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My love for horror fiction can be traced all the way back to R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series (who for a long time I thought was Robert Louis Stevenson under a slightly different name). I have incredibly fond, nostalgic memories of reading those countless horror stories as a kid, especially their 1995-2000 run of the ‘Give Yourself Goosebumps’ series (though I only came across them much later).

This choose-your-own-adventure type series was something I was entirely obsessed with, as it provided a whole new level of enjoyment I’d never experienced before, allowing for reader choice and agency by letting the reader call the shots and decide how the story should progress.

Ah, sweet sweet nostalgia

Around the same time, I remember playing the text-adventure game Zork and a couple of other similar ones to it and realizing the immense potential for interactive fiction. Books are great, games are great, so it’s safe to say that a melding of the two mediums would be nothing less than awesome right?  That’s exactly what the Lovecraftian mystery game, The Innsmouth Case, developed by RobotPumpkin Games and published by Assemble Entertainment, aims to prove.  

Since this is mainly a story-based game, let’s get the peripheral stuff out of the way before getting to the meat of the game.

Gameplay & Mechanics

Other than occasionally making choices to alter the direction of the story and experiencing the hilarious or creepy events that follow, there’s no real gameplay to speak of. If you’re not into reading and need some sort of gameplay loop to keep you entertained, this is not a game for you. This is a text-heavy, story-driven game through and through. Styled as an illustrated, interactive storybook, it focuses on the narrative and making player choices satisfying more than anything else.

That being said, you’re faced with choices to make pretty often after every couple of paragraphs, so there was rarely a large wall of text to read before you’re prompted to make a choice again. 

Though my first playthrough was pretty short – it took me about 2 hours to get the ending – my fears were dissipated when I found out that there are 27 possible endings. Not only that, but a few of the endings also have multiple narrative paths that lead up to them so there are various different ways to get a certain ending. 

As you play through the game, you unlock checkpoints at certain ‘Chapters’ that you can return to later to make a different choice and see how that affects the story. Still, I do wish there were a quicksave option as there are some points in the story in the middle of chapters that I’d like to have returned to. Also, like in If Found, I wish the right mouse button were used to go to the previous page, like an undo button, as I misclicked a couple of times progressing to the next page without having read the previous one.

It’s honestly pretty impressive the number of scenarios the writers have written, and how consistently fun and entertaining they all are. In 8 hours of playtime, I’ve only managed to unlock 6 of the 27 endings, and I’m no slow reader. So you can rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth, and more. 

Visuals & Sound

While there’s a bit more to talk about in this department than gameplay, The Innsmouth Case is still pretty barebones relative to most games, as like I said, the game is narrative-focused more than anything. The game adheres excellently to the storybook theme, making the whole game, including the Options menu, the Settings menu, etc. different pages of the book. This isn’t just a cool gimmick but also makes the whole game feel very cohesive and polished. 

Though it’s a visually light game, the few visuals on display are beautifully detailed and complement the narrative amazingly. From the crisp, satisfying page-turning animation to the yellowing pages illuminated by the flickering light of the candle, the visuals do a lot to set the tone of the game, while also getting you into that warm, comfy reading vibe. 

Classic Lovecraft!

In addition, the setting, environment, and characters are portrayed above the text in fun, amusingly-animated illustrations. The character designs and their animations (which change depending on what’s going on at the moment) are especially fun and humorous and provided just the right amount of visual representation to guide the player’s sense of imagination to do the rest. At a few points, there are screen shakes and sound effects to complement the horror as well.

For the most part, there’s nothing else visually to speak of other than this, except for a couple of neat meta-surprises I don’t want to spoil. Though these are few and far between, that makes them all the more unexpected and impactful when they do make an appearance. 

The music is mainly piano-based, and there’s not a whole lot of variety. Other than the default theme that’s always playing, there are also a few more suspenseful, chilling tracks that take over when the horror aspects of the narrative occasionally creep out (depending on how you play). Though they’re nothing exceptional, the tracks do help create a sense of atmosphere and keep the player engaged in the narrative without getting bored (not that the writing needs any help, given how entertaining the storylines are).

Speaking of, let’s get to the meat of the review, the writing, the story, and the choices you get to make.

Story & Narrative

Though the narrative is clearly and charmingly unapologetic in its Lovecraftian roots, do not be misled, this is not a serious, nail-bitingly terrifying story. Though there are of course a few elements of horror (that comes with the territory), The Innsmouth Case is definitely more of a comedy or a horror-parody. The choices you have to make are not some Telltale-type heavy save-him-or-her decisions, but much more fun and light-hearted ones. In fact, some of the things you have the freedom to do in this game (and the hilarious events that follow) are sure to have you exhaling through your nose and smiling if not outright guffawing. 

Just like real life!

Another aspect through which Innsmouth sets itself apart from the Telltale games is by making the choices you make satisfying and actually matter. You’re rewarded with fun, or creepy writing which the Lovecraftian setting more than allows for.

Postcard worthy

Descriptions of your surroundings, buildings, and characters are dished out in just the right amounts to complement the visuals while still allowing ample room for your imagination to flex its muscles. Plus, despite the large amount of text, there were only a dozen typos that I noticed, which is pretty negligible proportionally. Still, a little more proofreading would polish it up that much more. 

The main character is pretty much a blank slate, so it’s easy to put yourself in his place. It’s not a role-playing game so you can choose to be as unprofessional and dumb as you like, or try to play it ‘well’ and prioritize the mystery-solving (which is a lot less fun).

As I said before, the game provides player choices pretty often, and the resulting scenarios are consistently well-written, interesting, or just plain hilarious no matter what you choose to do. Pretty much every choice is worth exploring, there wasn’t a single instance where I was disappointed by a choice’s outcome. 

Also, The Innsmouth Case does some clever things by taking advantage of the replayability factor, for example by setting up intriguing clues in one playthrough that’ll pay off in the next (like a giant cage on the beach, for example, I wonder how that comes into play…). There are sometimes references to characters and places you’ll encounter in a different playthrough, which serve as hints or teases to other storylines/endings. One time, I mentioned some information to a character I’d found out in a different playthrough which led to a fun meta outcome. However, I’d like to have seen a bit more of this inter-playthrough content, there were very few instances of them.


The story itself (well, the multiple stories) is hilariously unpredictable, and makes use of the setting and tropes of Lovecraftian horror beautifully, in sometimes creepy, but mostly hilarious ways. It’s best experienced blind, so I won’t mention any specifics but rest assured you’ll find enough fishy villagers, divine sacrifices, sex cults, time-traveling Russians, creepy hotels, slimy tentacles, and deceitful mothers to keep you content, satisfied, and highly entertained. It doesn’t hurt when the game also takes shots at  (mostly deserving) targets like vegan-superiority, mobile game microtransactions, overly-romantic freelancers, pinball machines, and more. 


The easiest choice in the game, by far

Though relatively light in terms of what it has to offer visually, sonically, and in terms of gameplay mechanics, that’s not really the point of The Innsmouth Case. It does what it aims to do – it tells multiple at-times creepy, most-times hilarious Lovecraft-inspired stories impressively well. 

With 27 different endings and multiple pathways to get to some of them, The Innsmouth Case is sure to keep bookworms not only occupied but thoroughly entertained for quite a few hours. In fact, the easy-to-read writing style makes the game pretty accessible to non-readers as well, and I definitely encourage giving it a shot.

If you’re still on the fence, no worries, check out the free demo to see whether The Innsmouth Case is up your alley. You might just like what you see.

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