Prepare yourself for one of the greatest book to game translations ever. by Cole Smith

May 3, 2006 - Lovecraft suggested that Cthulhu is pronounced "Khlul'-hloo". However, according to Lovecraft, this is merely the closest that the human vocal apparatus can come to reproducing the syllables of an alien language. Other possible pronunciations include "Clooloo", "Clulu", "Koot-u-lew", "Thul-hu", and "Kuh-thu-lu".[source: Wiki]

I don't profess to be an authority on H.P. Lovecraft but what I can tell you is that this guy was the Steven King of his day. His writings were many and varied but he is probably best remembered for his strange science fiction stories that typically included abundant elements of horror. The main characters always seemed to be fighting demons - both figuratively and literally. Many of his main characters are insane, close to madness or addicted to some kind of mind-altering chemicals. In other words, they exist in an alternate reality that Lovecraft is able to communicate to his readership through his unique writing style.

Cthulhu is an alien monstrosity that is known as the high priest of the Great Old Ones. He, or it, has been around since before the dawn of man and is part of his collective consciousness, instilling terror and madness with its propensity for pure evil. It lies dead but dreaming, waiting to be freed from the depths of the ocean to launch mankind's final nightmare.

The Call of Cthulhu is a series of short stories written by Lovecraft. In this game, The Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, the developers have really done a great job of assimilating the subject matter and have translated the essence of Lovecraft's series to great effect. Through the main character, Jack Walters, we are immersed in this strange and confusing realm that we are compelled to investigate. The more we learn, the more we question our own reality.

To set the tone for the game the story begins with Jack Walters encountering unspeakable horrors in an old, bone-chilling, gothic house. The fright lands Jack in the mental ward. When he is eventually released he has no memory of the incident, in fact, he has no memory at all. Taking on a job as a private investigator in the town of Innsmouth, Jack is called upon to investigate a mysterious disappearance. Slowly his investigation begins to reveal deep, dark secrets that involve some of the townsfolk as well as strange, otherworldly creatures that are virtually beyond human comprehension.

A game that tackles subject matter such as this requires atmosphere. With timeless looking graphics that include gloomy architecture, darkened environments and gritty textures, the stage is set for shock and awe. To further immerse you in the atmosphere the developers have done away with any onscreen indicators. There are no meters for health or ammo and no maps or radar systems of any kind. Just an inventory system that you can call up. Your character will begin to slow down when injured and will grunt and groan as he limps along. You'll even hear the sound of bone-against-bone as his broken leg grinds when walking. Blood splattered on the camera will also give you an indication of just how bad you're doing health-wise.

Depending on how any particular injury is sustained, different parts of the body will be adversely affected requiring different healing supplies. You can go through all of this trouble or just press the one-button automatic healer and let the CPU fix you up. Other things such as ammo will not be taken care of automatically. You will have to keep track of the bullets in your gun mentally. This gets you further immersed in the character as this is a very realistic situation - and one of the few realistic situations you will encounter.

For the first part of the game you will be exploring the town. The people can be downright hostile towards you so you'll find that it's best to avoid them when necessary. You'll be sneaking around in stealth mode, crawling through sewers, hiding behind walls and moving about under cover of darkness. You will have to talk to some characters to get more information but you have to be careful because it's easy to make enemies in this town since they seem to be hiding something. It's up to you to find out what.

Jack has a lot of moves and some elements of the control system can be a little daunting for the average gamer that might be expecting an interactive movie style of gameplay. Along with the stealth there are some puzzles which are not very difficult. But things begin to pick up when you manage to get your hands on some weapons. At this point you will encounter hostile enemies and monsters that really rev up the action causing you to run-and-gun. The mouse and the keyboard are more accommodating than the console controllers. Aiming and shooting is a lot easier with the mouse and while I experienced some problems picking up smaller items on the console version, I found the PC to be much more flexible in that regard.

Often you'll find yourself in situations where there is only one solution. This will cause you to replay some sections over and over until you figure out where to go and what to do. Some of these solutions are arbitrary and don't follow any particular logic. When running away from an enemy for instance, you will find that only one specific hiding spot will grant you a safe haven. There is nothing to suggest that any particular place is better than any other. This is trail and error at it worse. At least if we knew that the enemy was confounded by electricity or metal, we would be able to locate areas where these elements were abundant. Things would tend to make sense if they played out like a puzzle. As it is, we'll have to replay some of these areas over until we get it right through sheer serendipity. The game uses a checkpoint system and to its credit most of the trial and error occurs closer to the beginning of each checkpoint as opposed to close to the end which would be so disheartening that most players would probably refuse to play the game much longer.

An interesting feature that will affect the gameplay is your state of mind. You are always in danger of losing your mind. Once again, there is no meter for your sanity but it will be represented by your perspective in the game. Depending on your level of insanity you will begin to get dizzy, things will start to get blurry and distorted, and hallucinations will severely impair your judgement and affect your movement.

Overall, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a fun game that is full of twists, turns and incredibly wonderful scary surprises. It's got a great atmosphere which is sustained by dark and grainy graphics, chilling sound effects and an incredibly improbable storyline that is treated properly as to suspend reality from creeping in and ruining your experience.


  • Based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft whose work has been published in over 500 books and translated into dozens of different languages.
  • Dynamic Sanity system results in hallucinations, panic attacks, vertigo, paranoia, and more! Incredibly detailed real-time graphics with atmospheric lighting and dynamic shadows
  • Intelligent gameplay involving puzzle solving as well as combat and exploration
  • Extremely realistic combat with a detailed damage and healing system that breaks down the healing process into conditions and treatments.
  • Advanced AI system that reacts to your method of play. Enemies will stop at nothing to track you down.
  • Battle your enemies by using the environment, powerful evil artifacts, Alien technology, authentic 1920's weapons and most importantly, your brain!
  • Interact freely with characters and the gaming environment.
  • No 'HUD' during gameplay allows for a more immersive experience.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth (PC)
The graphics have a timeless quality about them. They are dark, grainy and full of atmosphere. The monsters are truly horrific looking.
Compared to the console version, this one is much easier to play thanks to the mouse and keyboard.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Truly haunting. The sounds, or lack thereof, help create the perfect ambience.
Play Value
You might want to revisit the story a time or two but once you complete the game there's really no incentive to replay it.
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PC
Dev: Headfirst
Pub: Bethesda / 2K Games
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best