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Video Game: Anchorhead
Anchorhead is an award-winning work of Interactive Fiction written and programmed independently by Michael Gentry, and is heavily inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos. The game is set within the titular town of Anchorhead, which rests firmly within Lovecraft Country. You play the role of a nameless woman who has moved into town with her husband Michael, and quickly becomes enmeshed in the dark, disturbing goings on — to say more would be to spoil a truly excellent plot.

The game is notable, in addition to its great writing and overall polished feel, for breaking the typical structure and conventions of an Interactive Fiction game; the narrative is broken up into "days", during which you must complete required courses of action in order to proceed to the next day.

Incidentally, you can find it here or here. The list of awards should really speak for itself.

Caution: spoilers may be found here.

Anchorhead provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Afterlife Express: Discoursed upon in a book of folklore and superstitions. (However, if you stand on the tracks and wait, you'll find the train is plenty real enough to run you over.)
  • Ancient Conspiracy: It goes all the way back to the town's founding.
  • And I Must Scream: One ending involves getting trapped in a dimension filled with nothing but "the necrotic folds of the womb of Nehilim".
  • Arc Words: "He always returns to his blood", "the buzzing of a fly" (or variants thereof), and "red-rimmed eyes" are three very prevalent phrases in this game.
  • Author Avatar: Michael, who shares his name and personality with the writer of the game.
  • Babies Ever After: A very, very dark subversion. In the "best" ending, the protagonist learns that she is pregnant, to her shock and horror, with the fear that Croseus may still somehow return. The story comes to a close with Michael ominously (though innocently) saying that he hopes the baby will be a girl.
  • Back Story: There's quite a bit of it. You'll need to put some of it together (reading newspaper articles, etc.) to advance the plot.
  • Big Bad: Croseus Verlac.
  • Big Fancy House: The Verlac mansion. (Lucky you, it's also a Haunted House. Who would have thought it?)
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Verlacs. And how.
  • Body Horror: William Verlac.
  • Book Ends: Both at the beginning in the deserted office, and at the ending scene which takes place in your bathroom, you hear that:
    There's a fly buzzing around here somewhere.
  • Brown Note: If you continue reading the book in the church.
  • Chekhov's Gun: (caution: massive spoiler here) Your wedding ring.
  • Closed Circle: Your car broke down and has been towed away to the city of Arkham, and your purse and phone are in it. The only phone you can find doesn't work; the road out of town leads into wilderness. In addition, as Croseus's power over him grows, Michael outright refuses to leave, and you're determined not to go without him.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: Between you and an intriguing-looking iron key in the corner of the Verlac mansion basement.
  • Corrupt Hick: An entire town full of them, actually.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Arguably — you can win in the short-term, but it's not exactly Lovecraft Lite, either; the "good" ending strongly implies that everything is about to start all over again.
  • Cult: Guess what — the majority of the town is in it.
  • Demonic Possession: Croseus Verlac has possessed several generations of his offspring, and does the same to Michael.
  • Diary: You can find two of them, belonging to Edward and Anna Verlac.
  • Dissonant Serenity: You, in the Non Standard Game Over where you go mad from reading the book and claw your own eyes out.
  • Downer Ending / Bolivian Army Ending: It depends on your interpretation, or, rather, on what you want to believe happens after the end.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come and Dreaming of Times Gone By: In your nightmares. Pay attention, they hold useful clues.
    • In one dream, you're a little girl, waiting for your father to come and tuck you in to bed... but when your "father" comes in to your room, you realize it is actually your husband Michael, as he starts to remove his belt. In the best ending, you find out that you are pregnant - this dream was a vision of what could have been your unborn daughter's future, had you not stopped Croseus.
  • Easter Egg: Try actually screaming or crying at various points in the game.
    • Also, try listening to your husband singing in the shower.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Ialdabaoloth.
  • Eye Scream: At least two, both by you (in self-defense, although one involves :you losing your mind and calmly clawing your own eyes out in a bad ending.)
  • Genre Savvy: The shopkeeper hints that he (or a friend of his) has been through his own Lovecraftian story, and recognizes that you're in the same situation.
  • Genius Loci: The Eldritch Abomination the cult worships is a living comet.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Several of the The Many Deaths of You. Some of the ways to do this include reading the black prayerbook all the way through, looking too closely at William, and killing Michael in the lighthouse.
  • Guess the Verb: Averted.
  • In the Blood: He always returns to his blood.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: A partial aversion — you can carry almost all the items you'll ever need in the pockets of your trenchcoat, but you can only hold so much in your hands at any one time.
  • Kill It with Fire: You'll start to see this late in the game, if you make it that far.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Since you're playing an every(wo)man-style character, this incongruous behavior is initially lampshaded.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Source of a key artifact you'll need to win the game.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: William, at least for the first few years of his life.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Verlac, i.e. "warlock" (it's German). Edward's letter calls Croseus one.
  • No Name Given: The player's character is never addressed by name, even by Michael.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: The game has a large number of grisly ways to die, including insanity and suffering a Fate Worse Than Death.
    • Actual deaths include getting fatally poisoned by spider bite, killed by monstrous tentacled things, hit by a train, cooked alive by high-pressure steam, mobbed and lynched by the cultists, strangled by your own possessed husband, choked to death by the ghost of Croseus Verlac... Yeah, it's a pleasant game.
  • Old Dark House: The Verlac mansion, which has hidden passageways, unsettling paintings, windows painted shut, a family crypt out back, a dank cellar, and an Eldritch Abomination in the Attic.
  • Orderlies Are Creeps: Chuck, the orderly of Danvers Asylum, enjoys reading pornographic magazines and making crass remarks.
  • Parental Incest: A route to immortality. Ew.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: You can spy on Michael through the eyes of Croseus Verlac's portrait in the sitting room.
    • Extra Fridge Horror and Paranoia Fuel when the player remembers that, when you're in the sitting room, it sometimes appears to move subtly, "like the eyes are looking directly at you".
  • Power of Love: Plays a crucial role in the ending... with the help of a couple bits of jewelry.
  • Red-Rimmed Eyes, Take Warning
  • Shout-Out: As the author puts it, plainly clear to anyone who's read Lovecraft or the Cthulhu mythos, or even "stood downwind from someone who has." Among them are the city of Arkham, Whateley Bridge, the Miskaton University library...
    • The magic shop's violin (and the violin music you can hear in the lane nearby) are an extended reference to The Music of Erich Zann, also by Lovecraft.
    • The paintings in the mansion's gallery are horrifying, fantastical, and detailed to the point of photorealism. Paintings by Richard Pickman, in Pickman's Model (a short story by Lovecraft), were said to have the same qualities. And, in both cases, they actually depict reality.
    • Several aspects of the town are pretty clear nods to The Shadow Over Innsmouth, particularly the librarian with "fish-eyes" and the local drunk who gives the protagonist key information for the price of a bottle of whiskey.
    • The abduction and sacrifice of children hints at The Dreams in the Witch-House.
    • William is most definitely inspired by The Dunwich Horror. And he finally shows up on Whateley Bridge, named after the monstrous brothers in that story.
    • Croseus Verlac's M.O. is taken straight out of The Thing On The Doorstep.
  • Spooky Painting: Croseus Verlac's painting in the sitting room.
  • Take Your Time: In dire situations, the game averts this, sometimes to frustrating effect. Most of the time, however, you do get to take your time, since the first three days don't advance to evening until you've solved all the major puzzles for that day.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The book in the church. Reading it all the way through causes a Non-Standard Game Over.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: All of it.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: How you got to Anchorhead in the first place. (Actually, Michael only inherited the house because the previous heir killed his entire family. Unfortunately for you, the Call can find a way.)
  • Textgame Cruelty Potential: You are gonna have to do some nasty stuff to escape the horrors of Anchorhead. You have the potential to do much worse than necessary, including murdering your own husband.
  • Villainous Incest: How Croseus' spirit has carried on his bloodline.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Plenty, and frequently includes Go Mad from the Revelation. You'll get a few glimpses of Things Man Was Not Meant to Know throughout, but be careful about digging too deeply.

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alternative title(s): Anchorhead
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