayes | History | Edit | Delete
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Editorial Reviews

Baf's Guide


Lovecraft-inspired gothic horror at its best: a small town full of secrets, a gruesomely deformed monstrosity, a vast uncaring force awaiting its day. Despite the overblown style typical of the genre, this game generally works, and can get quite unnerving at times (especially in some of the NPC interactions). Highly open and explorable environment (aside from an abundance of locked doors), puzzles well-integrated into the storyline (including many optional puzzles and alternate solutions), lots of backstory revealed in an impressive variety of ways. Gets a bit sticky towards the end, with many tight time limits. Has a Sierra-style time system: the day ends when a certain point in the plot is reached. Features a female protagonist, two small mazes (one optional), references to incest, and a certain amount of strong language, gore, and really bad things happening to people.

-- Carl Muckenhoupt

Adventure Gamers
[...] in my book this game is the ultimate work of interactive fiction, overflowing with intrigue and compelling story elements, scary and engrossing, exceptionally written and impressively coded with a remarkable eye for detail.
See the full review

Brass Lantern
The best authors in the field of interactive fiction are often innovators - stretching the medium in new directions. With Anchorhead, Michael Gentry decided to take the best of what was already there and work on polishing and perfecting it. This attention to detail is refreshing. Examine any noun in room descriptions and you will always get a sensible reply. Attempt to solve a puzzle in a sensible way and you will likely solve it or get a hint about the correct way to do so. Anchorhead is proof that good solid writing and good solid design make for a great interactive journey.
See the full review

Gaming Enthusiast
Anchorhead has been widely praised, mainly for its atmosphere as well as for well-written dialogues and gripping narration. The only gripe people had with this game was puzzle-difficulty, but even if you’ll have to resort once or twice to the walkthrough, it is still a production definitely worth checking.
See the full review

IF-Review
Aweighing an Anchorhead
As IF goes, though, this is a deeply beautiful piece. (Not what you were expecting me to say, hunh?) There's lots of disgusting, unpleasant imagery, but first -- and en route to that imagery -- is a masterful build-up of setting and mood unparalleled by almost any other game I have ever played. The scenery descriptions take into account very particular and yet very evocative features: the dull light through the pebbled glass in the courthouse building, suggesting offices inhabited by apathetic people doing dull jobs on a rainy day (if there was anyone in there at all); the changing weather, variable yet always gloomy; the disturbing drifts of ash; the wind-blown leaves, the slapping of waves against the shore. Every sense is called into play. There are odors, sounds, textures, variations in temperature and air quality, and the overall effect is an environment that becomes almost oppressively real. (Emily Short)
See the full review

Necessary Games
Overall, the experience of playing Anchorhead was incredibly rich and memorable—not for the difficulty navigating, or for the puzzles, but for the immersive experience it provided. It compared very well with any interactive experience I have ever had, and came in well ahead of the graphical adventures I have played (with the possible exception of Myst). My distaste for horror in general may have curbed my appetite slightly, but only slightly: this game manages to rise above horror, and the experience of playing it is beautiful as often as it is frightening. I would highly recommend the game, though if you have no previous IF experience beware: read the help, use the map, use a walkthrough when needed, and stick with it if you feel overwhelmed early on. It’s worth it.
See the full review

Play This Thing!
Anchorhead is a rare achievement in interactive fiction, a well-designed puzzle-rich game that nonetheless leaves you mostly remembering the story.

Michael Gentry's game is based on the locations and ideas of H. P. Lovecraft, but the result has its own unique vision and integrity.
See the full review

SPAG
The trodden nature of this particular ground means that the seasoned IF veteran needs more than unnameable horrors and unspeakable rituals to stay interested in a game that borrows from Lovecraft. But Anchorhead is up to the job: the story is more than good enough to overcome the familiarity of the horror devices. Part of the reason is that the story revolves around the relationship between the PC and her husband, which comes alive as much as any relationship between two IF characters in memory -- and much of the progress of the story is marked by changes in that relationship.
See the full review

SynTax
The atmosphere of this game is unbelievably good, very Infocomish, and draws you further and further into the plot as the tension grows and you uncover even more of a horrific mystery. The sense of relief when it is all over is overwhelming. This game has to be one of the best I've seen in many a long year and has to be an absolute must for any adventurer.
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
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Number of Reviews: 32
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


31 of 33 people found the following review helpful:
A truly engaging and satisfying experience!, November 10, 2010
by Lipa (Slovenia)

It took me quite some time to pick up this title, despite its high ratings and numerous recommendations. In fact, I think that the reviews sort of scared me away. I read about situations in the game where you can lock yourself out of a winnable position (which I generally don’t like at all), and also about some very tight time limits. However, there was also talk about great story and superb atmosphere, and I think this (combined with the sheer popularity and almost cult-like status of Anchorhead) finally convinced me to dive in.

And this was probably one of the best decisions of the year! Anchorhead, indeed, is more than a game. It’s another reality, a second life, just waiting to be explored, with all its secrets and dark history. It is truly easy to get immersed in the experience, and by the end of day two I felt like I’ve been a part of this town forever. The story is fascinating and unfolds at an exactly the right pace, letting you slowly amount more and more knowledge about the past events and what’s going on. I must admit that I had little knowledge of the Cthulu Mythos prior to playing the game (though I vaguely remember the premise of the adventure game “The Shadow of the Comet” which I played ages ago), and maybe this is also the reason why I was even more drawn to the story, hungry for more information. In the end, everything fell into place, the story masterfully unfolded, and all the loose ends were tied.

And what about the difficulty which I feared? It is true that there are some tight time limits and unwinnable situations, however I realized in the end that their importance seems to be a bit exaggerated in the reviews. If playing sensibly, keeping track of the story and trying to hold on to your belongings, unwinnable situations can be avoided almost completely. As to the few time limits, they turned out to be so brief that it’s fairly simple to undo and try another approach, and the solutions are usually quite logical too. All in all, I only got stuck once at the end of day two, and I could probably solve even this puzzle without consulting the walkthrough, if only I weren’t as impatient to see the rest of the story unfold.

I truly recommend this game to everyone looking for a good story-driven IF with excellent atmosphere, relatively large world to explore, and logical puzzles to solve. I think the memory of this game, the town of Anchorhead and its troubled populace will stick with me for a long time to come, and the overall experience definitely ranks at top three of my gaming history. Thumbs up, way up!

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful:
Anchorhead: Better than All TV., April 10, 2010
by Danielle (The Wild West)
Related reviews: horror game

Note: this review was written while I was in the beginning of the game. I've since finished and have added some more notes to the end.

* * *

I started ANCHORHEAD last night. It's not a new release--it won a slew of awards in back in 1998, and for good reason.

See, I've been craving an eerie game I could really sink my teeth into, and ANCHORHEAD has delivered.

The depth of its gameworld is incredible. When Earthworm Jim came out, everyone said, "It's like playing a Saturday morning cartoon!" Remember that? Well, ANCHORHEAD is like playing an excellently-written novella.

The attention to detail is incredible--you can interact with most objects you see, and the gameworld responds in a believable manner. Because of this, it's really easy to get into character. For example, I always lock the door when I leave the house. Does it do anything related to gameplay? No. But because I feel like I'm such a part of this world, I feel like I MUST act as though it is my real world, and thus--I lock up my (Spoiler - click to show)(electricity-less, sometimes frightening) house when I leave.

Here's another example: (Spoiler - click to show)It was morning in the game. I had just woken up, and my husband was in the shower. I had the feeling I'd need his university ID card later on, and his pants were hanging there right off the end of the bed. So I rifled through the pockets. Sure enough, the ID card was right there in his wallet...But in the end, I felt guilty about going through his things. So I left the card in his wallet.
Did I just lock myself out of some major puzzle or backstory? Maybe. But at least I didn't steal from my husband. That's the sort of feeling ANCHORHEAD evokes for me.

(Also, the game gave me points for soaking in a bath. :3 )

Another great thing about ANCHORHEAD: the puzzles fit. There were a number of times today where I felt like I was at a total dead end, but by taking a closer look at a couple of things, tinkering around with realistic game actions--BOOM! New paths were opened. New mysteries revealed.

And there's the other thing--with some games, you solve a puzzle...bing. That's it. Check the puzzle off your list, you're done. In ANCHORHEAD, with every new revelation you discover about (Spoiler - click to show)your creepy house (and the INSANE PEOPLE who owned it), three more unsettling questions pop up. It makes it nigh impossible to put down.

I could write tons more about how I love this, but I really want to go back and see (Spoiler - click to show)what's in the crypt behind our house. You all, you just...just try it.

* * *

Well! The final half of the game was harder for me. I probably could have figured a few of them out on my own (though for me, (Spoiler - click to show)escaping William at the slaughterhouse turned into an episode of "Guess the Verb"), but you know what it's like with walkthroughs: you can't just look ONCE.

Despite the harder puzzles taking me out of the game's spell, I still highly recommend ANCHORHEAD. Some actions you're forced into to turn the story's feeling away from Grandpa Lovecraft and into Uncle Steve's realm, but it felt appropriate.

Really...the epilogue. You'll be thinking about that for a while.

My favorite death: (Spoiler - click to show)Reading through the Huge Tome in the church. It summed up the horror of Grandpa Lovecraft's work in what--3 paragraphs? If ANCHORHEAD was a book I would have bookmarked this page. FOREVER.

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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
Long-standing champion in the IF Horror genre, January 7, 2023

(Note: Would-be players are well-served by other reviews; this one is for would-be authors.)

There aren't really that many works of horror IF. Well-known works are fewer. Award-winning works pretty much come down to a handful, with Anchorhead being the first and only for at least a decade.

What makes it so hard to write horror IF? My usual argument is that it comes down to the problem of controlling pacing, which is critical to building the player's mood, and which is extraordinarily difficult to manage with the toolkit of interactive fiction. Control it too much, and the player is likely to feel "railroaded" and thus cheated of the promise of interaction. Control it too little, and the player will inevitably dawdle and poke about in the world you've built, which has the effect of constantly draining away the tension that you're trying so hard to keep on the rise. The player may enjoy bits and pieces of the experience but will not come away with the whole you envisioned.

Mr. Gentry seems to have very consciously grasped the challenge here and created a number of subtle innovations that go a long way towards overcoming both it and other obstacles to translating the methods of horror into IF. It is well worth examining these innovations in detail to try to understand what they solve, how they work and how they might be improved.

Anchorhead is patterned after the works of H. P. Lovecraft, which typically feature a protagonist who, beginning in a relatively humdrum setting, discovers previously-unsuspected horrors and subsequently struggles (often unsuccessfully) to retain his sanity as he grapples with the redefinition of his reality. In following this formula, it is first necessary to establish a starting point of normality, and Mr. Gentry clearly went to great lengths to do so. The "normal" presented in this work differs significantly from what is typically found in interactive fiction -- it's closer to actual reality in several ways.

First, as Emily Short notes, Gentry's prose offers players a multidimensional sensory experience that is far above-average in its quality, and which is delivered with amazing grace and economy. Not just sight, but sound, smell, touch are all intertwined throughout the room and object descriptions. The work that went into all of this writing was enormous, but with it Gentry achieves an important goal: As a player, you feel much more immersed in the environment than you would in most games.

Second, there are nuances of interaction that faithfully mimic the mechanics of reality in ways surprising to long-time players. Most notable here is the implementation of a model of the PC's hands -- the game keeps track of how she's holding her inventory and interacting with objects, causing failure of some actions when neither hand is free. While this level of realism has the potential to be a major annoyance, Gentry's coding skills ensure that, for the most part, you won't have to worry about it, as the PC will automatically shift things around on your behalf. The mimesis is somewhat broken here by the presence of a "holdall" object with unrealistically large carrying capacity, but since inventory limits are anathema to most players, this is an acceptable tradeoff. From time to time, the lack of free hands or pockets asserts itself in a realistic manner, once again reinforcing an underlying normality that brings you another step "into" the game world.

Third, again surprising, is the implementation of the weather. The game's storms are almost as annoying in Anchorhead as they would be in real life, prone to interfering with your inventory in ways which, though not hyper-realistic, manage to catch the essentials of the situation(Spoiler - click to show). That hurricane lamp you just walked outside with? It's out. That box of papers you had? Well, you still have the box. A well-implemented umbrella, working in conjunction with your hands, deals with most of the hassle, but Gentry has cleverly managed to make it just real enough that you have to worry about it as a player, elevating it above mere background description and again forcing you deeper into the PC's situation.

Fourth is the implementation of NPCs. I agree with Peter Pears that this is an exceptional example of the potential of the ask/tell system in the hands of a good writer, which makes talking to people feel like real interaction. The topic depth here is again evidence of hard work done with great skill; NPCs respond to topics that many players might not think to ask, if they haven't been paying attention to all of the minor details presented elsewhere in the game. This has a positive feedback effect for you as the player in that you are rewarded for making these connections in a way that does not affect the game's playability but once again draws you further "in". (Incidentally, this is a great variation of the "show, don't tell" technique for confirming the player's understanding of the situation, as such connections are rarely noted by the PC.)

Last but not least, the handling of the PC strikes an excellent balance, leaving enough AFGNCAAP-like interaction to allow anyone to project themselves into the lead role while retaining a narrative voice that colors the whole experience in a meaningful way. From time to time, the PC's mentality injects itself unobtrusively into the game, always in a way that reinforces immersion and enhances the player/PC connection(Spoiler - click to show). I am especially fond of the PC's unwillingness to go to sleep with the doors unlocked the first night in the house. Though it means having to get back up, put your clothes on, go downstairs and deal with it, it also makes sense that the PC would be too agitated about the situation to go to sleep without doing so, and I love how it's presented as though you simply forgot to do this -- even though wandering around leaving doors open is perfectly normal behavior in most IF. Again, this is a very restrained and subtle reinforcement of the game world as "real" that is amazingly precise in that it doesn't quite annoy you as a player.

These efforts to enhance reality don't really affect the gameplay very much, but they do affect your experience as a reader. After investing a lot of work to align the player's perceptions and mindset into an expectation of realism, Gentry is able to start introducing the surrealism that is the backbone of Lovecraftian horror. Gentry's success in this effort springs from the insight that underlies the Lovecraft quote which opens the game: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

Mr. Gentry's first key perception was understanding that the right place to develop tension is in the mind of the player, not the mind of the PC. Despite the trials of the experience portrayed, the PC has almost no observable emotional reaction -- if there is an emotional reaction, it comes from you, and it's achieved because the player/PC identity alignment has been so carefully managed. As the situation becomes more desperate, the PC becomes willing to do things that either explicitly or implicitly would have been balked at normally(Spoiler - click to show). Examples: stealing her husband's faculty card, spying on her husband, "hacking" his computer, stealing the mechanic's key, crawling through sewer pipes. Since many of these actions are necessary to advance the plot, in effect, the way the PC's reactions are modified to suit the mood that has been targeted almost acts as an emotional puzzle structure that ensures you feel the way Gentry wanted you to at each point(Spoiler - click to show). I say "almost" because not all of these actions are necessary to "win" (though they are to achieve maximum points).

Gentry's second vital intuition was in understanding that the way to keep the tension from dissipating is, unintuitively, to build it very slowly. Since no number of exclamation points is sufficient to induce a surprise reaction in the player, Gentry instead uses the technique of scattering numerous small clues to the central mystery throughout the game world. As Peter Pears phrased it you build your understanding "piece by piece" from these brilliantly interlocking clues in a way that makes your uncomfortable comprehension seem to well up from the dark recesses of your own subconscious instead of being handed down from above(Spoiler - click to show). I particularly like how this technique interacts with some of the "red herring" ideas introduced during the library research portion. As a player, you're not sure which to expect to materialize in-game. Notably, there are multiple clues for key information, making these realizations easier to achieve for the player and reinforcing the realism style. Even more notable is Gentry's craft in writing some of them. The "visual" clues (Spoiler - click to show)(i.e. the paintings in the gallery) are so well-written that I can recall them to my memory as though I had seen an actual image.

Overlaid onto the plot is a well-formed "scene" structure that divides the game world both chronologically and geographically. While the division of time into day and evening cycles is a bit too crude to be completely believable(Spoiler - click to show)(see Brian Uri's Augmented Fourth for a similar but more granular and thus more effective treatment), large portions of the game world are only accessible during certain times, giving a very dynamic feel to the story compared to games that depend solely on spatial barriers to enforce the plot structure.

In addition, there are a few timed or "action" sequences sprinkled throughout the game to add variety to the pacing. With respect to these, I found very effective Gentry's technique of giving the player the opportunity to explore certain spaces in advance of action sequences that would take place in them. The first time you are in an area, your exploration (unrestricted by time) advances your understanding of the plot. The second time there, the application of timing restrictions seems perfectly fair, as you've had a chance to develop the knowledge needed to "survive" them and your attention is not diverted by the need to explore the environment(Spoiler - click to show). My personal favorite example is the slaughterhouse scene, in which the two modes occur back-to-back in the same area. It is a vividly cinematic sequence, though it is marred by the rather ludicrous (if effective) presence of the crayon drawing and inconsistent use of the verb "hide".

As a last note of praise, I admired the way that the author found a couple of interesting ways to discomfort long-time players via subtle manipulation of expectations(Spoiler - click to show). Example: The fly in the real estate agent's office is a persistent presence in the prose, but can't be interacted with as an object. It's irritating and disquieting since generally for IF prominence in the text equates to prominence in the object structure. Example: The inability to explore the house due to darkness on the first night. A touch of pseudo-realism that doesn't quite fit in the typical IF experience -- having gained entry to the house you, as a player, expect to get to check it out. I think it is small details such as this that left me not quite knowing what to expect from the rest of the story while still feeling grounded within it. This slight disorientation is the mark of encountering something new (which is very, very rare for long-time players), and that, more than anything else, is what makes this work stand out in my mind.

All of the above is not to say that Anchorhead is perfect. I actually felt that the introduction (pre-arrival at the house) was quite poorly done. I had tried this game before and put it aside after 50 moves a couple of times, but this time I gritted my teeth and powered through it -- and I'm very glad I did. In addition, there are quite a few small bugs and places where the polish wears off towards the end of the game(Spoiler - click to show). For the nitpickers interested in a tour of these inconsistencies in the otherwise very high implementation quality:

* There seems to be an unintentional "last lousy point" issue due to a sensitivity to the order-of-events between researching birth and death dates and reading about the Verlach family in the library book. If you read the dates first, you make a connection and gain a point when you read the book, but not the other way around.

* Messages about flute resonance can sometimes call both columns the "right-hand column" in the mound.

* The madman in the asylum mimicking your voice doesn't seem to work correctly. I got garbled text that I am fairly sure should have been repeating back what I had typed.

* The way the magic word "ialdabaoloth" is handled is problematic; quotes don't work and the failure of commands like "say ialdabaoloth" and "door, ialdabaoloth" make it an unintentional guess-the-syntax puzzle.

* Examining the lighthouse after it is destroyed shows it still "there" from multiple vantage points.

* Trying to push William off the bridge gives a default politeness-based refusal that definitely does not fit with the situation.

* The bum's corpse still seems to be treated as animate after his death; you get default NPC responses for many interactions.

* Michael's corpose seems to be absent as an object.

* The luggage default message stays the same no matter how crazy the situation gets. So does taking a bath.

* Automatic key logic doesn't take into account keys not on the keychain -- very noticeable in the madman chase scene.

* There are a few disambiguation issues in conversation topics, e.g. "the book" or "the professor".

Beyond these, there are some places where design choices seem antiquated today even though they are closer to the norm for 1998:

* gratuitous mazes, though small and at least one can be bypassed

* darkness in the hallway during the madman scene; this turned into an annoyance for me and screwed up the pacing of the scene because I didn't have a light source, though this doesn't seem like an intentional "puzzle"

* the torn square of canvas being semi-hidden though it would clearly have been visible to the PC is strange and requires a careful search in a sequence otherwise oriented around a fast escape

* the climactic puzzle with the mirrors has many problematic details (Spoiler - click to show)(Why can you only mess up a replacement? Why doesn't Michael/Verlach notice the label on the replacement mirror? Why can't you "touch mirror" with an oily finger to get the same sabotage effect?) and definitely took a walkthrough for me

. Most likely, this is due to the scale of the work being so large that a) Gentry's skills in writing and coding improved over the course of its development and b) playtesting to perfection would take more hours than were available from volunteers. Space constraints may also have been a factor -- this work was developed pre-Glulx and must have stretched the limits of the z8 format.

Perhaps the greatest criticism I can muster is that Anchorhead very nearly succumbs to the pacing problem that kills so many attempts at IF horror. This is most obvious during Day Three, where I wanted STORY, not puzzles, and my patience for them was wearing thin enough to start consulting the walkthrough.

My natural rating for this work would have been 4 stars, or "exceptional" by my scale. I'm compelled to give it 5, however, because, in my experience, it is the king of the genre, far surpassing its Infocom-produced cousin, The Lurking Horror.

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Average member rating: (76 ratings)
January 14th Dear friend. My sojourn in parts foreign is at an ende. I am at lodgings in Southwark not far from the bridge at Stoney Street, come dine with me two days hence to ring in the newe year. I have not enjoyed amiable English...

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Recommended Lists

Anchorhead appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Danielle's Must-Play IF List by Danielle
A list of my personal faves. The format and difficulty of these games vary. The quality, however, does not. I pondered on many of these games long after I finished them, and I hope you enjoy the depth of these works as well.

Great "white hat" horror games by genre by MathBrush
This list does not include games intended to disgust or to make you personally feel evil. The focus is on games where good overcomes evil, or that just make you think. That is what I mean by "white hat" games. Games like Vespers or...

IFDB Top 100 by Pegbiter
An automatically updated list utilizing an IMDb style Bayes estimator to calculate weighted ratings based on all IFDB ratings. Questions and comments can be placed here....

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Anchorhead:

Games with a good "Investigation" feel by C4rd1n4l
I'm looking for games that really push you to closely examine every nook and cranny of a setting. Maybe an escape-room game of some kind where the player has to "solve" all the puzzles in a room before progressing.

Games with a great city setting by penguincascadia
I'm looking for games that attempt (with at least some success) to portray a large city setting that the player can explore and interact with to at least some depth. Games like Gotomomi, City of Secrets, and A Mind Forever Voyaging are...

IF for wannabe Authors by SinfoolGamer
For all the wannabe IF Authors out there, what games would you recommend they play/research? Hopefully looking for multiple types (best & worst IF) and also IF with sounds/pictures/animation & with well done feelies (maps, letters,...

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