Caution: Minor Spoilers
Gibbous: A Cthulu Adventure is a point and click adventure game developed and published by Stuck in Attic, a Transylvanian indie studio based in Tirgu Mures. At launch, 7 Aug 19, it will be available on PC via Steam and GOG.
From the start, Gibbous surrounds the player with rich art style and a heavy story-based immersive experience. You will utilize one of several protagonists in an investigative format to solve the game’s underlying mystery surrounding the Necronomicon. In long-standing point and click fashion, you will talk to people, examine numerous places and objects, and combine items to progress past each scene.
Gibbous is easily accessible and enjoyable right from the start. Lush animated cut scenes compliment the game’s already striking visual setting. And while it doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of gameplay, it offers a well polished take on a preexisting format. I had no issues exploring each scenario and piecing together the clues, although some required more thought than others. If your the type to get stuck easily however, an interactive help system via Don’s notepad or Kitteh is available at any time.
The best part about Gibbous is the way it handles itself. It both takes itself seriously in its own way and doesn’t at the same time. Right from the get-go you’ll be met with endless puns, tropes, references, 4th wall breaks,and more. The comedic side ranges from screwball to parody and deep satire and there were very few instances where I didn’t find myself chuckling at something. Anyone in their mid thirties or older are going to see a lot of movie, book, and game references that will either make you laugh or at the very least pause to wonder where you know it from.
The only reservation I would add to the gameplay is that you can often acquire objects before you have an apparent story based need for them. This is not limited to Gibbous though and is a common theme amongst this particular genre of game.
Gibbous follows the stories of private investigator Don R. Ketype, librarian Buzz Kerwan, and his kitty uhhhh….Kitteh. Don is hired to track down the Necronomicon, a book which Buzz uses accidentally to imbue his cat Kitteh with the ability to speak. Kitteh is not impressed by this blessing and demands Buzz to undo the damage he has caused. If this sounds like parody adventure in motion, don’t worry, it is. Gibbous does a great job of not only crafting an adventure you’ve heard of before, but also making fun of that adventure and then throwing its own secret recipe of twist on it.
The game follows a singular narrative where you will control one character at a time in independent scenes. Following the trail of the legendary Necronomicon and its talking cat inducing powers, the protagonists will deal with cults, odd and humorous characters, and tropes of all kinds. Each scene will require multiple items and discussions to solve the problems that let you progress through to the next setting.
“Your heart is the tip of a glacier that was accidentally bitten off by a blind, evil, old sea monster Kitteh!“
Outside of the comedic realm, the other main influence of the game is the Lovecraftian aspect. Compared to many other games wielding the brand, Gibbous uses it as a light hearted setting more than a fear-based driving horror plot. That’s not to say there aren’t serious Cthulian references, just that the gravity of them are toned down in favor of a humurous atmosphere.
As a point and click adventure, Gibbous handles just fine via KBM and the in game controls themselves are relatively simple. Pressing the space bar highlights interactive hotspots for those who prefer to progress as quickly as possible. The game can also be navigated without visual cue assistance for those who want more immersion without much difficulty.
You can control any protagonist with the left mouse button and can speed up walking with a double click. Investigation and interaction is also performed with a simple left-click. By pressing in the scroll wheel, you can interact, examine, and use any items in your inventory. You can also zoom using the right mouse button if you want to zoom in on specific parts of the game or artwork.
Gibbous is available in over 13 languages utilizing subtitles to support the voice acting. There were no options to either remap buttons or for controller support. The camera pans as your character moves to different parts of each scene and does not have individual controls outside of the zoom function.
Each scene in Gibbous is essentially a beautiful painting which should remind anyone of a 80s/90s Disney style of artwork. With the majority of the game taking place in dreary settings, each area is filled with a sort of dark contrast that embodies the Lovecraftian spirit. And though there is no true third dimension, the depth illustrated via shadows and shading provide a nice faux dimensional depth.
The animations have a certain Disney studio quality to them as well, especially during cut scenes. All this is impressive when you consider that a three person studio was behind the endeavor. My only personal qualm would be the mouth movements not being synced with the voice work during regular gameplay. This doesn’t take away from the game’s quality however, and is an understandable move from a small studio.
The voice acting in Gibbous is easily my favorite aspect of the game. The various actors involved all performed to a consistent high quality for the genre. I often find the voice acting in indie games to be tolerable at best but the cast of Gibbous had a certain gravitas to their performances that was truly reminiscent of older animation titles. Even when the majority of the spoken dialogue is parodical in nature, every line seems to be uttered with dedication to the role.
The orchestrations in Gibbous are well thought out for the setting and add to the games allure. It mostly feels influenced by more melancholy Victorian era styles and fits many of the scenes like a glove. The string and brass parts in the various tracks in particular were beautifully performed and added a sense of allure and wonderment to the handcrafted artwork.
Side Note: Try being idle in the Fishmouth harbor for a little sea shanty based fun.
With beautiful scenery, thematic music, constant laughs, and a very far reaching but familiar plot line, Gibbous is an easy win. The consistent noir-styled commentary and narration will bring a smile to your face in a Sam Raimi sort of way. In Gibbous, the campiness is unequivocally the basis of its charm. It doesn’t hesitate to be a self aware game and to remind you to both enjoy and laugh at the light and dark aspects of things. Any fans of the point and click genre should have a great time. Lovecraft fans who may be on the tired end of the recent slew of Cthulian games should still enjoy the narrative of Gibbous as it takes a comedic approach without being disreputable to the source material.