A Fortnight of Fright: The Lurking Horror

Posted: October 28, 2011 in Retro
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As Halloween night draws near, Chad has taken it upon himself to dig into the vaults to bring you some of his favorite horror-themed video games. Can you handle the madness? Read on, if you dare!

Hexed Text

Apple II Lurking Horror Start Screen
Now that’s what you call a game.

Infocom’s vintage text adventure starts with a horror most of us all know too well – rushing to finish a term paper. As a student at G.U.E. Tech, you have access to the¬†latest computer technology – presumably a 386 running at 25 mhz and 4 megs of RAM – as you barge into the computer lab in the middle of a blizzard. Then…things get worse. Your PC eats your words, taunting you with pages of gibbering madness, before transporting you to an alternate dimension. When you get back, your paper has evaporated into thin data-air, and you have to traverse the various buildings of G.U.E. Tech’s campus. Of course, there’s that blizzard going on, so you have to cross a series of underground tunnels to reach the other buildings.

Naturally, with a name like The Lurking Horror, there’s more than just a term paper catastrophe afoot. Deep beneath the school, ancient evil festers, and as the game goes on, more of it boils to the surface. While the game plays with a lot of horror tropes, it also plays on urban legends that always seem to arise around old college campuses, steam tunnels, and secret societies. Of course, those less interested in campus shenanigans will be pleased to know that there’s a more traditional sense of horror as zombies, eldritch abominations, and a floor buffer conspire to kill you.

The game was written by Zork creator and long-time text adventure wizard Dave Lebling, and in spite of its grim theme, there’s a pervasive sense of wry humor that’s very much in line with his previous games. ¬†Also in line with Infocom’s products are the feelies, the neat extras in the box that add flavor to the game (while also doubling as copy protection). These include your G.U.E. Tech orientation guide and a student ID. Infocom used to always pack their game boxes chock-full of this kind of thing.

The Lurking Horror is a minor classic in the Infocom pantheon. If you’re of a mind to grapple with a text parser and do battle with the dark forces of the universe (and college), I’d recommend downloading a ZMachine (a program that allows you to run Infocom’s text adventures on your system of choice) and hunting the game down. It’s not all that difficult by the standards of text adventures, and it’s a fun and mind-boggling ride.

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