Ding-dong Cthulhu calling

The Hound of Shadow logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

HAVE you ever thought that beneath the everyday and mundane aspects of existence lurks such supreme terror and depravity that the human mind just has to filter it out. Next time you are stuck on the tube for an hour it may not be simply that London Regional Transport are a bunch of bungling buffoons - it may be some dark and occult force that have made them that way.

It may have been encounters with LRT that led the famous patron of such schools of thought, H.P. Lovecraft, to pen great works on this very tpic. Such has been the appreciation of his efforts that the frenzied paranoic masses invented a role-playing game of the same subject, Call of Cthulhu.

Now, I am making no statement whatsoever on the social adjustment of the people at Electronic Arts,but they too have decided that this is a pretty neat idea and have released this, the first in a series of adventures in this vein.
I say adventure, but much of the first disc is taken up with the generation of a character so it is more correct to say the first of a series of role-playing games set in an adventure environment, or something like that. Probably.

The character generation ends up producing a fairly Cthulhu-like character, which is no bad thing. Players must first choose their name, sex and nationality (British or Yank), at which point they will be presented with a brief physical description of their character. If they find themselves unable to get into the role of an ugly, overweight slob it can always be thrown back into the electronic maelstrom.

Next up is occupation. If you chose to be a woman I'm afraid that not all of the professions are open to you, but before my sisters of liberation of OASIS launch suicide bombing raids on EA HQ I'd like to point out that this is in keeping with the period of the '20s, when this game is set. Professions include amateur sleuth, occultist, novelist and the very honourable, noble and just career of journalism.

Your choices so far will give a start in some skills and a fund to enable you to practise others. Some skills may not be relevant to this particular scenario. But the characters are transferable to other titles in the series. However, beware, the skills do make a difference.

Your immediate task is to stay alive. There are some very strange goings on, er, going on. You'll be well into the game before you start to understand what you have to do.

The adventure surrounds the mysterious town of Blytheburg and a mythical black dog, the hound of shadow. Although much of the action takes place initially in London it will be necessary to travel to Blytheburg in the course of your investigations.
A lot of investigation also takes place in the reading room of the British Museum. Getting in may be the first test of your abilities.

One aspect of the game is was particularly impressed with was the interaction with other characters. No longer is the player assumed to be the only intelligent human being in existence. Other characters also make observations and suggestions which, while sometimes it may seem that they are dragging the plot in a direction one might not particularly wish to take, is certainly far more realistic.

The game is interspersed with lovely sepia-toned screens of the more important locations which certainly add to the atmosphere and, even if you are not taken that way, are just nice to look at. This is all in keeping with the great attention to historical detail and conformity with the works of Lovecraft.

This is the best presented adventure I've seen for a while and definitely the most interesting. I would be happier looking forward to the next in this series if only I could convince a rather large hound from Satan's own stable that Bonio are far more tasty.

The Hound of Shadow logo

ELECTRONIC ARTS £24.99 * Mouse and Keyboard

The Hound of Shadow doesn't just bit postman: he sends them into the outer darkness, second class. One of the more solid of H P Lovecraft's creations, the Hound finds itself called from the Cthullan kennels and dropped in 1920s London. It is your task to defeat him in this text adventure from Eldritch Arts.

You begin your quest to face the unfaceable, destroy the indestructable, tame the untamable, climb every mountain and ford every stream either by selecting one of the ready-made characters or more cosmically by creating yourself. Once you've got your sexuality sorted out and have decided whether to be American or British, it's time to pick a profession (I'll have a doctor please Bob).

When battling unearthly canines with bad attitudes it makes little difference whether you choose to be a Gentleman Adventurer - tall, athletic, thick as two planks - or a Psychic investigator - a whizz with the ghouls but crap at fighting - but this section does give you the chance to get into your role.

With profession in hand it's time to pick some skills: anything from swimming to occult knowledge. Job done, you save yourself to a User Disk. Tally ho! and into the scenario.

The game really hates to see you get lost. In fact it hates to see you going anywhere other than where it thinks you should be. To this end subsidiary characters crop up from time to time, usually when you've taken one turning too many, and helpfully give you directions back to where you should be. This can lead to ho-ho highly amusing situations where Mr Pleasant Gentleman tells you that you look lost and asks you where you want to go. You say "home" and shazam he points you in the right direction. Spooky eh? Well not really, no.

As a straight-down-the-line text adventure you would expect the parser to be something special, but strange things happen: the United Arab Emirates are in the World Cup and it doesn't make them Brazil, and the parser is about average. Loads of atmosphere-wrenching 'I beg your pardons' or 'Try agains' litter the screen and there are no Again or Repeat commands. A few of the function keys have been redefined to save you having to type Examine (and gosh you do a hell of a lot of that) but shortcuts are not the norm. This tend to defeat the purpose of a scenario which should rely on constant, unbroken tension and latent terror.

The first major scene is a seance. You are whisked away in a cab by your chu John who is not the most talkative cove in the world. At the seance, the game, rather than you, manages to wrk out that the Adept Karmi and his charming assistant Yasmin are fakes. Only after this revelation does the Adept point the finger, or rather the paw of the hound at a bookish young man. A dowager faints (before you've had the chance to get the brandy out the game tells you that you should help her) and you get to examine a lot of furniture before being lead away by friend John. It's all a bit too quick and there's too much nannying along by half.


An excellent way to create an atmosphere is by use of music, sound even... well any audio stimuli would have been nice. Unhappily, this chance to enhance the game is missed and you have to make do with a Walkman playing old Dr Who soundtracks.

An occasional graphic, such as a staircase, hits your screen in order to enhance the atmosphere. The problem here is that you can have graphics or text but not graphics and text. The atmosphere is fractured rather than heightened using this technique and the best advice is to toggle the pictures off.


With no sound and graphics which take over the screen, the Hound of Shadow relies on long descriptive passages to hold your attention. To give it its due, these are not half bad. There are none of those painful puns which disrupt other, similar, outings. The downside here is that you think that there must be an awful lot to examine when in fact there is very little. Those situations or objects which do require scrutiny are pointed out in no uncertain terms.


To make such slight use of the machine's capabilities seems a great shame. The lack of sound and the rather pallid graphics (the sepia tone of some is, one would suppose, an attempt at recreating the 1920s) only serve to lose concentration. As a tale, has a great deal of potential. If you were really set on exploring London, learning a tiny bit about Lovecraft's world (try some of his short stories) and finishing it because it's there, then you might have some fun. On the other hand, the Call of Cthullu board games and a few mates would do just the same job in not a dissimilar manner.

Schöne Grüße aus dem Jenseits!">

The Hound of Shadow logo

Electronic Arts präsentiert das okkulte Detektiv-Rollenspiel nun auch für unsere "Freundin". Das komplexe Textadventure mit gelegentlichen Grafikhäppchen spielt im England der 20er Jahre, zu einer Zeit also, als Okkultismus und Geisterbeschwörungen besonders in der Schickeria groß in Mode waren.

Der Hauptdarsteller ist ein Detektive aus Leidenschaft, dessen besonderes Interesse allem "Außernatürlichen" gilt. Die erste Aufgabe des Spielers besteht nun darin, den Charakter dieses Helden zu erschaffen. Kein leichtes Unterfangen: Eine dermaßen exakte und umfangreiche Form der Charakterbildung habe ich noch bei keinem anderen Rollenspiel erlebt!

Nach der Eingabe von Titel, Name, Geschlecht, Alter und Geburts-datum (!) gibt der Amiga eine Personenbeschreibung, die man entweder akzeptieren oder verwerfen kann. Dann geht's weiter mit Nationalität (Brite oder Ami), Beruf (oder Berufung?) und geleistetem Kriegsdienst. Letzter und aufwendigster Punkt ist die Festlegung der einzelnen Fähigkeiten wie Nahkampfausbilding, Pistolenschießen, Fahrkünste, Bluffen, Sprach-kenntnisse, geschichtliches Wissen und Astrologie.

Das Ganze wird durch Icons in nostalgischer Aufmachung dargestellt, die man bequem per Maus bedient. Der erschaffene Charakter verbessert seine Fähigkeiten (hoffentlich!) während des Spiels und kann sogar für zukünftige Timeline-Adventures weiterverwendet werden. Man sollte daher schon besondere Sorgfalt bei der Erstellung walten lassen, für ganz Faule finden sich aber schon drei vorgefertigte Schnüffler auf der Disk.

Wie bei Textadventures üblich, wird das Geschehen und die Umgebung durch mehr oder weniger lange Textpassagen beschrieben. Gelegentlich tauchen auch "angegilbte" und mäßig detailfreudige SW-Grafiken auf, in Sachen Sound herrscht generell zum Thema passende Grabesstille.

Die eigenen Aktionen gibt man dem Parser per Tastatur ein - und ärgert sich anschließend darüber, daß der die Hälfte nicht versteht (Infocom-Verwöhnte sollten beide Augen zudrücken!). Aufmachung und Bedienung sind also mindestens genauso altertümlich wie die Zeit, in der das Ganze spielt.

Die anspruchsvolle Story bietet dem Spieler eine ganze Reihe von harten Nüssen, die es zu knacken gilt - leider gehören dazu auch der englische Text und das Handbuch (vielleicht sollte man vorher erstmal Sprach-ferien auf der Insel machen?!).

Die anfänglichen Mühen bei der Charaktererschaffung zahlen sich im weiteren Ablauf jedoch voll und ganz aus: Je nach den persönlichen Fähigkeiten läuft die Geschichte immer etwas anders ab. The Hound of Shadow ermöglicht somit dem unerschrockenen (und englischkundigen!) Adventure-Freak wochenlange Ausflüge in die okkulten Welten des H.P. Lovecraft, wer jedoch mit schwierigen, zeitraubenden und manchmal sogar nervtötenden Spiel-Aufgaben auf Kriegs-fuß steht, sollte um den Schattenhund einen großen Bogen machen! (wh)

The Hound of Shadow logo

Electronic Arts

There is no clearly defined way to sum up the plot of Hound Of Shadow. Set around the start of the twentieth century, it's a combination of occult belief, aristocracy and five cent novels. As it winds a twisting path in true H P Lovecraft style. The plot alters subtle according to the side your character takes. You can opt to get involved in occult rituals, or help stamp them out, it's completely down to you.

Hound Of Shadow is described as a Role Playing Game, and in true RPG tradition it is necessary to either select one of the three supplied characters or create a new one. I created Mr Keith Campbell, a handsome, intelligent, healthy freelance reporter, with considerable knowledge of electrical engineering and the occult.

Now able to enter the game properly, I was surprised to find myself playing what seemed much more like an adventure than a typical RPG, with screenfuls of detailed text and a 'What Now?' prompt. Typical adventure commands are used, and although the parser accepts complex commands, talking to other characters proves very difficult. But progress through the game doesn't so much depend on solving mind-boggling problems, as using common sense, remembering what you've learned, and learning to keep appointments.

Play is in real time, and at first this is a little unnerving, since often you seem lost as to how to fill spare time. But whereas in an adventure, it's deceptively easy to think you are getting somewhere for little effort. Here good use can be made of a WAIT UNTIL command to move on to the next important bit of business. And as the story develops, the player's achievements are displayed with a WHAT DO I KNOW command, rather than SCORE.

A fairly sophisticated range of attributes can then be assigned to the different characters. These have a subtley different effect on the way the story is told, and possibly on its outcome, depending on the mix. There are numerous ways in which the scenario can end, and most of them are unsuccessful. Characters can be saved and used in future games in the series. But once a character is dead, it really is dead, and cannot be used again.

The text faithfully conveys the atmosphere of Edwardian London, as to the graphics - full-screen, sepia-toned pictures that load in at a prompt.Hound Of Shadow is a complete departure from traditional RPG and adventure, yet employing the popular features of both formats. Couple that with a well-researched and chilling story that's full of atmosphere, and it's got to be a winner amongst people who prefer thought-provoking games! If that's you, go out and buy it now!

The Hound of Shadow logo

Electronic Arts, Amiga £24.99

Inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft - a reclusive, eccentric author whose contribution to macabre fiction includes 'The Shuttered Room' and 'The Call Of Cthulhu' - The Hound Of Shadow (THOS) isn't, as you might think, about Hank Marvin's mutt but revolves around the occult and demonic doings of 1920 England.

It transpires that a devil doggy is about to leap into our dimension and hound humans to death. It's up to you to doggedly mar the mutt's malevolent mischief and send it back to the hairy hell from whence it cam (Barkshire?).

Before you undertake (probably not a good word to use in the circumstances) this terrifying task you may either create a character of your own to play with, or use one of three supplied with the game.

Character creating is a complex job but basically you choose your sex, name, age, title, nationality (American or British), profession (such as aristocrat, scholar or private eye, and skills (physical, social, academic, creative, logical, spiritual and investigative). Once you have provided your character with the basics, they (hopefully) hone their particular skills as play progresses.

The game begins with you in your flat awaiting a visit by your best friend - this character is the same sex as you and, if interacted with correctly, can be a great help to you. When he/she arrives, you both hop into a cab to attend a séance. It is at this séance that you receive an inkling of the presence of the hound and get dragged into doing something about it.

As you strive to discover more about the odd happenings at the séance, the freedom you're given to wander around London is great. You can take the tube or even catch a bus to places all around The Big Smoke. Walking the streets is limited however, as you're required to name (and go to) your destination after only a few moves. This is for your benefit as THOS is played in real time and you've not got forever to complete it - in fact the system used to create THOS is called Timeline and more games of this type are planned for release.

At the start of THOS you're guided a bit too much by the game and have no real freedom to do as you like, but as the plot thickens so your freedom to explore grows. Having the ability to create and play with as many characters as you like (only one at a time though) means that even once you've completed the game you can play again using another character and their different adventuring skills.