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About the Story
A very short story of a night of Lovecraftian horror - with a free personality test thrown in.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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A short horror with a common setting: a dark rainy night, lost in the woods with your car. (Spoiler - click to show)You drive in the woods. Your car goes astray and crashes. You are alone in the dark. You meet strange people. You find yourself in the middle of a bloody ritual, the cultists evoking some disgusting goddess from the ancients, inspired by lovecraftian commonplaces like dreadful language, a cursed book, human sacrifices, etc etc.
The game is very short, both in the gameplay (few minutes if you go straight to the end) both in the accuracy of the descriptions. Written with standard short sentences and situations (which is good, very old style) but a lot of lacking in details (too many "I don't see it here" errors).
A lack of accuracy is shown when managing end-of-lines (blank spaces, full points, etc.).
Some bugs are quite annoying (a telephone ringing when the battery is discharged, the car going out of the road while the engine is off, etc.).
The game deserves few minutes in fixing those things. This brings me to give a star less in my rating.
The game could be very low-rated if it were not for the original scoring system: we find a kind of personality test which judges your behaviour in the game. It's very funny, and it's really worth the playing! Very good!
Unfortunately, the different choices the player does replaying the game don't lead to many different reactions from the world, but it's worth trying anyway.
In the end: a game too small, which gives few minutes of a nice horror atmosphear, not very original but very funny in the end when the score comes out.
The best thing about Lonely Places is its high rate of dramatic escalation. I've never seen a game move from a single incident (your car breaking down – at night – in the rain) to the scenery-devouring business end of a whole lot of Lovecraftian shenanigans so quickly. No ponderous sloggings through the mythology of ancient smiting beings for this protagonist!
While it's set in the modern world, the game mobilises a handful of character names, speech styles and incidents from Lovecraft's stories, making it more a winky pastiche than one of those enormous reverent ones. Its own story is freestanding and does not demand any prior knowledge of Lovecraft, but the end of game assessment of the PC does, at least if you want to fully understand it; it tells you which Lovecraft character you most behaved like during play. Your playing style is also described in more practical terms, a neat feature which doubles as a means of giving clues for how you could try to change things up on your next play.
Lonely Places is not a very strongly implemented game but it does a good job of cramming a fair bit of action into a small space. I think it's actually a good example of what you can potentially do with Inform without killing yourself as an author. A significant element of this is the game's forward trajectory, where certain events keep crashing into the protagonist, forcing the player onwards or keeping them alert. It also helps that the forward movement often covers for the game when the player is trying stuff that hasn't been accounted for, which in this game is a lot of stuff.
Lonely Places is novel in its ramping up the traditionally glacial pace of Lovecraftian goings-on. It achieves a degree of hysteria quickly and the effect is of a kind of ghoulish humour, a funny and affectionate comment on the typical trajectory of Lovecraft's stories. It will be more fun if you've read some of his work, but there are no barriers to play if you haven't.
Aside from a few touches of atmosphere, Lonely Places is remedial horror, with all of horror's worst attributes thrown in: stereotypes, profanities, and gore for the sake of gore. In addition, I'd throw in Lovecraftian, which is one of the most overdone and unconvincing forms of horror. Really, unless you are Lovecraft or Ramsey Clark, you're probably better off doing something else. (And while that's just a personal opinion, I've read A LOT of wannabe Lovecraft fiction, and IF seems to prefer this sub-genre over any other form of horror, sadly.)
With that aside, the game feels incomplete, due to typos, misspellings, many default responses, and a general spartan approach to matters. You are driving in your car in the beginning, but there is no stereo. Later on, actions that probably 90% of people would try are not available. As an added bonus, the game insults you in the end if you do not play as you were supposed to.
While the personality test at the end is creative and unique, that in no way atones for all the other problems that this game possesses. What's really disappointing, though, is that many of these problems could be fixed with a few hours of time, if not much less. If a single word can sum up an impression, the word "abandoned" sums up Lonely Places.