Sick-to-your-stomach horror

The prerequisites for playing this first-person horror game with the nearly unpronounceable name are headache and nausea pills and previous experience as a psychiatrist, policeman, coroner and/or private detective.

By
May 4, 2006 08:04
3 minute read.
sick disk 88

sick disk 88 . (photo credit: )

 
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Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, a set of two CD-ROMs by Bethesda Softworks, distributed with a 26-page Hebrew-language user's manual by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires Windows XP and an 800 Mhz Pentium III PC or better, for ages 18 and up. Technical rating: **** Nausea index: ***** The prerequisites for playing this first-person horror game with the nearly unpronounceable name are headache and nausea pills and previous experience as a psychiatrist, policeman, coroner and/or private detective. Not only are the shocking visuals and scary story likely to curdle your blood, but you are likely literally to feel sick to your stomach when you play it. Even after lowering the mouse sensitivity to the minimum, I found the movements through the game's environment so jerky that they caused me - and others I begged to try it - to develop a splitting headache and a feeling of nausea after only a few moments. But this caveat is not likely to deter horror-game buffs, who seem to thrive on torture. It can be played at Boy Scout, Private Investigator, Hardened Detective and Mythos Specialist levels of difficulty; I admit that my headache and queasiness prevented me from graduating to anything beyond Boy Scout. There are over a dozen different levels, each with several stages. The game's setting is in 1915, an era when there were barely any automobiles or telephones and certainly not modern electric conveniences such as TVs and computers. You play a self-employed private detective named Jack Walters, who is called in on September 6 of that year to a large wooden villa outside Boston that has been taken over by a religious cult. Local police gingerly deal with the case by bringing in Jack, who encounters lots of corpses, maniacs shooting wildly, blood, dark corridors, notebooks and abandoned keys. You must pick up items to store in your inventory for later use. The traumatic experience, which I am reluctant to present in detail, left Jack mentally and psychologically mangled, and he is committed to a psychiatric hospital for a number of years. But without explanation, he eventually regains his sanity and initiates a personal mission to understand what happened on that terrible day. Fast forward to February 16, 1922, when Walters is informed of the mysterious kidnapping of a store manager in the sleepy town of Innsmouth. Soon you will have to combat horrendous monsters and people, passively escaping harm by stealth or actively fighting them off with knives, double-barreled hunting rifles and sub-machine guns. However, the supply of ammunition is restricted, so the stress is clearly on surviving onslaughts rather than shooting all enemies. As there is no health meter to gauge Jack's wellbeing, you must pay attention to his vital signs. For example, if you fracture your leg, you will proceed through the game while limping, and this movement will be tangible on the screen; you'll even be able to hear Jack cry from pain when he puts his weight on it. Morphine is available to relieve intense pain. When you're fired at, the amount of blood that speckles the screen informs you how badly you've been hit; as hemorrhaging continues and Jack's condition becomes critical, the picture takes on grey tones. Your respiration rate and heartbeat speed up or slow down and you may lose your hearing. If he is poisoned, your vision will become fuzzy and he'll die without the antidote. Traumatic scenes also make Jack's mental state so precarious that it teeters over the edge between sanity and insanity. Pushing ahead through the horror, you may feel quite paranoid yourself. The graphics engine is quite good; when you're gingerly surveying the dark inside of the cult's villa, you see a fractured mirror and your own (i.e. Jack's) image on it that momentarily gives you a start because you think it's someone on the other side of a window aiming to shoot you. I hope that minors will not play this game; I myself would slap "40 years old" on the package as the minimum, but while 18+ is stamped on the game package, 16 is inexplicably printed on the disks themselves.

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