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Video Game / Barrow Hill

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Barrow Hill: Curse of the Ancient Circle is a horror adventure game created in 2006 by independent developers Matt Clark & Shadow Tor Studios.

The game is set in the site of Barrow Hill, which is based on real geographical locations in Cornwall, England. Forced to spend a sinister night there, you will investigate what is happening to the local people and why an archaeological dig, led by professor Conrad Morse, has created so much unrest and hostility among the local community. During your exploration you will discover the local legends and superstitions, while using modern electronic devices like PDAs, GPS and metal detectors to unfold the mystery.

Like many other games of its genre, Barrow Hill has every area be only one or two steps ahead of the previous one. As such, it can take up to twenty screens to get from one landmark to another, whereas most games would only take two or three. This leads to Empty Room Psych, where most areas have nothing in them.

Finally received a direct sequel, Barrow Hill: The Dark Path, in 2016.

Provides the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Area: Parts of the dig site are completely abandoned, the petrol station complete with an a running car, and a few other areas you explore.
  • Abandoned Playground: A small one, beside the restaurant.
  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: Some of the areas you can access only because the walls have vanished or been torn down.
  • Ancient Tomb: It's implied that the whole Barrow Hill is one giant tomb.
  • Artistic License Animal Care: Emma's blog mentions her buying Wincey a mountain cake at the service station. Said cake has chocolate drops for decoration, hence would be toxic for a dog.
  • Bloody Handprint: You find one or two in your adventures
  • Campbell Country: The setting takes place in a spooky Cornwall full of creepy ruins and folklore
  • Cat Scare: A few in the area, especially around the dig site, the back of the restaurant, and the woods.
  • Chekhov's News: Actually Chekhov's Commercial: one of the radio ads that plays if you leave the wireless blaring is for a product that contains one of the substances you need for the ritual offerings.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: A stone circle in Cornwall has been breached by an archaeological dig, and the player must re-sanctify the circle to placate its guardian.
  • Color-Coded Elements: The candles in the shrine need to be lit in the proper order, based on the elements their colors represent.
  • Creepy Crows: Crows will sometimes suddenly appear to startle the player.
  • Crop Circles: The stone circles get treated like this by some clues you find and an audio recording.
  • The Danza: Pirate radio DJ Emma Harry is played by...Emma Harry.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Subverted, just because its dark and you can't see doesn't mean instant death just means it's creepier. There are invisible walls up around darkened areas until you get a lantern, so you can't even go into them without a light.
  • Dead Air: A radio DJ you've just phoned gets chased from her beat-up Winnebago by the stalking menace. If you hang up the phone, go back inside, and check the radio, all you hear is dead air. This can be fixed if you visit the now-abandoned Winnebago and reset the equipment to broadcast a station-identification message.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Should you run into the sentinel stone during a random event, even if you're silly enough to touch the thing you'll be incinerated like the other victims...then the game will pick up where you just were a second ago.
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: Well, not all that disgusting in Curse, but certainly unpleasant. By the second game, they're all but collapsed and very gross.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: You should heed this advice buuuut you don't.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: one of the piles of ashes (that used to be people) found near the gas station is right next to a coloring book and crayons. Note that the closed-circuit video of the attack that created these ash-piles doesn't actually show the child it belonged to.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Wincey detects the approach of the Sentinel Stone before Emma does.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit: Justified, its the night of the Autumn Equinox so its very dark.
  • Featureless Protagonist: We know nothing about the player's character besides they were driving around rural England on the night of the equinox. In fact when using items to interact with the environment they usually just float around by themselves so the player's appendages aren't even seen then. We do see a caucasoid arm if they make the mistake of touching the sentry stone, and that's literally it.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The unnamed believer in the "old ways" who sealed the key to the Well's secret chamber into the base of the cross at the ruined chapel.
  • Floorboard Failure: Happens when you enter the barn's loft.
  • Foreboding Architecture: The stone circle counts for this.
  • Footprints of Muck: You find some shoe prints near an out crop of rocks.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Sometimes when your viewpoint passes over a window, the silhouette of the Sentry Stone can be glimpsed, lurking outside as if spying on you.
  • Gas Station of Doom: The most elaborate location in the game is an all-night petrol station with adjoining restaurant and garage. It's creepy and all but abandoned when you first arrive, and gets worse after the monster breaks into the room where the attendant is hiding and reduces him to ash.
  • Ghostly Chill
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Emma, the DJ, credits her dog Wincey with saving her life when the dog stands protectively between Emma and the Sentinel stone and is reduced to ash.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: It all takes place on the night of the Autumnal Equinox. The second game does too, although only because Ben's sister chose the ten-year anniversary of his death to try to conjure up an explanation for what happened to him.
  • I Choose to Stay: Even though she's been traumatized by the night's events, including the death of her dog and everyone else up on the barrow except the player, Emma decides she has to stay. To make sure the guardian doesn't awaken and wreak havoc again.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The radio DJ's announcements in the start of the game can be treated like this during the opening movie.
  • Plot Coupons: The pieces of the shattered relic you need to restore and give back to pacify the Sentinel Stone, but also the offerings of the elements you need to get inside the barrow to do it.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown: Near the middle of the game you have to call the radio DJ you were listening to in the opening cutscene to trigger the next plot event. Because of all the mystical power in the air or something, she keeps getting cut off when she's announcing the number until you tune into her show on the third radio you find.
  • Room Full of Crazy: The archeologist's hotel room.
  • Sanity Slippage: Ben, the attendant who locked himself inside the motel office trying to hide from the Sentry Stone. You can knock on the door and get him to talk to you for a little bit, but as you get deeper into the game he starts getting more and more unhinged from fear, until he accuses you of somehow being the mobile rock that fried those poor motorists to ash out in the forecourt.
  • Shout-Out: Emma's monologue after the climax is a clear reference to John Carpenter's The Fog (1980).
    • Emma herself makes a lot of Alice In Wonderland references, both during her radio broadcasts and on the station website.
    • One of the stones from the Circle is called "Cailleach", which was the folkloric alias of the villain from the classic Doctor Who episode "The Stones Of Blood". The game's Sentry Stone is virtually identical to that episode's silicon-based alien menace, the Ogri. The game's lone death scene is even virtually identical to a scene of a camper getting skeletonized by touching the Ogri.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: The stones that prevent you from leaving the area have a variant of energy that blocks you and ripples when touched very much like water.
  • Smoldering Shoes: Many of the piles of ash that the moving stone leaves behind contain partially-charred remnants of the victims' personal possessions.
  • Stopped Clock: All the clocks and watches you find have stopped at the same instant, and Emma comments that her clock has, too, during one of her live on-air radio bits. The fact that one analog clock's seconds hand is trembling in place suggests that time, itself, is frozen rather than just their mechanisms being interfered with.
  • The Eyes Have It: The stalking menace in Barrow Hill turns out to be a mobile stone from an ancient ring of Celtic monoliths Ben actually calls it "faceless" in one of his rants.
  • There Was a Door: How the wandering menace gains access to Ben in the office. Understandable, considering that giant moving stones can't turn doorknobs.
  • Waving Signs Around: The anti-dig protesters leave a lot of signs suitable for this trope lying around. Too bad for them that the Sentry Stone didn't care that they were on its side about stopping the dig...