The Innsmouth Case Review – A Barrel of Lovelaughs
Developed by RobotPumpkin Games
Published by Assemble Entertainment
Available on PC and Mobile
I love a bit of comedy with my horror. Something about it can make horror a little more scary than it already is. Take Cabin in the Woods as an example: the comedy mixed with the horror makes for a fantastic combination that is well worth watching. Visual novel The Innsmouth Case seeks to do similar, combining the works of H.P. Lovecraft with comedic goofiness. That’s already pretty great, and the fact that it does so with a cute visual novel style certainly makes things quite a bit better. So the question is, is that enough to keep you hooked to this story, or should you go find your humor elsewhere?
Before anything else, I just want to take a moment to appreciate that The Innsmouth Case opens up with the note that, yes, H.P. Lovecraft was kind of a racist jerk. It states very clearly that, while his work is influential and defined the genre for likely years to come, it doesn’t mean he was a good person. This may seem minor, but I always appreciate people going out of their way to note these kind of problematical figures and how their views are terrible even if their art isn’t.
You play as a detective who’s basically the only guy in Boston that doesn’t have some sort of job right now. Thankfully, one happens to fall in your lap since you are the only guy available. A woman asks you to come to Innsmouth and find her missing daughter Thabita Marsh. Don’t worry that Thabita looks like a fish girl, that’s not important. You’re not going to judge some woman’s kid’s looks when they’re missing, are you? Because if so, maybe the real monsters are not the Lovecraftian horrors, but man themself. However, since that’s not the theme of the game, you agree to take the case and hop on the first (and only) bus out of Boston and into Innsmouth.
As you may expect, Innsmouth is certainly a unique place. By unique I mean the people are weird, the welcoming committee is a single old shotgun wielding lady, the hotel is run by a goblin that is most interested in your ability to breathe underwater, and the chain-smoking wellness instructor may or may not be cousins with octopuses. Each character was a welcome addition to the game, and I had a pretty great time seeing how they’d add to the investigation. Or try to murder me. See, that’s the thing, a lot of people in Innsmouth want you dead for whatever reason.
There are a lot of ways to die in The Innsmouth Case. Before long I had been murdered by an angry mob that attacked me while I slept, died in my dreams to a monster of some kind, got torn apart by “wellness gurus,” and more. The game boasts 27 different endings, and as you may discovered, a large chunk of them aren’t exactly happy endings. However, in what is probably my biggest issue with the game, some of these endings certainly feel weird. One ending saw me lured into a cage in the middle of the sea and attacked by monsters. Naturally, dying ends the game. Play your cards right and you could survive the encounter. Then when you survive you’re rewarded with… the game ending. I’m not exactly sure why the game had to just randomly end with my character surviving a terrible situation, it felt like there was clearly more game after.
No matter the situation, for the most part the gameplay just consists of picking which option you want to follow. You don’t need to worry about collecting stats or points, everything is just decided by picking from a few different options. It helps make The Innsmouth Case super easy to jump into without having to worry about much. I had the game on my phone, and it quickly became a favorite when I had a few minutes to kill. Quickly picking a new path and seeing where it would lead this time was always good, and it’s super easy to jump back into the game without missing anything. Even if you do manage to die, you’re given the option to restart at any of the major story moments, so it’s not hard to see new options.
The only thing I really had to be worried about was bursting out into laughter in a public place. Look, when you’re playing a goofy lovecraftian visual novel at work, it’s a bit hard to explain “I’m trying to hit on this weird fish goblin guy who runs a hotel” to a co-worker. The Innsmouth Case constantly had me in stitches, and I deeply appreciated that the game was always worth more than a couple of laughs every time I turned it on.
Honestly, humor and Lovecraft aren’t combined nearly enough, and I’m so glad The Innsmouth Case exists to do so. It’s a fun visual novel, one that feels like it takes some genuinely creepy source material and manages to turn it into wonderfully comedic material. If you’re looking for something you’re hoping will give you a laugh, The Innsmouth Case is likely your next best bet.