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The Hound of Shadow

by Chris Elliott and Richard Edwards

Horror / Lovecraft / RPG
1989

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Incomplete download, I suspect., January 9, 2021
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
The first half of the manual for The Hound of Shadow which I found online is about a rather complex-looking character-creating process, where you can choose your character's main occupation (occult researcher, anthropologist, ...) and also distribute points over different skills (fencing, climbing, linguistics,...)

In the DOS version I downloaded from IFDB there was no sign of this process. I was dumped in medias res as Edward the anthropologist. Now, this didn't matter to me all that much, I just accepted the character as it was like I would in another adventure.

Starting to play The Hound of Shadow took some getting used to. It is certainly no text-adventure as I know it. There were no object puzzles or locked door puzzles. Rather than searching the map for treasure while overcoming obstacles, you are here to solve a mystery. Actually, the game is not so much an adventure-game as it is a guided semi-interactive horror story.

Following the clues from the story and the nudges from your friend John, you have to talk to the right people and ask the right questions, look up important topics in the British Museum library and write letters to people who might help you. The limited or guided interactivity helps with the immersion in the story. If you read/play the game on these terms, it's a very good story with a suspenseful, slowly unfolding Lovecraftian horror plot.

Unfortunately, the game does not deliver on one of its promises in the manual. It prides itself on a sophisticated natural language conversation system. No need to ASK or TELL JOHN ABOUT xxx, nor SAY TO JOHN, xxx. The game should understand simple statements and questions in plain English. It does not. It seems that its conversation system works by keyword recognition, meaning that over half of what I typed was not understood and a big number of questions got irrelevant responses. ASK/TELL would have been better. Menu-based conversations would have been even better.
The game recognizes a very welcome GO TO-command, and you can WAIT UNTIL NOON if you have an appointment with someone. This helps with the flow of the story.

In the endgame there is an actual IF-puzzle to solve, and a rather good one at that ((Spoiler - click to show)making a homunculus). (I later learned that there are 2 possible endgames. I did not play the other one.)

As an immersive guided horror story, The Hound of Shadow is well worth reading. I do suggest relying heavily on a walkthrough, or at least have the manual with the list of necessary verbs nearby. The top notch writing and slow opening-up of the plot do not go well with search-the-word frustration.

The raw material is definitely there for a great game/story, but it takes some effort on the reader's part to get to it.