What happens when you mix the world of Lovecraft, abandoned science bases in the Antarctic, mystery, aspects of The Thing and the feeling of going crazy into a single game? You get Conarium, that's what. Normally a mixture like that can be a little dangerous, but Conarium manages to pull it off to a stunning effect.
You are Frank Gilman. You're an an Antarctic base waking up with amnesia. Everything is in disarray, and you need to work back, gaining back memories, while also continuing on with what you meant to do. Pure and simple, it's an amazing story. If Memento decided to to take the Lovecraft/secret Antarctic base route, this would be it. There's not a lot of dialogue, but the story comes out through a variety of ways. Amnesia isn't the most original device to tell a story, but it more than works here. And for such a world, it seems very real. It's reeeeeeeeally good.
The graphics are also surprisingly good. It's a mix of plain real world, exciting otherworldliness and just plain bizarre. You'll 'see' memories, and it plays out not as a flashback, but not in real life as well. Some parts are designed to look real but come across as artificial, such as poor color gradients or shadows not happening. Those are just nitpicks. You'll feel like you're there, and when graphics do that, they have more than done their job.
There's not too much with gameplay. There's no real shooting or anything involved. It's more of a walk around, point, click, and solve things. And that doesn't make it bad. It doesn't tell you where to go next, and trusts you to read into clues and to figure out where stuff is hidden. It took me awhile to figure out what to do with a cylinder recording for example – more time than I care to admit. It takes patience and intelligence, and the game does that right.
There's not much to say about controls. The Steam controls for a computer are fine. There are some odd key choices, but nothing that ever got frustrating.
The sound and music are good. Not too much in the music department, but there are some great licensed tracks that show up and give it a Bioshock vibe. Voicing is one of the few low points. Frank and others don't talk that much, but when they do, they don't emote well sometimes, or sound wooden. But sounds are where it's gold. Unlike some games that would ditch ambient sounds, Conarium doesn't. So that slight noise of being in a base, or the dripping of water, or subtle banging around somewhere adds a lot to the tension. It's like when noises happened in Alien. It's so subtle, but it makes you feel uneasy and adds to game so much. I didn't fully appreciate it early on, but after awhile it grows on you.
The frame rate was good, and there were no lags or glitches to report. Some of the buttons didn't react as fast as I would want and there were a few instances where loading times were a bit detrimental, but all-in-all, it ran pretty damn smooth.
Not many games can make you, not scared, but uneasy. Conarium does. It has so many high points, and most of all, kept me on the edge of my seat. Not many games can do that. You'll be amazed at a lot going on. This game is a must for people who like mysteries or liking psychological mysteries, and if you don't mind not shooting, you're going to see it as a fulfilling game. I had a great time with it.
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.