Game 116: Shadow of the comet (1993) – Introduction

From The Adventure Gamer

By limbeck

In 1992, Infogrames released Alone in the Dark, which put the player in the role of an unsuspecting investigator who experiences the horrors of the mansion of an eccentric magnate, after said eccentric magnate committed suicide. The player tries to escape from the mansion, the unspeakable lurking fears that haunt it in the dark and from the raving madness that the secrets of the mansion could deliver. It is exciting, deadly and pioneering (Hell, it won our very own Charles Darwin Award for 1992!). It even spawned a few sequels and an Uwe Boll film starring Christian Slater, which, contrary to the series that inspired it, is considered among the worst of all time.

Don’t worry, we’ll get our share of celebrities (and monsters) in the game as well (Image from here)

But this is not the story of that game. Andy Panthro played it thoroughly and did a fine job (go read it here if you haven’t already). In one of the game posts, Andy referred to a book describing an adventure titled “Prisoners of Ice”, which is also the name of a Lovecraftian adventure game by Infogrames, which was published in 1995. This is not the story of that game either.
Within Alone in the Dark there was yet another book. That book’s name was “Diary of a Journey” and it was authored by some Lord Boleskine. Not THAT Lord Boleskine, though he was certainly the inspiration, considering that the book was published by Aleister Publications. The book recounts Lord Boleskine’s voyage to New England, wherein he observed “signs of degeneracy” among the population of the small fishing village he arrived at.

This is a more recent specimen, the current Mayor of Illsmouth

Lord Boleskine had decided to visit this place (only referred to as I… in another document in AitD) after studying manuscripts of sinister reputation in the British Museum. In the diary he kept, he noted that the stars in this place shine much brighter and appear to be closer to the Earth than elsewhere. His visit to I… took place in 1833, just in time to see Haley’s Comet. Oh, and go ravenously mad in the process.

Now who’s showing “signs of degeneracy”? (CD-ROM version)

The outcome of Lord Boleskine’s encounter with Haley’s Comet at the small New England fishing village is not given in the book found in Alone in the Dark. The excerpts were apparently included there as flavour text and had nothing to do with the plot of that game. However, they were the background story of another game by Infogrames, which was probably under development at the time AitD was being polished.

That game was Shadow of the Comet and you will have to suffer several posts on its gameplay while I slowly lead the unsuspecting protagonist deeper into the embrace of unfathomable circumstances, impossible cosmic events and, most of all, unspeakable horrors of the Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos.

And ominous owls

Shadow of the Comet was developed internally by Infogrames and published in 1993 for PC. The next year a CD-ROM version was released which added mouse support, voice acting, a new intro sequence and some bonus material in the form of a “Lovecraft Museum”. In this playthrough I will be playing the original game, as released in 1993, provided by GOG, along with the CD-ROM version if you get the game.

I will try to have a parallel run in the CD-ROM version and check what differences there are, but please don’t judge me too harshly if I fail to keep up. My understanding so far is that the overall artwork and puzzles are the same in both versions, so I will only play the CD-ROM version to check the voice acting and to evaluate how using the mouse can affect gameplay. Onwards to madness then!

Lord Boleskine has a headstart, so we need to catch up (CD-ROM version)

It is now 76 years after Lord Boleskine’s fateful journey to New England. Haley’s comet had done a full trip to beyond the orbit of Pluto (though nobody on Earth was aware of Pluto’s existence, excluding some Mi-Go brain collectors) and was returning to a much different Earth than what it had left. Industries have spread on the globe and new marvels of technology, such as powered flight, radio and the automobile, were appearing. People were looking to the future with hope.

Not pictured: the future

There was one man, however, who was looking at the past. This is the protagonist, Mr PARKER, who has studied Lord Boleskine’s account of his journey to New England and believes that he can get the best pictures of the comet if only he could go back to that exact spot in the village of Illsmouth that Lord Boleskine lost his mind. What could go wrong?

PARKER has persuaded W.B. GRIFFITH, the editor of the “British Scientific News” to fund his little fancy, by promising him the most spectacular pictures of the comet. He has even booked his accommodation at the house of DR COBBLES in Illsmouth, before he gets the blank cheque from the editor.

Warning: Initiative is not well rewarded in Call of Cthulhu stories

So, after taking the first steamship across the Atlantic, I (PARKER) arrive at the quaint little town, where I am greeted by DR COBBLES and the Mayor, Mr ARLINGTON.

You look familiar Doctor. Have I seen you in one of
those motion pictures everybody is raving about?

After a short dialogue, in which I have minimal input we get on a carriage and have a short trip through the sparsely built Illsmouth.

Another short dialogue outside the Doctor’s house and I am finally led to my room. I will stop this post here, inside the (quite spacious) room that DR COBBLES has prepared for me (and GRIFFITH pays for), before I touch anything that could drive me mad. MAD!

This is definitely bigger than my studio back in London

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it’s an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won’t be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It’s also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

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