Anchorhead: A Lovecraftian Text Adventure Game
Describing a game as “Lovecraftian” indicates that it’s horror and may be connected to the overall Cthulu mythos, but what does the word actually mean? I last checked out a self-described Lovecraftian horror game and was struck by the deeply unsettling mystery that lay at its core…and Anchorhead, a famous text adventure game from the late 90s, is no different.
The most striking thing about Anchorhead is that the quality of writing is several degrees higher than what you normally come across in text adventures. This genre is usually rife with flat descriptions meant to advance the plot, which may appeal to some but often quickly bore me. But even scanning the first paragraph reveals a sort of lushness and dreary melancholy that feels…Lovecraftian. And, let’s face it, the moment a “gaunt and fishy-eyed” townsman showed up, I thought of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”
Anchorhead is littered with locations you really don’t want to explore but might have to anyway, a hallmark of a truly creepy game. The writing is powerful, grabbing you and drawing you in, and the complexity of the storyline can sometimes be startling. The game follows the adventures of a woman (presumably) who investigates the disappearance of her real estate agent and learns the dark and occult secrets of her husband’s family…but that says nothing of the townspeople, who have their own agendas and are more than ready to set them in motion.
Still powerful in a time when horror games rely on jump scares and gores to get their screams, Anchorhead proves that sometimes the pen is mightier than the joystick.