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Anchorhead

by Michael Gentry profile

Horror
1998

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(224)
4 star:
(60)
3 star:
(9)
2 star:
(8)
1 star:
(1)
Average Rating:
Number of Ratings: 302
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
One of the best text adventures of all time, even better in Steam version., July 6, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 2-10 hours
Review for Steam Edition:

Anchorhead is a masterpiece of interactive fiction. In this well-illustrated Lovecraftian game, you have to piece together the history of your husband's family as you move to a new town with a dark history.

This edition fixes a lot of the worst puzzles from the first edition, especially the very difficult mill section. It adds some new puzzles, too, some of which I found quite difficult (such as the dinghy), and others less so (the new opening sequence).

The illustrations are very well done, and go a long way to making this worth the purchase price. I love this game, and I'm glad to see it in such good form. I also appreciated the change in the orderly's magazine, which made me laugh. Some of the older texts in the game contain echoes of Lovecraft's racism, and they seem to be written new for the game, not old texts quoted, so I thought I'd mention that.

Earlier Review:

Anchorhead can completely draw you into its world. The writing and atmosphere are classic Lovecraftian horror, beginning as merely dismal and developing slowly into madness. Early scenes take on far different meanings on a second playthrough.

That said, this is a very hard game. I'm not sure how anyone could solve the (Spoiler - click to show)telescope lens puzzle on their own.

However, the depth of the game and the quality of the writing is such that it is still enjoyable even if you have to resort to hints from time to time. Many of the best moments are also the easiest puzzles.

- Solanacean, June 3, 2019

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
20th Anniversary Edition well worth the price, April 27, 2019
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)
My introduction to H.P. Lovecraft, and frankly, well-written horror, Anchorhead remains one of my favorite games ever made twenty years later. While the free version stands on its own, the 20th anniversary edition is well worth the ten dollar price tag if you liked the original or are a fan of thriller/horror games.

You play the role of apprehensive wife who has uprooted her life after her husband inherited a spooky house in a spooky New England town. Naturally, as you explore the house and the town, you begin to unravel horrors better left uncovered; except your husbandís life is at stake and so the motivation to press on remains ever present. Gentry does a superb job of encouraging the player to go at their own pace as key events have to be triggered by solving key puzzles. This allows his masterful atmospheric writing to draw the player into his world (not surprisingly as it won Best Setting at the XYZZY awards). I have played this a few times now, and each time I have felt on the edge of my seat despite knowing whatís coming. Even reading through old newspaper clippings or library books intensifies the mood here. The writing is that good.

In fact, there is a sequence about halfway through the game (Spoiler - click to show) (well/mob/church) when things start to get real that was sort of a coming of age moment for me in interactive fiction. It remains one of my favorite areas of any video game, graphic or otherwise.

My only real criticism of Anchorhead is the puzzles. In the 20th Anniversary Edition, Gentry cleaned up several puzzles that were done hastily. The wine cellar puzzle is infinitely more interesting now, and your acquisition of keys seems to be more organic. But there are still too many puzzles that seem to present only for puzzles' sake (Spoiler - click to show)(including one near the end with a broom), and some that practically require you to die in order to learn what you need to do (Spoiler - click to show)(the lighthouse puzzle comes to mind). The game is also cruel at times, allowing you to progress in an unwinnable state because you didnít find an out-of-the-way object you didnít even know you were supposed to look for (Spoiler - click to show)(a needle in a haystack, as it were). Thankfully, the nature of a horror game means youíll be saving often, and even the worst walking dead situation doesnít require to restore back too far. Still, when atmosphere is king, these types of issues can pull the player out of the game. I admit I used a walkthrough near the end of the game, not because the puzzles were too hard, but rather because I was too engrossed in the story to want to solve them.

It would be hard to introduce someone to the world of interactive fiction without recommending Anchorhead. While itís not easy, the gameís parser and design are so user-friendly (thank you trench coat and key-ring!) that it rarely becomes frustrating to play. As of this writing Anchorhead is considered the 2nd highest rated text adventure of all-time, and most of those ratings came before the new edition which enhances the playing experience while also adding some appropriately horrifying graphics.

- o0pyromancer0o, April 23, 2019

- gildedSnail, March 17, 2019

- e.peach, March 16, 2019

- bradleyswissman (Virginia, US), February 8, 2019

- getlostdont, February 4, 2019

- Stian, January 22, 2019

- seltzer, January 16, 2019

- Joey Jones (UK), January 7, 2019

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Unfair, January 7, 2019
I'm not at all sure that Anchorhead has any "fair" puzzles in Emily Short's sense. https://xyzzyawards.org/?p=386

I played Anchorhead about four-ish years ago, but I gave up on it and used the "Guided Tour" walkthrough linked from IFDB. I never felt like I could trust that I was actually solving a puzzle. For many of the puzzles I "solved" by following the Guided Tour, I never understood the solutions at all.

Even for Anchorhead's relatively accessible puzzles, the vast majority of them only make sense in "adventure-game logic" (e.g. the very first puzzle of the game, (Spoiler - click to show)breaking into the real-estate office), but those puzzles are surrounded by red-herring "you can't solve this yet for no known reason" puzzles, so it's unfair to expect the player to apply adventure-game logic to just that puzzle and not any of the other red-herring puzzles.

Good puzzle solutions need to make sense in hindsight. Why does it make sense to break into the (Spoiler - click to show)real-estate office, and not the (Spoiler - click to show)asylum, or the slaughterhouse, or the church, or whatever? Why can I break in on Day 3 but not on Day 2? It just never makes sense.

I'd give Anchorhead one star, but its prose and story are pretty good. So, do as I did: follow mjhayes' Guided Tour. Don't worry one second over the puzzles. Just enjoy the ride. (Note that the Guided Tour hasn't been updated for the 2018 re-release; you'll have to use the 1998 original release, instead.)

- gblekkenhorst, December 12, 2018

- Zach Shifflett (VA, United States), December 11, 2018

- oscar-78, December 5, 2018

- Vigorish (Bradenton, Florida ), November 15, 2018

- miruial, October 15, 2018

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Can't describe how brilliant this is! , September 22, 2018
by Froggy (UK)
Related reviews: Played 2018, Favourites
Oh my gosh, Anchorhead is absolutely fantastic. I played the original 1998 version and I loved every second of it. Played it for a day straight and just couldn't put it down; I tried to go to bed at one point and just ended up getting up two hours later to finish it. The writing weaves an incredibly beautiful and atmospheric description of each and every area, character, item - honestly I don't think this game is lacking in any aspect whatsoever. You can examine pretty much everything and everyone, and find tantalising clues and information everywhere you go. The history and backlore is rich and detailed - I found myself starting a set of notes just so that I could keep track of things and make links and connections, which made it even more exciting! The story builds layer upon layer of tension, beginning with just a slight unease and ramping up the mystery and thrill with each and every piece of information that you uncover. It's challenging, engaging, exciting, terrifying, heartwarming, and utterly brilliant.

Just make sure to save fairly regularly; you never know what you're going to find.
Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

- Spike, June 30, 2018

- Seth Fisher (Texas), June 27, 2018

- Stas, April 17, 2018

- csitrin, April 16, 2018

- faffpaper, April 11, 2018

- becdot, March 26, 2018

- 1PainfulPocket, January 9, 2018


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