In the fall of 1945, in the pages of the New Yorker, Edmund Wilson lambasted H.P. Lovecraft as a peddler of “hack-work” who was, in short, “not a good writer.” His most cutting (and famous) remark has dogged the author’s legacy since: “The only real horror in most of these fictions,” Wilson quipped, “is the horror of bad taste and bad art.”
I was reminded of the quote as I played The Sinking City, a supernatural-horror mystery game inspired by Lovecraft’s fiction. Faced with this game’s crude visuals, monotonous storytelling, and graceless mechanics, I knew exactly how Wilson felt.
The Sinking City is a pastiche of Lovecraft lore that draws heavily on the characters, settings, and themes of some of his most celebrated stories. The game especially draws from “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” about a young man’s perilous visit to a mysterious port town on the coast of New England overrun by a race of fish-people.
You are Charles Reed, a shell-shocked veteran turned sullen private investigator, newly arrived in the fictitious town of Oakmont, Massachusetts to learn more about the disturbing visions that have been troubling you since the war. The town, however, is beset by its own eerie problems, and naturally you are tasked, the moment you step foot in the place, to solve these and others as you look to uncover the truth.