A roguelite with a just-delayed sequel, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories works many of the famed horror writer’s themes into an action setting.
So this one’s a while in the making, since Lovecraft’s Untold Stories first came out in 2019. But it’s still somewhat relevant, since Blini Games is about to publish a sequel. Well, they will at some point this year anyway (it just got delayed out of next month).
That new title actually shakes some things up from its predecessor in a few ways, though the feel remains. And that of course is cosmic horror, with a lotta twin-stick shooting thrown in.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories indeed features the titular writer’s characters and themes. But what it does that most other games of its ilk don’t, is that it’s a twin-stick shooter. So it’s much more action, and maybe even arcade-y, than Lovecraft titles usually are.
And for the most part, that works like… crazy.
If you’ve played any Lovecraft title, or even better read the original stories, then you already know what the gist is here. The writer created a universe where ancient alien gods loom over reality. These eternal, massively powerful creatures violate the fabric of reality with their influence and drive men mad merely by their presence.
It was the time of publication, and Lovecraft’s is still is a unique horror universe. And as mentioned, it’s also been the subject of plenty of video games over the years. Lovecraft’s Untold Stories doesn’t adapt any one of those previous tales however. Instead it creates a new one, though one that still plays off of the classics.
The game is filled with cool story details. While it’s mainly action, LUS allows players to choose how they talk to some NPC’s (and enemies), and interact with the world, learning lore as they play. Some of it can get downright creepy too. Can you be freaked out by pixels? Yeah, I think you can.
Adding in even more of a replay factor are a bunch of playable characters. When the game opens up, you’re thrown into the action as the Detective, but that’s just the start. LUS features five playable heroes, with each one changing things a bit thanks to unique play mechanics and abilities. Particularly neat is the Ghoul, which is exactly what it sounds like.
But getting back to that story, it really does just kind of… start. I realize this isn’t the kind of game that usually goes deep into narrative, but it would have been nice to know why the Detective was in that mansion when the action began.
Controlling the universe
At its core, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories is a twin-stick shooter. I didn’t find it to be as all-out in terms of action as other games I’ve played in the genre though. This isn’t Smash TV (and yes I’m serious).
There is a lot of shooting and monster/cultist-slaying for sure, but there’s also a good deal of exploring. Much more than I had thought actually, and I found it quite welcome.
Overall, the controls are solid, and they have you doing a fair bit. LUS is packed with items to pick up, locks and keys to deal with, and environmental hazards to barrel roll over.
Along with all of that, you can also buy and sell items. That comes by way of traveling merchants, one of whom looks an awful lot like a particular writer. Grabbing books will also let you pick up knowledge that you’ll dig into back in a mysterious central hub area, in order to solve mysteries about the evil gods you’re up against.
While you’re doing all of this though, pay mind to your sanity. Yes, like in almost every other Lovecraft game, you can and will lose your sanity as you play. I mean in-game. Just stock up on chocolate and you’ll be fine (again, I’m serious).
Oh, and if you don’t and you let it get too low, your character will blow his or her own head off. Yeah that’s gonna be a ‘game over’.
16 bits of horror
While the upcoming sequel will look quite different, the original Lovecraft’s Untold Story holds a vintage look. Blini Games cast the title to look almost like it could have been released on the Super Nintendo.
That means pixelated levels and characters, but don’t think that also means under-detailed and boring. LUS is anything but that, as the game is absolutely packed with things to look at. And yes, I mean that even though it’s a roguelite.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories’ levels are radically different from one another, though none will be the same every time you play. This is a roguelite, and that means there aren’t any ‘designed’ maps. They’re instead all made up randomly, so it’s a different layout every time.
That usually doesn’t sit well with me, as I prefer games that are planned out. But be that as it may, I actually liked it here. That’s almost wholly due to the amount of detail in LUS. It’s pretty great, and as a result most of the game’s maps look great no matter how they’re laid out.
It’s true as to the enemies as well, who look great. LUS’ bestiary stocks quite a few Lovecraftian foes for you to vanquish. And those range from cultists to zombies to things from beyond the veil.
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories, even a few years after its release, holds up well. Not only does it look and play well, but it’s got plenty of Lovecraft’s particular brand of horror built-in.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for this review
Lovecraft’s Untold Stories
Release date: January 31st, 2019
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Developer: LLC Blini Games
MSRP: $14.99 USD