Explore eerie environments and piece together the mysteries behind a doomed experiment in a worthy successor to one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous stories.
MonsterVine was provided with a code for review.
Many video games have been inspired by the famous horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but Conarium takes a different approach from most. Rather than draw upon Lovecraft’s themes alone or attempt to directly adapt one of his stories, this horror adventure game is a sequel to one of his most famous works, At the Mountains of Madness.
At the Mountains of Madness told the story of an Antarctic research expedition led by Dr. William Dyer, who wanted to make sure no one else followed in their footsteps to encounter the horrors waiting there. Unfortunately for Dyer, the scientists in Conarium decided to do just that.
You don’t need to be familiar with At the Mountains of Madness to enjoy Conarium, although fans of that and other Lovecraft stories will catch numerous references. The game begins when you wake up in an abandoned Antarctic base next to a strange machine, with no memory of what happened or what you were trying to do.
Conarium is an adventure game with a heavy emphasis on exploration. Items you can interact with aren’t marked, but an icon appears once you’re close enough to take or examine it. You’ll need to solve puzzles to progress, although they are fairly intuitive, and all but a few specific items are used automatically. If you get stuck, your best bet is usually to search for any items you missed.
Items aren’t the only thing you’ll find as you explore. Numerous notes, diagrams, and letters help you slowly learn about an experiment, led by a man named Dr. Faust, to transcend humanity’s natural limits and consciousness.
As you progress through increasingly mysterious and disturbing environments, you have occasional visions of the past that flesh out more details about the experiment, the strange locations you find, and the beings that once lived there. Sometimes, you even find yourself exploring areas from your fragmented memory, leaving you to question which areas are hallucinations and which are reality. Although the game can be a bit ambiguous, it does provide you with hints and clues to piece together answers to its mysteries.
Conarium can be completed in roughly 5 hours, depending on how long you spend on exploration, but those 5 hours are filled to the brim with Lovecraftian themes. While it rarely places you in any danger, Conarium instead builds up horror through its compelling atmosphere, dark storytelling, and a growing sense that you delved into something that should have been left alone. Multiple endings and numerous secrets also give you good reason to return.
Conarium is a short but compelling adventure game that should appeal to fans of H.P. Lovecraft in particular, but also anyone interested in a good tale of cosmic horror.
The Final Word
H.P. Lovecraft’s horror is difficult to adapt to a video game format, but Conarium succeeds. It handles its themes and references well, providing an experience that is equal parts unsettling and fascinating.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 5 out of 5 – Excellent