The influence that H. P. Lovecraft’s writing has had since his death hugely outstrips anything he experienced during his life. That’s a bit tragic, sure, though possibly for the best; I think he’d probably be disgusted about what people do with his eldritch creeping horrors and incomprehensible nightmare realms these days. The most recent example: I’ve no idea what he’d make of The Miskatonic [official site], but the odds are good he wouldn’t feel a comedy horror game set in the eponymous University gelled with the obsessions at the heart of his own writing.
The Miskatonic is the work of Rapscallion Games, which when translated from a dead, long-forgotten language means Jack Cayless. He’s a webcomic artist who made stuff like Chimneyspeak and Redd, neither of which I’d heard of before today and neither of which appear to still be online. He’s got a Tumblr if you want to see more of his art, though be warned it does contain NSFW content.
So how about this game, then? Well, it’s currently on Kickstarter, although it’s already passed its relatively low target so is as likely to happen as any other crowdfunded project. There’s a concept demo available if you’d like to get a hands-on feel for the writing and art style; the final game will be built in a different engine, but this works as a playable teaser.
Drawing inspiration from Deadly Premonition, Eternal Darkness and Resident Evil as well as grumpy old Howard Phillips gets seven thumbs up from me, and yes they are all my own thumbs. From the demo it doesn’t seem as if there’s much in the way of challenge here – it’s more about exploring and clicking on things to read descriptions and dialogue and look at the game’s lovely art. And lovely it is, a combination of very stylised characters and Lovecraftian grotesquery that feels a natural fit with the tone of the game’s writing. The Kickstarter does describe the game as a visual novel, so it seems likely that The Miskatonic will be about experiencing its story rather than cleverly offing rogue shoggoths.
Release isn’t expected until late in 2016, but since this is the work of a one-man studio I can imagine there’s an awful lot to draw. I’ll be watching with great interest, from planes beyond the fathoming of mortals.