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Salvaged Copy
The source files and a precompiled ZMachine storyfile of this adventure were recovered from a salvaged "Infocom hard drive", and made publicly available on GitHub in an effort to preserve them.

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The Lurking Horror

by Dave Lebling


(based on 73 ratings)
5 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
TUID: jhbd0kja1t57uop

Followed by sequel The Lurking Horror II: The Lurkening, by Ryan Veeder

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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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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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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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

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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

11 of 12 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.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Excellent title, modern reviewers are missing the mark..., August 23, 2019
The Lurking Horror, like nearly every Infocom game on the site, is being unfairly compared to modern titles. These are games that wouldn't exist without Infocom. I wouldn't blame you for believing that internet reviewers are incapable of rating games with historical consideration in mind.

Interactive Fiction is gradually turning into short-form, choose your own adventure games. This game is a refreshing game for a few reasons. The first is that it respects the player. This game is difficult. You're going to want to create a map. From what I understand modern auto-mappers don't play well with Infocom games so you're on your own. You're likely going to need to restart as well. There is an element of keeping the player character awake that I won't spoil here.

But that's not to say that the game is unfair. The game is surprisingly fair for the time. I became stuck for a long period on two puzzles. I made the mistake of assuming that the puzzles were unfair. I sought hints and in both cases I realized that they both were logic based puzzles. No moon logic here.

In 1996, Next Generation ranked The Lurking Horror as the 24th top game of all time, calling it "the best adventure game of all time," as well as "one of only two in the horror genre that has ever seemed genuinely scary." And I'll be honest. This game frightened me. I mean it. Gamespot ranked it as its 10th scariest game of all time. It made ME jump on two occasions. You see the game, if set up properly, comes with sound files. I highly suggest you make the effort to set them out. because the game receives a lot of atmospheric aid from these sound files.

Oh, and this game IS atmospheric. From the descriptions of the snowy oppressive landscape that acts as a deterrent to the player, to the unmistakably 80s vibe you get from the game. In a time where every tv series and movie is banking on 80s nostalgia, it's a relief to play something that feels authentic.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers here... so I'll get back to what I touched on in the title. Nearly every review I've read for this game is bad. Not just bad, but pretty awful. From the sound being called "gimmicky" and the horror being called dated. 1. Anything not text in Interactive Fiction is gimmicky. The gimmick here provides charm and can actually be frightening. Any review before 2006 will agree on this. 2. Of COURSE it's dated. You know what's dated? John Carpenter's Halloween. It's still a great film.


If you can enjoy a hard(but fair!) text adventure with the context of 1987 in mind then you will love this game. If you're into the CYOA fair then maybe skip this one.

Custom Soundtrack: Tangerine Dream - Phaedra
Played using: Windows Frotz
Hints Used: 2
Difficulty Rating: Hard/Fair

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Inspired great games, but offers few terrifying vistas of reality, May 11, 2019
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)
One of Infocom’s most overrated titles, The Lurking Horror is essentially the company’s only foray into the horror genre. Unfortunately, it feels more like a Lebling Zorkian dungeon crawl than an atmospheric mystery. While there are some creepy parts to this college campus caper, it is mostly a disjointed puzzlefest with a smattering of Cthulhu mythos.

Admittedly, I played both Theatre and Anchorhead first, which had the advantage of better development systems. With that in mind, I'll give the simple NPCs here a pass. But the things that annoy me the most about this game have nothing to do with technical restrictions. There's a hunger daemon, which is the slider puzzle of text adventures. There are several illogical walking dead situations. And while I can deal with inventory restrictions (oh how I miss thee, bottomless trenchcoat), even here I felt like I could reasonably carry more than the player character.

Ultimately I would have forgiven all this if I had been immersed in a scary story. But I found the writing mediocre and the ending abrupt and unsatisfying.

See All 5 Member Reviews

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Recommended Lists

The Lurking Horror appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Enduring Games by AmberShards
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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The ones I personally enjoyed, and on that admittedly flawed basis, extrapolate you might enjoy the most as well. Presented in chronological order of release.

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The following polls include votes for The Lurking Horror:

very hard games by aw1231
I am look for the hardest IF games ever.

Top-notch horror or terror games by madducks
I'm looking for games that are the best representations of horror or terror in IF.

Outstanding individual puzzles by Jeremy Freese
I'm interested in examples of excellent individual puzzles in IF. In other words: not 'Spider and Web' so much as 'getting out of the chair' in 'Spider and Web'

See all polls with votes for this game


This is version 8 of this page, edited by Tristano on 21 April 2019 at 5:20am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item