Some say there’s something about Mary, but far more nowadays seem inclined to say there’s something about Cthulhu. H P Lovecraft’s terrifyingly lovable monstrosity from beyond the fathomable reaches of humankind continues to get his wiggly features all up in our grills in modern media — so much so that it’s all too easy for Lovecraftian tropes to become hackneyed and overplayed.
Not so though, it would seem, in Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure. Frankie and I delved into our shamefully mountainous backlog to pluck this from the pile for the first of Point Click Pundit’s An Evening With subseries — the chance to give our thoughts on the first hour or so of an adventure game that’s new to us.
And with Gibbous, there’s plenty worth talking about — all of it sensationally good!
Say “buna” to Buzz Kerwan
Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure is a point and click modern classic with gorgeously cartoon-style graphics that are beautifully layered to give each scene a sense of depth and intrigue. The game is set in Transylvania, but was also actually made in Transylvania for an added touch of authenticity that you just won’t find in most depictions of the famous region at Romania’s heart.
Opening Gibbous launches you right into the rich animation and toon styling of the game, as dark cultists scheme to take control of that famous Lovecraft tome, the Necronomicon. It’s gorgeously rendered stuff, and the opening city of Darkham is likewise wonderfully realised in its sordid architecture. It’s colourful, yet somehow creepy – a canny aesthetic combo.
Interacting with the game is as streamlined as you’d expect of a modern point and click adventure. Clicking on something opens a verb-coin-like menu of context-appropriate actions — and of course, more often than not, you have the option to use your cat with things or with people to try and get your way. Just like real life.
The unlucky black cat
Due to some magical mishaps and the general tomfoolery that comes with reading tomes of eldritch lore out loud, our hero Buzz Kerwan — student, librarian, hapless local layabout — finds that his black cat Kitteh has been imbued with a ruthless intelligence.
Of course, her being a cat, you could equally argue she always had a ruthlessly intelligent and self-serving outlook, but now has the capacity for human speech necessary to actually convey it to people.
Notably, Kitteh hugely resents what has happened to her and is very determined to go back to being a normal cat, so she doesn’t have to involve herself with human beings. She even glares at your mouse cursor as you play the game, as though she’s frankly irritated you insist on getting involved with the plot.
Indeed, Kitteh is a wonderfully obstinate sidekick to Buzz, prickling against any of his requests for assistance unless she sees either any benefit for herself in it, or the opportunity to ridicule him as she accomplishes it. Bonus points if she gets to do both.
Voice acting, animation, art and writing are exceptionally strong throughout our first hour and a bit of Gibbous so far, and it’s all comically referential, scathingly sarcastic, wonderfully dry and ever so silly stuff. Characters are likeable even when they’re obstructing your progress — which is, after all, half of what people in adventure games are there for. Again, just like real life…?
Puzzles are perfectly paced, there’s very little in the way of pixel hunting thus far, and you get to rummage around in other people’s stuff, which is half the fun of this entire genre, right?
Lovecraft, lovingly crafted
Gibbous has been put together with a level of polish, attention and out-and-out love that sets it apart among adventure games — heck, all games, indie or otherwise. It’s a pristinely professional product, peddled for a pittance considering its high production values. So far, so easy to recommend!
Frankie and I are hugely looking forward to delving deeper into the storyline and unravelling the secrets of Gibbous. Sure hope that poor detective guy is OK…