The Terrible Old Man: A Straightforward Adaptation of a Lovecraft Tale

H.P. Lovecraft might be famous for his contributions to horror, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t written some real stinkers. Reviews for the short story The Terrible Old Man are mixed, but it has to be noted that without some sort of cosmic eldritch horror powering the tale, the only things generating the anxiety and tension in the story are poorly disguised xenophobia and racism.

So, with that less than positive review out of the way, it might come as a surprise that I enjoyed the adventure game adaptation of the same name. Sure, The Terrible Old Man brings nothing particularly new to the story and ends exactly the same way, but as a straight adaptation of a Lovecraft story, it evokes the same bleak and ominous atmosphere through its vaguely expressionist art style while improving on the original. Lovecraft, for all his virtues, had no ear for dialogue, especially the dialogue of the lower classes, but for a game as dialogue-heavy as this one, the flaw has been corrected and feels far more natural. The graphics are minimal but impressive with a surprising range of character portraits to convey emotion.

The Terrible Old Man almost feels like a movie, rushing forward with terrible implacability towards its gruesome and wholly unsurprising end. Three desperate men (with noticeably non-white names) set out to rob a wealthy old man in a small New England town. Is there any possible way for them to survive this encounter alive?

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