Developer: Zoetrope Interactive
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Conarium is a first person, lovecraftian adventure. A lot of the story in Conarium takes place after H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness.’
You play as one of the research scientists in a small team stationed in Antarctica. In attempts to push bounds of nature, events during the expedition take a turn for the worst. You wake up with no memories of what happened, or knowledge of where your team is, so you set on your own in search of answers. As you play, you experience bizarre memories that help make sense of what’s going on. The story is intriguing, and I like the idea of defying nature, but I found the endings somewhat anti-climatic. One ending was significantly better than the other, but overall, the story feels a bit dry.
The gameplay encourages you to explore and find lots of notes, clues, and audio files to learn more about the story. Some of the notes are lengthy, but they do help quite a bit in understanding the plot. Conarium also requires you to find items or solve puzzles in order to progress. Locating the necessary items isn’t too difficult, but you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings. As for the puzzles, there aren’t a lot of them throughout the game, but the ones there are are unique. The puzzles are decent, but solving them requires you to find clues in the environment to help you, so if you miss the hints or don’t understand them, then you might get stuck for a little while.
There is a small amount backtracking at times, but it’s not too much. You’ll be walking around for most of the game able to take your time and soak in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is suspenseful at times, but I’m a little disappointed that there are only a couple occasions where you actually encounter enemies and have to run for your life. I think more encounters would have been fun, but the game’s style is in line with Lovecraft’s focus on creating a chilling atmosphere rather than conflicts.
- intriguing story about pushing the laws of nature (that has multiple endings)
- exploration is encouraged, and there are secrets, lore, and audio files to discover that make references Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness’
- decent puzzles, but there aren’t very many
- the ambience and music are great, and they work well with the visuals to create an immersive, and chilling atmosphere
- the graphics are good overall – some of the environments are very strange and creepy looking (but some other environments are less interesting, like the bedrooms or offices)
- performance is stable for the most part (but there are some brief, but noticeable stutters that hurt the immersion every once in awhile)
- full controller support (but only partial keyboard and mouse customization – see nitpick)
- the story feels a bit dry (not everyone will agree with this)
- the endings are somewhat anti-climatic (although one ending was significantly better than the other)
- voicing for the main character seems lackluster at times
- (nitpick) can’t change the mouse buttons or assign thumb mouse buttons
The game took me a little over 4.5 hours to complete. I played both endings and found most of the collectibles. I don’t see much in the way of replay value, but there were some collectibles and secrets that I missed along the way, so I do suggest thorough exploration.
Conarium does a good job with the atmosphere, but has a story and gameplay that is not going to satisfy everyone. I expect that those familiar with Lovecraft’s work will be more likely to enjoy the game, while others may find it uninteresting.
Press copy was provided for this review.