Conarium is a carefully crafted horror game that serves as an homage to American author H.P. Lovecraft. More specifically, this title takes heavy inspiration from the novella At the Mountains of Madness.
For those not too familiar with Lovecraft’s work, a preconceived notion may be that this game is going to hit the cliché of jump scares and monsters. However, after diving deeper into the story, fear will fade and be replaced with curiosity and fascination. Don’t go into Conarium with the mindset that everything here is out to kill and maim. Instead, use critical thinking and try going in to figure out what is going on.
Frank Gilman, a member of an Antarctic expedition team, wakes up to find that his base crew —and his memory — have vanished. The story as a whole creates more questions than answers. Journals, audio recordings and weird visions are scattered around the base and offer more insight into what is going on. For someone who likes trying to put stories together, it was fun to find new pieces to this ever-growing puzzle.
The atmosphere feels desolate and haunting to the point that preparing for the worst might become a common thought. However, moments of fear and panic are not entirely typical. Little details scattered around might get Frank backtracking and search for what may have been missed. Hopelessness might set in until the realization occurs that, “Wait, this elevator goes up and down?”
There’s not much to the overall gameplay of Conarium. For the most part, it acts as a walking simulator with occasional puzzles and chase scenes sprinkled into the mix. The puzzles are fun, intriguing and require thoroughness. The alien-like symbols and creatures that are encountered only add to the outlandish world that Conarium seeks to explore.
The chase scenes are where Conarium is at its weakest. Thankfully there aren’t many, but the ones that are there can easily rip out the immersion that once had a stranglehold. Frank can only sprint for a limited time, opening him up to get easily killed by one of these beings while his stamina recharges, leading to deaths that feel avoidable.
Each place had a unique vibe to it: the Antarctic base felt abandon, with the disturbing feeling of always being watched, despite being seemingly alone. Meanwhile, the underground areas and catacombs have a constant threat of danger.
Overall, Conarium is a great game. It keeps the player on their toes and all the little things that are discovered along the way add to the weird scenario of this Antarctic base. It’s a refreshing break from the cliché horror game with a lasting story.