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Shadow of the Comet (DOS)

Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet DOS
Genre: Adventure
Perspective: Side view
Gameplay: Puzzle elements
Interface: Direct control
Narrative: Horror
Published by: I-Motion
Developed by: Infogrames Europe SA
Released: 1994
Platform: DOS

There is never too much mysticism. Even in the golden years of adventure games, the late 80s and early 90s, ingenious developers like LucasArts and Sierra did not really indulge us with their products of the terrible genre. Although why is it so? After all, the quest (or adventure) is tightly intertwined with the detective genre and the science of forensic science. Pixel hunting is nothing more than a search for carefully hidden clues, and the goal of most games is to unravel an insidious crime of varying scales. Horror, on the other hand, echoes the detective and adds an atmosphere corresponding to the name. Shadow of the Comet meticulously follows the classic definition of the genre.

The work of a journalist can be both dangerous and difficult, especially if the purpose of his reporting is in a hot spot. However, in our case, the protagonist does not climb into the heat, on the rampage or in the mouth of the crocodile. John Parker is only following Halley's comet, which in 1910 must again pass near the Earth. A couple of days on the boat - and the British reporter is already setting foot on the shores of the North American continent. The destination of his trip is in the small fishing town of Illsmouth.

Shadow of the Comet is one of those few quests where our freedom is not limited until we find the key to that door - all of Illsmouth is available from the very beginning for our research, which makes the game reminiscent of the first tryout from Revolution Software - Lure of the Temptress. To say that the game has some kind of literary basis is not enough. While SotC's roots do go back to several of Lovecraft's stories, it is in fact distinctive and does not take on the plot of the stories already published.

The city is greeted by a small MCGA-colored dock, seagulls circling through the air and a horse-drawn carriage ready to go to the house of Dr. Cobble, who has kindly agreed to provide a room for the visit. Somewhere here, Lord Boleskin conducted his research 76 years ago, during the previous visit of a comet to our planet. Our reporter is combing the city archives, buying photographic plates in the general store and smearing his obscura camera, clearly not realizing what cosmic horror he will face. On the very first night (the events of the game take place in the daytime and at night), the hero will have to run through the swampy thickets and get a pre-infarction state at a very young age.

In SotC, horror is grief-stricken on the heels all the time. Death, you say, with a scythe? There are no such people here. But there are dozens of other ways to end the life of a London photographer. In terms of mortality, the game is close to the classic text adventure games from Infocom, the cynical Dreamweb takes a higher position in my personal rating of humanity than Shadow. You can die without noticing a hole in the floor, you can fall from the bite of a poisonous spider or someone worse, or you can simply not catch up with the ticking puzzle timer.

There are few jigsaw puzzles in the traditional sense, but not because someone was deprived of imagination, but because all the puzzles are directly related to the development of the plot, and do not pop out like two from a casket ... Find the right place on the map, guided by notes in a diary, to collect a camera, even a wild at first glance task with the choice of the necessary reagents for the development of their pictures turns out to be quite logical, you just have to find out what exactly people used at the beginning of the century. The assimilated information is entered into a diary, which you can refer to at any time during the game, often help in solving a particular problem can be found in it. Most of the puzzles boil down to inventory management, which can be quite mysterious in itself. Despite the year of release (1993) and the fact that quest-building mastodons like Sierra have been using a ball manipulator since the release of King's Quest IV, the original version of SotC only accepted keyboards. But this was corrected in the round-up reissue.

At that time, the releases of one game on floppy disks and CDs could be strikingly different in content. The CD version of SotC is fully voiced, mouse support (slightly playful) and a new intro movie added. Also included in the kit is the Lovecraft Museum, made on the game engine. And in the floppy disk there is none of this.

"Shadow of the Comet" stands out from the bunch of the first adventure games for the quality of its voice acting and well-chosen actors. The hiss and noises that were common in many talkie games of the early nineties had no place on the CD tracks. Parker speaks with a pronounced British accent, the voice of the archivist is full of mystery, and how they speak the language of the Ancients! Complaints are caused only by the inexpressive daughter of the city doctor and Alistair Boleskin revisited.

The heroes of the game for the most part do not play episodic roles, but live throughout history, revealing themselves to Parker every day: Mrs. Picott, an old hag, a champion of morality, in fact, ready to give the Bible for a brilliant trinket, teaches her niece the norms of Puritanism, or a sergeant Baggs, an arrogant cop who thinks he really has control over Illsmouth. The hero needs to carefully choose who to trust and how much, because the sudden appearance of a person from the outside is not part of someone's plans.

The centerpiece of Shadow of the Comet is the Lovecraftian atmosphere, artfully recreated by the cyber-architects at Interplay. A place where something is wrong, revelations that make the heart sink in fear, but also get to the bottom of the truth. Throughout the game, the pace of the narrative will change more than once, either giving Parker a break from chases and nightmares, or, on the contrary, forcing him to think and act quickly, carefully following his steps.