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Video Game / Arcane Online Mystery Serial

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A two-season Point-and-Click Adventure flash game series based on the Cthulhu Mythos and developed by Sarbakan in 1998, Arcane follows the adventures of Prescott Bridgeman, Dr. Gregor MacDermoth and his daughter, Ophelia, a trio of paranormal investigators from The Roaring '20s.

In the first season, The Miller Estate, they are called to the eponymous villa in the New England town of Duncan Creek, where a rash of mysterious disappearance — most notably of Alvin Carter, the last tenant — have been taking place. While there, they begin to realize that the cause of these disappearances is not of this world and have some sort of connection to a mysterious cult known as the Elder Star.

The second season, The Stone Circle, is set in London, England, where Ophelia is invited to play her violin at the London Philharmonic Society, while Prescott is given a letter by a mysterious woman named Alicia Blackwood, who had previously been mentioned in the first season as an enemy of the Cardinal and ally of Alvin Carter, and is requested to retrieve a series of relics scattered across London before the Elder Star can find them.


Unfortunately, the series was Cut Short after the cliffhanger of the second season. The original host for the first season removed the game shortly after the second season's release, and Warner Bros removed The Stone Circle several years after, meaning the only ways to play the game now are through the Wayback Machine (for Stone Circle only) or through various random sites that unofficially host the game's episodes.

The unusual nature of how the first season's files were hosted, however, means that the Miller Estate can no longer be played as originally intended. On the original site, the flash and MIDI files would be embedded in a frame and call one another, creating the illusion of a single unified game on one page, with a main menu launching the episodes. Because of the loss of these unifying components, only the actual gameplay segments of its four episodes are hosted now on individual pages- the soundtrack, the episode menu, and the intro cinematics are missing from these sites, as well as the code required by the save game function. The cinematics, menu, opening theme, and menu theme can all be found here for the moment being, but the rest of the soundtrack and the original unified format may be lost forever.


Arcane provides examples of:

  • Agent Scully: Despite having personally seen the Guardian of the Stone, and acknowledging that the Amulet of Mnar is protecting him from Brother Barnstable's Brown Note ability, Prescott remains skeptical of the paranormal.
  • All There in the Manual: The characters' backstories are all given on the game's website. The original website for The Miller Estate also provided the context of the series' framing device.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The Great Old Ones, according to H. P. Lovecraft, are beyond terms such as good and evil, and are more amoral than anything. Here, they're explicitly described as "evil", and their only goal is to "restore their reign of chaos and terror." Although how much of this is just from the perception of humanity and the new gods is unclear.
    • A variant is given for the Elder Sign. In both the works of Lovecraft and August Derleth, the Elder Sign is meant as protection against the Great Old Ones and their servants. In Arcane, it's the symbol of the Elder Star, and can be used to drive a person insane.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Shub-Niggurath. In most stories, Shubby is depicted as a cloudlike Great Old One (or Outer God) who can spawn an endless number of tentacled abominations at will. Here, he appears as a tall demon who was overpowered by a group of knights and had his dismembered remains scattered across England. Furthermore, he is subservient to the Talisman of Yhe. The Great Ancients as a whole count, too, as according to the Book of Yhe, they can also be subjugated or destroyed by the Talisman, whereas in most stories, they range from Nigh Invulnerable to completely immortal.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Twice, thanks to our heroes.
  • Big Bad: The Cardinal, though he splits the duties with Alicia Blackwood in the second season.
  • Blob Monster: The Guardian of the Stone, though it sometimes assumes a more anthropomorphic form.
  • Body Horror:
    • In the séance episode of The Stone Circle, with each wrongful click of the mouse, Gregor, the Baroness, and Prescott degenerate into rotten, warped, tentacled monstrosities.
    • Baroness Vonarburg’s death, where her flesh rapidly melts off of her body.
  • Breather Episode: After the dark and claustrophobic second episode of The Stone Circle comes a relatively straightforward Stealth-Based Mission in which the player actually has the opportunity to dispose of some of the forces threatening them. Similarly, after the unusually action-packed and difficult climax of the fourth episode, the fifth has relatively few puzzles to solve and no additional threats beyond the usual timed mission setup.
  • But Thou Must!: Appears to be the case with our heroes and their role in the repeated The Bad Guy Wins.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Cardinal.
    The Cardinal: You thought you could choose between good and evil. Poor little creatures, good does not exist.
  • Cool Car: Baroness Vonarburg's Bentley, which is used in the last two episodes of season two.
  • Cold Open: The third and fourth episodes of the Miller Estate each have one.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: It’s based on the Cthulhu Mythos, so what else would you expect? Free will is likely an illusion, the "good" deities never directly intervene with the Cardinal's schemes (and what little they do to help is ultimately compatible with his plans), and the potential to Go Mad from the Revelation grows closer with each aimless click of the mouse. And that's not even saying anything of the mysterious, ever-present shadowy Eldritch Abomination that seeks to devour the protagonists. However, it’s not quite as bleak as the Lovecraft Mythos, and borrows more than a few ideas and images from the Derleth Mythos, so it could arguably be considered Lovecraft Lite.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Prescott kills the Elder Star's strongman by throwing cleaning chemicals down the chute to the furnace.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Cardinal's henchmen wear dark hats and trench coats, while most of their physical features are obscured.
  • Developers' Foresight: Some episodes' countdown animations have several variations depending on the player's current location and situation. For example, the first episode of the second season typically has the shadow kill the homeless drunk as it approaches, but it will spare him if the player has not already obtained the necessary item from interacting with him.
  • Devil, but No God: According to the Cardinal, at least. However, the existence of benevolent gods that want to help humanity and the implication that he was eventually thwarted seem to suggest otherwise.
  • Downer Ending: Both seasons. After playing into the Cardinal’s hands both times, it appears that Failure Is the Only Option, although Ophelia doesn’t seem to think so. Mitigated by the Framing Device of the story, in which Ophelia's diaries are being read by a man in 1999 seeking to learn how the Elder Star was beaten the last time they appeared; because of this, it's a Foregone Conclusion that had the series continued the protagonists would have eventually prevailed, at least in the 1920s.
  • Eldritch Abomination: A few of them. Most notably, the formless shadow monster that chases the protagonists in a few episodes, the Guardian, and Shub-Niggurath. Then, of course, there are the Great Ancients themselves, who are the Trope Codifiers.
  • Evil All Along: Baroness Alicia Vonarburg, real name Alicia Blackwood.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Cardinal, especially in The Stone Circle.
  • Gender Flip: Most interpretations of Shub-Niggurath depict it as female. Here, it is a male demon.
  • The Ghost: Alicia Blackwood until the end of The Stone Circle reveals her as the Baroness.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Ophelia’s mother, after seeing an African tribe summon a monster.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Great Ancients are responsible for the Cardinal's schemes in the first place, as well as the rash of disappearances in Duncan Creek caused by their servant, the Guardian of the Stone.
  • The Heavy: The Guardian of the Stone in the first season, as it is responsible for all the paranormal threats that occur in the Miller Estate.
  • How We Got Here: In true Lovecraftian fashion. Both seasons have a young man who comes to visit an elderly Ophelia in the present day, seeking to learn how the Cardinal was beaten so he can stop a new threat that has arisen. She gives him her diary, which consists of the story as we know it.
  • I'm Melting!: Type 1 happens to Baroness Vonarburg after she recites the incantation to awaken Shub-Niggurath.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Upon opening the closet to find the withering corpse of Alvin Carter, Ophelia remarks, "There's a skeleton in this closet."
  • Just Hit Him: Prescott is confronted by Brother Barnstable in the fourth episode of The Stone Circle. He is chased up to the roof of the armored train car, and stands there while continually dodging Barnstable's attempts to slash at him with a knife and making no attempt to escape or fight back. It isn't until Ophelia decouples the train cars that Prescott finally knocks Barnstable out cold with a single punch and jumps to the next car.
  • Lovecraft Lite: Despite the Cardinal's insinuation that mankind has no free will and that Resistance Is Futile, the new gods — who had defeated the Great Ancients before the dawn of man — seem more than willing to help save humanity, albeit without direct intervention. The existence of the Framing Device shows that the Cardinal's winning streak did not last forever. And even in her old age, Ophelia certainly seems to believe that there's still hope for humanity.
  • Manipulative Bastard: The Cardinal. His ultimate goal is to free the magical energies of the three nodes and bring about The End of the World as We Know It. And the trio play right into his hands. Twice.
    • Alicia Blackwood, aka the Baroness Vonarburg in the second season, who manages to set the heroes to work seeking the pieces of the demon and remain right under their noses undetected after Faking the Dead.
  • Mishmash Museum: The Museum of Anthropology, which Gregor visits in episode five of season two, has a long corridor lined up with artifacts of various cultures that are all completely unrelated to each other.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The Guardian of the Stone.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In both seasons, the Cardinal thanks the heroes for activating the nodes and bringing the world closer to its doom. On a grander scale, the new gods could be blamed for this, as well. Downplayed if you take into account the implication that the heroes eventually managed to beat the Cardinal.
  • No Name Given: Possibly subverted with the Cardinal. A book in the library in episode 3 of The Miller Estate is written by one Cardinal Kardec, although it's not necessarily clear that this is the same man as the current Cardinal.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: If the shadow monster or whatever enemy is currently in pursuit catches up with the player character, the game usually just shows their horrified expression (sometimes accompanied by a scream) and Fades To Black.
  • Omnicidal Maniac:
    The Cardinal: Soon, I will strike with the power of the Great Ancients. The only TRUE masters of the universe! NYAHAHAHA!
  • The Ophelia:
    • Ophelia (duh), who has psychic visions and is mistaken for a schizophrenic in the present day by her ornery nurse.
    • Her mother, as well, who was driven mad after witnessing an African tribe summon a terrifying monster implied to be Cthulhu. It’s pretty safe to say where, exactly, Ophelia received her gift.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Cardinal, literally (or approximately literally).
  • Red Herring: While investigating the train, Ophelia comes across an armored car that Brother Barnstable was guarding, and she concludes that the relics are being held there. Turns out that they're actually in the car in front of the one where you started.
  • Religion of Evil: The Elder Star.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Baroness Alicia Vonarburg, aka Alicia Blackwood, attempts to usurp the Cardinal as leader of the Elder Star by aiding Alvin Carter in the first season and later awakening and attempting to enslave Shub-Niggurath, spelling certain doom for humanity. Her victory is short-lived, as she melts after awakening him, and he consumes her blood.
  • Rule of Three: To defeat both the Guardian of the Stone and Shub-Niggurath, one has to strike the former with the Dagger of Malhazred three times, and bind the latter's hands and head with the Talisman of Yhe.
  • Sanity Slippage: The best-case scenario as to what happens to the player character with each pointless click of the mouse. See also Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Great Ancients. They're trapped somewhere beyond time and space, and wait for someone to unleash them upon the world.
  • Sinister Minister: The Cardinal, of course.
  • Straw Nihilist: The Cardinal refers to the world as a “joke”, and firmly believes that humans have no free will.
  • Tears of Blood: Click aimlessly too many times in episode 2 of The Miller Estate, and the painting of the old woman will start bleeding from the eyes, and slowly transform into a portrait of Ophelia.
  • Time-Travel Episode: The sixth episode of the Stone Circle, although it's a little more abstract and loaded with Mind Screw than usual.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Each episode has at the least a different animation for the player's death upon running out of time (along with several unique animations as the threat grows closer). In some episodes other hazards exist with additional unique animations, such as the Cardinal's henchmen.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Book of Seth in The Miller Estate, which gives instructions on how to defeat the Guardian. In The Stone Circle, Prescott stumbles upon the Trope Codifier itself, the Necronomicon. Turning the page results in an instant Brown Note and a game over. There is also the Book of Yhe, which has been lost to the past and explains how the new gods banished the Great Ancients and created the Talisman to aid humanity should they ever rise again.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Given as a possible explanation for the Cardinal’s powers and immortality.
  • Ultimate Evil: In some episodes, there is an Eldritch Abomination that chases the player characters, but its true form is never seen beyond the shapeless shadow it casts. Considering the player character's reactions when it catches up to them, it may be far more horrific than what the player gets to see of it.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Ophelia is incredibly guilty of this in both seasons. Finds a decayed corpse in a wardrobe? Makes a pun about skeletons in closets. Watches a man fall to his death right in front of her? Takes the keys out of his pocket and thanks him for his help. Has a vision where she finally meets her Missing Mom? Only acts mildly confused and barely says two sentences to her before leaving without so much as a good-bye.
  • Violation of Common Sense: In the first episode of the second season, a drunk guy threatens Prescott with a knife and tells him not to touch his stuff. Prescott takes his bottle of alcohol from him, and surprisingly doesn't get stabbed for doing so. In fact, the drunk guy immediately leaves (despite still demanding to get his booze back) and is never seen again.

Example of: