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The Lurking Horror

by Dave Lebling


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Number of Ratings: 78
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- The Defiant, June 16, 2020

- Zape, June 3, 2020

- plutonick, February 7, 2020

- samtam90, December 30, 2019

- monkeymind, December 22, 2019

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An homage to MIT, November 15, 2019
by Mikalye
Related reviews: Infocom
I went to MIT. Almost all of the Infocom team went to MIT. It would make sense that there would be at least one game set at MIT, and this is it. The GUE Tech Map is basically the same as the MIT campus. The Aero lobby sits at the entrance to the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Great Dome sits on the infinite corridor (which is what it is really called), and with some minor changes (e.g. what in real life is the Green building, is now the Brown building), the map is MIT. Even the steam tunnels are largely real (albeit exaggerated to make a game).

Given that, I perhaps have a different response to this than many others, because there is an element of nostalgia built in, but I finished this while still a student at MIT. Looking at it with fresh eyes, 30 years on, many of the criticisms leveled at the game are both right and wrong at the same time.

They are right, in that this never really becomes an atmospheric horror game. At no point are you even a little bit creeped out (compared to say Anchorhead). Rather, Lebling's silly sense of humour, which was at the crux of the Zork series) is given full rein. Be it the inscription over the western entrance to GUE Tech, or the graffitti in the elevator, Lebling regularly puts in a gag because he can. Partially, as a result, the horror never really builds. This has led many to dismiss the game as a horror-less horror game. But while that is true, it is also wrong as well.

It is not a valid criticism of an apple to note that it is not a banana. Someone going in looking for a horror game that will scare their socks off is in for a bad time. However, this is a Zork game with a horror overlay, and a decent one at that. The puzzles are generally decent. The internal logic holds together, and while it is a bit silly, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

- Jack Brounstein, October 3, 2019

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 Infocomís most overrated titles, The Lurking Horror is essentially the companyís 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.

- Denk, April 24, 2019

- BitterlyIndifferent, July 3, 2018

- e.peach, December 28, 2017

- Integer Man (Columbus, Ohio), October 7, 2017

- punktbild, August 2, 2017

- Ryan Veeder (Iowa), July 26, 2017

- Greg Frost (Seattle, Washington), February 11, 2017

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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.

- Jens Leugengroot (Germany), May 25, 2015

- BlitzWithGuns, May 12, 2015

- Thrax, March 11, 2015

- Doctor Zero (USA), March 7, 2015

- Janice M. Eisen (Portland, Oregon), November 10, 2014

- wrodina, September 6, 2014

- wolfbutler (Canada), July 9, 2014

- shornet (Bucharest), March 23, 2014

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