Freeware Garden: Elders Of Madness

Based on the descriptions of one Abdul Alhazred.

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent – and I am pretty certain that the Old Ones and their vast armies of unnamable abominations never expected a futuristic jet fighter to stand up to them. They never expected their eldritch existence and the glorious darkness they were bringing to mankind would be threatened by missiles, just as I never expected to ever play through an unashamedly Lovecraftian horizontal shoot-’em-up called Elders of Madness.

Names like this, you see, are usually reserved for horror adventure games and Fantasy Flight board games and I’ve never seen such a thematic choice in a shmup.

It works brilliantly. Cosmic horror ties in perfectly with the toughness of the game and even introduces a fitting sanity mechanic, since as per the time honoured tradition of countless Lovecraft inspired games, you have a sanity meter that steadily empties as you play. The lower it gets, the darker the game will become, eventually restricting your field of vision to a tiny circle of light around your jet. Unless you grab the appropriate sanity restoring power-ups.

Ah, yes, the famous tunnels of Eryx.

Not that the game would be easy even without this clever little trick. Far from it. This is an intense and difficult shooter that is happy to fill the screen with dozens of unnatural, pixelated monstrosities and a few extra dozens of projectiles. Everything will of course kill you on touch and send you back to the beginning of the stage, hence forcing you to get better level by level as you discover the best of tactics and learn how the enemy waves appear. Just like in the infuriating yet so very lovely old days.

Then again, battling horrors from beyond time and space should never be easy, so don’t expect too many power-ups. The development team of over 100 high school students, indie artists, musicians and bloggers may have crafted a fantastic retro inspired offering, but it also poured all of its collective sadism into it too.


  1. Risingson says:

    That final monster reminded me of the first one in the Three Wonders compilation shoot’em up, “Chariot”. A mix between that, a monster in Air Buster and a monster from Prehistorik Isle.

    I know that when just before I die all the shoot’em ups I’ve played in the 80s will flash before my eyes.

  2. KDR_11k says:

    I do like me some creepy stuff in shmups (and not of the Cho Aniki variety). R-Type, especially in the later games, had some quite creepy imagery, be it the “wtf is that about” final level of R-Type Final which has the silhouettes of a couple having sex in the background or Beautiful Erasure which ends with you getting infected and turned into one of the monsters in the game, returning to the first level to kill your former friends.

    • Niko says:

      R-Type Tactics had a similar plot where at the end of human campaign the human fleet gets absorbed by Bydo and you start the Bydo campaign as a former human.

  3. fuggles says:

    What a lovely game! From the riff on the winners don’t use drugs logo (surely none of them were old enough yp remember that) to the clear variety of artistic ability it is sweet and I wish this was what my time at school was like!

    Very good effort, great idea and pretty short, 4 levels, 15 minutes long maybe. I think you may have oversold the difficulty though, which hopefully hasn’t put anyone off as I’m not good at twitch games and cleared it on my third attempt.