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The Lurking Horror

by Dave Lebling

Horror
1987

(based on 68 ratings)
3 member reviews

About the Story

A winter night at the G.U.E. tech campus with most students away on vacation serves as the backdrop for this tale of Lovecraftian horror.

Game Details

Language: English (En)
First Publication Date: June 5, 1987
Current Version: 221
License: Commercial
Development System: Custom
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
IFIDs:  ZCODE-221-870918
ZCODE-219-870912
ZCODE-203-870506
TUID: jhbd0kja1t57uop

Editorial Reviews

Innsmouth Free Press
A Pistol and a Flashlight
Beyond its mere descriptive power, however, there’s a way in which IF’s very obsoleteness contributes to the Lovecraftian atmosphere in a way Lebling couldn’t have anticipated when he wrote the game. Lovecraft was obsessed with the archaic, stylistically and technologically, as much as the arcane. Even the eldritch manuscripts that were often the bread and butter of his stories can be viewed as forgotten technologies, much like the time-obscured words on Lebling’s DOS program.
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SPAG
The writing is excellent; the game is firmly rooted in the Gothic horror used by Lovecraft and Poe. Dave Lebling has captured the essence of the genre well. The plot, however, is not as well developed. It contains some nice elements, but at times the disparate plot elements felt unconnected. (Stephen Granade)

The only weakness that I found with Lurking Horror was the NPCs. I feel that they could have been developed to a greater extent, especially the hacker. I was also disappointed with the ending; it was a climactic let-down from what had been built up during the game. (Brian Reilly)
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SynTax
This is an exciting story for the lover of text adventures. The game is well-written and the parser, as in the other Infocom games, works well, avoiding smart Alick replies. The puzzles are logical and not too difficult and there is a good feeling of suspense. (Laura Gow)
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SynTax
On your way you will encounter a mad maintenance man, a professor who is an adept of occultism, a strange shape, all of them wanting to kill you ... and don't forget the rats! Not a game for the faint-hearted but truly an adventure to have you glued to your computer for hours. (Claire Dyard)
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Member Reviews

5 star:
(23)
4 star:
(35)
3 star:
(8)
2 star:
(2)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 3
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Solid, Fair, Entertaining, July 24, 2009
by Mike Ciul (Philadelphia)
I played The Lurking Horror right after Anchorhead, which served to highlight the limitations of Infocom's older games. The Lurking Horror, because of the style and size limitations of the time, lacks the depth and richness of Anchorhead, where virtually nothing reasonable produced a default response. On the other hand, it shows Infocom reaching its maturity, with smooth, elegant gameplay despite some necessary terseness.

The thing that impressed me most about TLH was that I never got really, really stuck, despite having to spend several days on some puzzles. Throughout the game, I was free of the nagging sensation that I'd screwed the whole thing up right at the beginning. Instead, I was always sure that the solution would come to me if I just looked at the situation in the right way. And when the solution did come, it was immensely satisfying. My favorite puzzle was one I encountered early on, but didn't solve until several weeks later. (Spoiler - click to show)(Using the elevator to break through the wall in the Steam Tunnel. As soon as I realized the two locations were connected, the pieces fell right together.) The game provided perfect encouragement when I was on the right track and led me quickly to the solution, once I had a basic grasp of what was going on. It was a really deep level of game-world interaction that could have been a nightmare of guess-the-phrasing - yet it posed absolutely no parser problems at all.

The game is full of wonderfully reusable objects, and useless things are relatively few and relatively obvious, although you're likely to do some trekking back and forth across the map at the end, for things that you had to drop because of capacity limits.

The atmosphere of "Lurking Horror" was consistent - a few horror-appropriate laughs and not too much MIT in-jokiness, and lots of creepy stuff going on. I think perhaps the game lacked focus; there was a colorful variety of monsters, but how they related to each other or to the main story was quite vague.

Amazingly, this is the first Infocom game I've ever played that did not require me to draw a map. Along with the PDF I used from the Masterpieces collection, it was very easy to make my way around. I did eventually draw a map, simply because I was stuck at one point and needed something to do, but I ended up not using it most of the time. I have one spoilery comment about the map, which may serve as a hint without giving away too much: (Spoiler - click to show)There is a maze. I mapped the maze. But it turned out that I didn't need to. As soon as I finished mapping, I discovered a shortcut. Unfortunately, the shortcut won't help if you've left behind an item that you need, because you can't use it to go back. Save your game.

Like many Infocom games, and perhaps appropriate to a horror-themed game, there are plenty of learn-by-dying situations. It pays to save often. But none of these situations seemed terribly unfair to me: there's usually a pretty obvious point right beforehand where you can save, and if you keep on restoring from there, you're likely to sort the problem out eventually.

I have only one complaint about this game's otherwise phenomenal parser. Right at the very end, there is something of a guess-the-noun problem. (Spoiler - click to show)The final monster can't be referred to as "grey," "gelatinous" or "mass," despite being described that way in the text. It also can't be referred to as a "monster" or a "horror." The only words I could discover that worked were "creature" (not in the text) and "being" (in the text, but I didn't notice it at first). This was only a minor annoyance, and didn't stop me from completing the game, but it was a surprise after the smooth interactions I'd had up to that point. I think it might be another case of the endgame not being as fully implemented or tested as the earlier portions.

So with some great puzzles, flawless interaction, and strong atmosphere, why was I slightly disappointed? Is it just the standards of modern IF, or was this a bit below Infocom's other work? Maybe the puzzles were too easy. I really appreciated being able to complete the game without hints, and the best puzzles did seem pretty hard. But at the start, I breezed through several initial steps - making it to 50 out of 100 points - without any real mental effort. In fact, a few of these very early puzzles were more tedious than challenging, requiring multiple steps and trial-and-error of some obvious combinations. (Spoiler - click to show)Heating up the Chinese food felt like hashing out an example from the I7 manual, not a real puzzle. I think also, this was a game that could have benefited from having the plot and characters fleshed out more. There probably was no room for Infocom to do so at the time, but I sorely missed that extra depth. The characters were some of the highlights of the game. The hacker's final scene is brilliant and somehow touching. The urchin was so brilliantly painted with so few strokes, I only wished he had more than half a dozen lines. But perhaps his elusiveness made him more poignant. (Spoiler - click to show)Even the rat - and perhaps especially the animated hand - were memorable personalities that lit up the console. I think a little bit more from each of them could have taken the game from merely fun to truly powerful.

One final note: I got a bit of a teaser for the sound in Lurking Horror, but unfortunately I could not find a Mac interpreter that could both play the sound and save the game, so I only heard a couple things. I look forward to playing the game through and hearing more of the sounds - the couple I did hear enhanced the spookiness quite a lot. Since they come as a total surprise, they can be very startling - perfect for a horror game.

Infocom's Lovecraftian game set on a campus: mixed puzzles, great creatures, February 3, 2016
It's hard for me to review this game (the first horror IF game by Infocom, and one of the first horror games ever) without comparing it to later Interactive Fiction based on Lovecraft's work. Specifically, Theatre, Anchorhead, and Lydia's Heart come to mind. How does this one compare?

First, size. The Lurking Horror is on the small side, due to PC capabilities at the time of publication. It is about the same size as Theatre, and much smaller than Anchorhead or Lydia's Heart.

Next, setting. The game is set in an alternate version of the MIT campus called GUE Tech during the winter. This worked well for me in the end, with the creepy Department of Alchemy, dark buildings and deep basements, and the gross muddy areas. It gave them game a more campy feel though, like Theatre, as opposed to the bigger games.

NPC's and enemies. While The Lurking Horror has a few okay PC's, it really shines in the creature department. I had played for a few hours without encountering more than one 'creature', and nothing that threatened me, so I was quite shocked when I (Spoiler - click to show)buried an axe in the chest of the maintenance man without any reaction from him. The further the game got, the more disturbing the creatures got. The enemies are more like Theatre's than the later games.

Puzzles. The Lurking Horror has some puzzles that are just dumb (especially the carton in the fridge). Later on, though, the puzzles get more fun, especially as you use the same objects in more and more ways. In the end, the puzzles are more like Lydia's Heart than the other two games, although there are much less puzzles overall.

Overall, it seems to me that the Lurking Horror was a great success that became eclipsed by later games. Theatre ('95) seems to be strongly inspired by The Lurking Horror, while Anchorhead ('98) seems to be inspired at least partially by Theatre (as it includes some similar puzzles). Lydia's Heart ('07) was more of a successful reboot of the Lovecraft idea using newer technology.

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
One of few text adventures I have ever completed., August 3, 2010
This is an outstanding adventure. I first played it circa 1990 on an Apple II plus!! I still have the original box that contains the plastic centipede! I still have very fond memories of playing through this game. Highly recommended. Overall not too difficult or frustrating.

If you enjoyed The Lurking Horror...

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Recommended Lists

The Lurking Horror appears in the following Recommended Lists:

A timeline of Lovecraftian horror by MathBrush
Lovecraftian games are oddly overrepresented in IF, both among IF in general, and among great IF games. They seem to be a good fit for the exploratory form of parser IF. Most of these games hit up all of the big-ticket Lovecraft items:...

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These are games with memorable stories, whose characters live long after the window has closed, and in which the puzzles are an integral part of the game.

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Polls

The following polls include votes for The Lurking Horror:

Creepy Games by J'onn Roger
I'm not looking for supernatural/ghost stories or horror stories, just games that do a good job being scary and/or disturbing.

Bugs that you can take advantage of by Fredrik
Bugs are an annoyance, usually, but in some rare cases, bugs can actually make the life of an adventurer easier. Some bugs can help you in certain situations, perhaps even to bypass puzzles, and they can sometimes provide positively...

Games with accurate (present or historical) settings by Emily Short
I'm looking for works in the general spirit of The Fire Tower or 1893: they can be puzzly or not, have a story or not, but they should attempt to represent a real-world setting as accurately as possible, and in some detail.

See all polls with votes for this game

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This is version 7 of this page, edited by Edward Lacey on 5 March 2013 at 3:52pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item