To say the works of H.P. Lovecraft has been an inspiration to many is such an absurdly obvious claim that it really doesn’t need to be made, but coming up with opening lines for articles about games is hard. Lovecraft’s work has been the basis for everything from heavy metal songs to episodes of South Park to countless other video games. With the ancient alien race of Elder Things and the many of strange things occurring, it isn’t too surprising since Lovecraft’s works are a near limitless mine of source material of madness inducing horror. Conarium is the latest addition to this mountain of games that draw inspiration from Lovecraft, in particular the 1936 novella At the Mountains of Madness.
At the Mountains of Madness is a tale about some scientists going on an expedition in Antarctica, which should be relatively safe since most malevolent beings would likely prefer a warmer climate. During this outing they come across some ancient ruins, and being that they have been bitten by the exploration bug they decide to see what secrets might be inside. They end up coming across some remains of unidentifiable lifeforms, some of which are well preserved while other’s look like they may have been chew toys prior to their arrival. If this was a summary being told orally, now would be a good time to trail off into incoherent mumbling to not give away what happens next but it’s probably a safe bet it’s nothing good.
Conarium is not At the Mountains of Madness the game but it does draw heavily from it. Conarium takes place after the events in the novella but there are some similarities. The player assumes the role of Frank Gilman who wakes up alone in a room with a strange device on the table emitting pulsating noises and light. Frank doesn’t really know what is going on but remembers he is at the Antarctic base Upuaut and has this odd sensation that something bad has happened, though cannot remember what that might be.
Using the device the player gains insight as to why Frank can’t remember what exactly happened. He soon realizes that he died but got better, but dying and coming back to life has a tendency to change a man. This instance of death was no different, and Frank now has strange memories that don’t fit with any experience he can rationally explain, and speaks of places that shouldn’t exist. He explores the base, searching for answers to what happened to him and his crew, and uncovers clues through his searching but also through strange visions and dreams. Are his memories of these experiences real or is he losing his sanity because of the expedition. Perhaps a little bit of both.
Conarium‘s soundtrack sets an ominous mood of dread and is effective in creating this Lovecraftian waking nightmare Frank has to navigate. This suspense-filled title is an original story that builds on the lore of H.P. Lovecraft and is filled with Easter eggs for those that are fans of Lovecraft’s body of work to seek out. Obviously this title is catering toward fans of H.P. Lovecraft, but fans of indie adventure games and horror suspense games in general will likely find something they can enjoy here.