Awakening, but with no recollection of previous events, Frank Gilman is stuck in Antarctica with a deep mystery surrounding him. The base he’s inside is void of life and outside there is a cold storm. This setting creates a chilling experience, and that is a double entendre. He must explore and find out what has happened to the other scientists. Conarium feels mostly like a walking sim, but other mechanics have been added to provide a sense of adventure. Puzzles and items interact in various ways to give slight insight given on where to go next. The story unfolds as shockingly for you as it does the protagonist.
Here’s what I liked:
Moments of appreciation — There are times when you can stop worrying about what’s going on and just look at the artistic design of beautifully crafted areas. To me, this happened a few times while playing. Specifically, after the opening scene, the first room you find yourself in is absolutely gorgeous. It’s dark, but a glowing sphere is giving off a light that can really make you say “wow”. The lighting effects are superb. It feels like you’re walking around in a painting at times. Certain areas will feel ugly, but I believe that’s the point of them. As you sink into what appears to be madness, the areas become a hellish maze of nothingness.
Lovecraftian based — H.P. Lovecraft’s influence is present across a wide range of media we consume today. Conarium does its best to stay true to the themes Lovecraft had written about, and specifically based it on one of his books. The themes seem quite accurate, portraying an individual who is caught within a situation they can’t get away from. Involving a malevolent presence and psychological pressure of losing sanity, the protagonist pushes deeper into an uncontrolled fate. It’s horror mixed with technology and the unknown. Quite a difficult subject to tackle, but it was done quite well.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Okay, what now?— With no map, you are exploring a bit blind. There are times your objective is not obvious and it can be painful stumbling around interacting with things that get you no further into the story. You can’t check objectives or even review what was said beforehand that may have been a hint you needed. This takes a serious toll on the momentum. There could be points you may just give in and look on the internet for a solution to what you need to do next. This proves the worst when in the cavern type area, where everything looks the same and blends together. Since there’s not really any action going on, it starts to become a chore to proceed at certain points.
Missing things— Happen to miss picking up a specific collectible? Don’t worry, you just have to replay the entire story again to obtain it in order to gain certain achievements. You can’t miss anything and that’s a problem because no one likes having to pick up every single item again while trying to keep track with no help from the game at all. There’s a lot of places you cannot backtrack to, meaning you have to pay extra attention to your progress manually. It’s a burden I don’t think should exist, as I usually only like to play through something one time. At the end, you will get a completion rating, yet anything less than a hundred percent will disappoint you because the next step is starting a new save file.
The complexity of matching an iconic author’s psychological horror-based story is a challenge. One I don’t think anyone can quite perfect, but the attempt was admirable. The homage will only make sense if you’ve read the stories or research the author they are basing this disturbing tale on. If you aren’t, then the entire interest you have might diminish as quickly as our protagonist’s mental state. It’s the fundamental core that everything is shaped around. As a horror walking sim adventure, it hardly barely reached it’s potential to keep the player engaged. With no clues or help along the way, it’s a blind struggle to figure out what to do next. It’s not a bad game, and with a few added tweaks it would be much better.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Conarium was published by Iceberg Interactive and developed by Zoetrope Interactive on Xbox One. It was released on February 12, 2019, for $29.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.