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Video Game / Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

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Sanity will be in short supply

Now, at my end, I can fully see. My last case opened in me a fear, a real fear. A fear of myself; of what I am, and what I've always been. All that I was is now lost. Hope? Purpose? Pleasure? All meaningless. I now walk in the shadows between worlds, and it is there that I have finally glimpsed what lives in the dark corners of the earth...

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a horror/adventure video game based on the Cthulhu Mythos, specifically The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Shadow Out of Time. It is the last title developed by the now-defunct Headfirst Productions, and was published by Bethesda Softworks in the year 2005.

Players take on the role of Jack Walters, a police detective with a reputation for seemingly impossible insight into difficult cases, in 1920's Massachusetts. At the start of the game, the Boston Police Department has arrived at an old manor at the edge of the city to investigate alleged crimes of a resident cult called the Brotherhood of Yith. The cult is armed with rifles, and refuses to allow the police into the manor. They demand that Jack Walters be sent in to speak with them.

Walters arrives, but a shootout occurs anyway. Taking cover, Walters accidentally locks himself inside the manor. What he finds inside is quite disturbing. Skip ahead a few years, and Walters has lost his memory of what exactly happened inside, and the events afterwards. It turns out that whatever happened inside the manor gave him a Split Personality, and his new identity had taken over his body for half a decade, resulting in him getting incarcerated in an Arkham sanatorium. Though he is eventually declared sane and released, Walters is obviously no longer fit to be in the police force, and is now trying to make a living as a private investigator, actually investigating what he did himself during his period of amnesia between cases for other clients.


His latest job, after business has slumped somewhat, is to find a missing grocer in the town of Innsmouth.

It turns out that the missing person case and his amnesia are connected, and he ends up on a batshit-insane quest to both rescue the grocer from creepy cultists and discover what happened to him at the Brotherhood of Yith.

Except for a few seconds at the start of the game, the entire experience takes place in first-person, from the viewpoint of Jack Walters. There is also no HUD at all, nor are any icons or prompts overlaid onto the main window at any time. Walters's health, and mental state, can be measured by the blurriness of his vision, whether or not he is limping, the shallowness of his breathing, the blood on his eyelids, and so forth. Objects that can be interacted with (usually) glow softly.


Sadly the game's engine has not aged well. There are a lot of compatibility issues which were only compounded by the studio going bankrupt shortly after release meaning there's no official bug fix patches, though a couple of dedicated fans have tried their hands at some. Still Dark Corners of the Earth is considered by some critics to be an excellent, if not the best, Survival Horror video game at the time of release.

Not to be confused with the tabletop game Call of Cthulhu nor with its official videogame adaptation Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game. Now available for 9.99 USD on Steam, and 5 USD on GOGDotCom so no need to Keep Circulating the Tapes.

This video game provides examples of:

  • 100% Completion: Gathering all collectible intel items as well as performing all optional actions is required to get the extended ending that actually explains what the hell was going on with Jack the whole time. That's just one requirement, though. You also need to score an "A" rank in the game by finishing quickly, not using too many saves, and overall playing exceptionally well. Or you can just watch it on Youtube. There is an unofficial fan-made patch here that removes some of the limitations, so one can actually take time to enjoy the game and still get the best ending.
  • Action-Based Mission: Contrasting with the usually intended stealth gameplay, Jack is forced to fight during sequences like the warship level or some portions of the last level, which both involve to move through hordes of Deep Ones.
  • Adapted Out: As this is a Pragmatic Adaptation of the "Escape from Innsmouth" and "Raid on Innsmouth" campaigns from Call of Cthulhu, something things had to be left out or condensed. Most of the raid takes place offscreen, so the players don't raid the Marsh Manor and meet Nyarlathotep, they don't get to take part in the submarine attack on the underwater city, or witness Brian Burnham's alternate fate of being eaten alive by Dagon. And much more.
  • Adaptational Badass: In the source material, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the main character was a college student who visited Innsmouth on a whim. He was chased out of town in much the same manner as Jack before passing out from horror upon seeing a Deep One in person. He still brought death to the Deep Ones and dismantled the Marsh family's empire, but only by virtue of telling the authorities who then did all the real work. Compare that to Jack, who is MUCH more hands on.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Downplayed with Obed Marsh. In the original story Obed was implied to have been a Card-Carrying Villain who summoned the Deep Ones to Innsmouth purely out of Greed and who was willing to give them whatever they wanted in exchange for their gold. His journals in the game make him out to be more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist, who only summoned the Deep Ones in order to save his dying city and then had to keep working with them because breaking the deal meant they would slaughter his people. His descendants are still just as evil as they ever were, though.
  • The Alcoholic: Zadok Allen reprises his role from the short story as the town drunk of Innsmouth who, for a gift of some liquor, tells the protagonist about the town's history. Needless to say, he has his reasons for being drunk all the time.
  • All There in the Manual: You will have a much easier time understanding the plot, if you've read H. P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and "The Shadow Out of Time". Then again, the sense of waking horror and discovery is far stronger for those who are less Lovecraft savvy. It works well on both levels. Also, if you can get your hands on the source book for the tabletop campaign, it provides a lot more insight on everything going on. Good luck, it's been out of print for decades.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The cultists, and possibly Dagon and Mother Hydra too, are scared of what lurks in the tunnels beneath the underwater temple, namely The Flying Polyps.
  • Anyone Can Die: Once the action kicks in. Not only can anyone die, everyone does die, except for a few of your FBI buddies.
  • Apocalyptic Log: A number of lore entries are written from the perspective of people who are about to die. Also, the events of the game itself are this: the last recollections of Jack Walters explaining why he killed himself in the asylum.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: The basic pistol is of course the weakest weapon, taking two headshots to kill a basic fishman mook...even though it's a forty five. Especially jarring since in most survival horror games of the time, anything stronger than a 9MM was treated like antitank weaponry.
  • Artificial Stupidity: You can shoot Mooks with a shotgun and their friends across the street won't even notice. Indeed, at times you can shoot the Mooks themselves and if they do not see Jack they will ignore that they have been shot and carry on with whatever they were doing.
  • Artistic License – History: The Bureau of Investigation is referred to as the FBI, even though it wouldn't be referred to by that name until 1935, more than a decade after the events of this game.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: During your first trip in the sewers you can get a quick glance of the Shoggoth's tentacles coming out of a well. You'll get to see it more closely later in the Refinery level.
  • Badass Crew: Literally, the sailors of the Coast Guard Cutter Urania. They are all well-armed and when Deep Ones attack the ship the sailors may end up killing more of them than you do. They get overwhelmed eventually, and then all die when the ship sinks.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible:
    • The Innsmouth townspeople, under orders from the Order of Dagon.
    • Averted with Zadok and Rebecca. Though they advise you to leave as quickly as you can, they let you in on a bit of information regarding the town.
  • Bedlam House: The creepy asylum Jack spent the years from 1916 to 1922 in. Most of it seems to be Jack's own hallucinations, but it's implied the asylum itself wasn't too wonderful either.
  • Being Watched: The player may notice those things on the roofs are not gargoyles.
  • BFG:
    • The naval destroyer's guns that serve to put down Father Dagon and his priests.
    • Also, an aeons-old electrical gun with an inexhaustible power source, courtesy of The Great Race of Yith. It's the only thing that can harm Flying Polyps, and clever use of it kills Mother Hydra.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate:
    • Dagon and Hydra, who are the father and mother, respectively, of the Deep One race and their gods/monarchs.
    • The Flying Polyps could also be considered this, as well.
  • Big Damn Heroes: A midgame example. Just as Jack's fellow escapees are shot and their car ran off the road, Mackey's agents appear guns blazing and rescue Jack (whether this improves his situation is another story).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jack kills himself in the asylum, unable to cope with the terrifying truths both about the universe and himself he has discovered, but Mother Hydra has been killed, and Dagon and his order has been crippled, perhaps permanently, and ruining the Deep Ones foothold on land. Not quite Lovecraft Lite, but downright upbeat for the end of a Cosmic Horror Story.
  • Body Horror: Implied but not actually shown, aside from increasingly deformed versions of Innsmouth's populace. There's also the cultist being kept in a state of perpetual dying, with his organs removed from his body and kept functioning in the machines around him.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Robert Marsh has Jack at his mercy towards the end of the game. So what does he do? Instead of killing him, he throws him into a brig. With a chisel inside.
  • Boring, but Practical: Due to its power and accuracy, the M1903 Springfield is generally the most useful weapon in the game.
  • Bookends: The final cutscene is the same as the first, only with the visions of the dead little girl added and Jack dying while doctors try to save him.
  • But Thou Must!: Early on in the game, there is no way to advance the plot except by unleashing a Deep One that murders a little girl, the guilt of which plagues the protagonist throughout the rest of the story.
  • Cap: An inventory cap of 10 bandages, 5 sutures, 5 splints, and 2 antivenom. Ammunition is also capped, and entries that are at the cap are shown in green.
  • Cassandra Truth: Jack is a downplayed example. While the authorities do accept his help they refuse to acknowledge his full psychic abilities. A lot of BI agents, marines, and sailors end up dying because they won't listen to the man when he tells them trouble is coming.
  • Catchphrase: "I'm not in the business of making requests, Mr. Walters." is one for J. Edgar Hoover.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: Jack, Burnham and Ruth as they try to escape from Innsmouth.
  • Clawing at Own Throat: The suicide sequence seems to imply that the player character strangles himself.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: As a gameplay mechanic. The first time you see a monster, gore scene, etc. will cause far more sanity loss than subsequent times. This is good, since the game (especially boss fights) would be pretty much impossible if you couldn't even look at the enemies without dying. A good example is the Shoggoth, which can cause an instant game over from sanity loss if you don't quickly look away the first time you see it, slowly drains your sanity if you look at it for an extended period during the boss fight itself, and then affects you hardly at all by the time you're finally ready to kill it for good. There are exceptions, like the idol of Cthulhu which will drain your sanity rapidly no matter how long you look at it, and ultimately, Jack only manages to keep a Stiff Upper Lip until the game is over, when it all finally gets to him and he kills himself in the asylum.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Or, more accurately, Lovecraftian Kitchen Sink. Most of the most famous of H.P.'s creations are featured at one point or another in this game, and even woven into one another rather cleverly.
  • Controllable Helplessness: The 'interrogation' of Jack by Hoover isn't a cutscene but an actual playable sequence during which the player is tied on a bed and can only move Jack's head.
  • Convection Schmonvection: During part of the Marsh Refinery level, you walk on catwalks above gigantic vats of molten gold, but are completely unaffected. Shortly thereafter, you have to save J. Edgar Hoover from being dipped in the gold; you're on a time limit, but the NPC will only die the moment he actually touches the gold.
  • The Corruption: Almost everyone in Innsmouth. It's mentioned that half the population is really corrupted while the other half is just too afraid to do anything about it. So with the corrupted roaming the streets looking for you and the more normal people hiding indoors, it's more like everyone from Innsmouth you meet.
  • Creepy Child: Ramona, who draws pictures of destruction, death, and monsters. She's half-Deep One, and she's receiving visions of horror in her dreams.
  • Climax Boss: The battle against Dagon on the deck of the Urania, where you can only hurt him by shooting him in the face with the cutter's main gun, is a truly epic fight and generally considered to be the high point of the game.
  • Death of a Child: Poor little Ramona...
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: At one point, you have to flee into the sewers, but the way is blocked by a sharp fan. You have to break one of the blades to slow it down and open a passage and even then you'll get chopped (but not always killed) if you're hit.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: It's blatantly obvious that there is something very fishy about the people of Innsmouth. It's an interesting example, though, as the in-game human characters actually do notice... they just don't have any legal basis to do anything about it. At first...
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Almost literally. Injuring (possibly killing) Dagon with the main gun of a small United States Coast Guard cutter, killing Hydra with a Yithian Lightning Cannon, slaying two Flying Polyps with the same weapon, and killing a shoggoth with some explosive gas.
  • Diegetic Interface: You have no HUD and no way to track your ammunition besides your inventory. You measure your health by the intensity of colors and how Jack moves or aims; colors bleed out as Jack's health gets lower and broken legs make him start limping, while a broken arm makes his aim waver. The Yithian Energy Weapon also has a charge indicator, consisting of four triangular lights, which activate as you are preparing the charged shot, going from the "stock" side to the "barrel".
  • Dirty Coward: The Urania sailor who locks Jack out on the ship's deck.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jack, if his Sanity Meter gets too low. And at the end of the game too.
  • Dull Surprise: Jack always talks in the same tone of voice. Even when insanity kicks in.
  • Easing into the Adventure: Subverted. The first segments of the game, touring Innsmouth and trying to find out what happened to the young grocer whose disappearance you're investigating, are very lightly paced. However, crap hits the fan fast when night falls and the people of Innsmouth chase Jack out of town trying to kill him.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Cthulhu. The Shoggoth, Star Spawn of Cthulhu and the Flying Polyps are smaller versions of this.
  • Electric Torture: Used during Jack's 'interrogation'.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower:
    • The Yithian Lightning Gun. It has unlimited range, the highest damage of any gun in the game, unlimited ammo, and the ability to charge. The only downsides are the lack of iron sights and relatively slow firing rate, which can be compensated for with some practice, and finally (and obviously), it's obtained ridiculously late in the game.
    • Jack's ability to switch minds with a Deep One in order to access out-of-reach switches to help kill Hydra.
  • Enemy Within: A particularly creepy example, as we don't know who the Enemy Within is or what it wants until the very end.
  • Enter Solution Here:
    • Concerning safes, you're prevented from using them if your character didn't see the means to learn the combination.
    • For other puzzles where you need to open a door (e.g. bowing to the deity of the order), you can enter the combination directly without looking at the actual puzzle.
  • Everything Fades: Killed enemies turn transparent and disappear right after their death animation plays out.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: You can easily distinguish helpful Innsmouthians from others. Hint: the fish-faced ones are bad.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Inverted. It's implied Jack's Yithian father accidentally bodyjacked his father while his parents were having sex and it shocked him enough he went right back.
  • Fake Difficulty: In the form of Trial-and-Error Gameplay and the restriction on saving your progress. To many this ruined an otherwise fun first person horror game.
  • Fang Thpeak: Despite not having fangs, enemies have this. "Shpread oouuuuttt!"
  • FBI Agent: Well, technically BI Agents as the Bureau hasn't been federalized yet, and J. Edgar Hoover himself.
  • The Fettered: Jack Walters won't steal gold from the Marsh family's Vault, despite their many attempts on his life.
  • Film Noir: Add one-part Cosmic Horror Story and two parts Cult, stir well, and you've got Dark Corners.
  • Fish People: The Deep Ones, and many of the citizens of Innsmouth are half this and Half Human.
  • Fisticuffs Boss: While sneaking through the Deep One's underwater city after losing all your weapons, you end up falling through a ceiling grate and right into the office of the cult's leader/high priest, Robert Marsh. You have to fight him with a knife you grab off his desk while he tries to choke you with telekinesis.
  • FPS: Towards the end of the game, it turns more and more FPS-y.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The infamous cannon scope bug which renders targets on the reef invisible, thus making the game impossible to complete without a guide on how to blindly shoot all the targets. Made worse by the fact that the bug wasn't officially patched, and it took months to release a fan patch that fixes the problem.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: When armed with a crowbar and a shotgun, Mr. Walters feels the compelled to use a key to open flimsy wooden doors, even after seeing both enemies and friendly NPCs bust through doors with improvised weapons and himself shooting (some) locks easily.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The penultimate boss is a pair of Flying Polyps that seem to come out of nowhere. Since his way was blocked in Y'ha-nthlei, Jack took a route through an adjacent cavern system that connected to one of the cavernous Vaults where the Yithians had locked up their old enemies. Actually subverted, though. The ending cinematic reveals sending Jack to kill the Polyps was the Yithians' goal the whole time, the fight against the Deep Ones was just how they got him there.
  • Golden Ending: Getting 100% on your file simply nets an extended version of the standard ending. Interesting in that it really isn't any more upbeat than the regular ending. Jack still kills himself in the Asylum, but this time before he does he receives his full memories first, realizing that he was basically being used by the Great Race of Yith - the entire game was actually just set up so that he could encounter and kill the Flying Polyps living in the Deep Ones' cavern.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: In this mythos, this sort of thing is pretty much required. Subverted in the Golden Ending. Jack didn't go mad from the revelation. He went mad because his memories of the Yith planet began to return to him and his human brain was not physically capable of handling them.
  • Grand Theft Me: How the hero originally ended up in an asylum. The Yith swapped his brain with one of their own so that they could teach him and prepare him for his mission.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Cthulhu, of course. He never appears in person, but multiple scenes hint that he is involved with everything going on. One of his spawn also appears as a kind of miniboss that can only be killed with a flamethrower.
  • Green Around the Gills: You may get this while on the navy boat, due to the rolling sea. Also a feature for the Spawn of Dagon, in the literal sense.
  • Guide Dang It!: There's a few "what the hell do I do now?" moment, especially near the beginning. The part where you advance the plot by talking to a random wino across town stands out.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • The citizens of Innsmouth are half-Deep One.
    • Jack. His father was a Yith Body Surfing in a human host. On a metaphysical level, Jack's soul is half-Yith, and it's implied the cult at the beginning make some alterations to his body to make him physically part Yith as well, which is why he can use the Lightning Gun.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Subverted. Although Jack keeps put the typical Private Eye schtick, when things get heavy, even he isn't immune to sanity slippage. But given the kind of things he has to deal with, this is justifiably so
  • Hearing Voices: Happens to Jack when his sanity is low.
  • Hell Hotel: Jack has to stay in one in Innsmouth. Goes as well as you might expect.
  • Historical Domain Character: J. Edgar Hoover, in one of his few fictional appearances with no transvestite jokes.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Jack is capable of toting — at once — six guns, a knife, a crowbar, and a large eldritch tome, among other things, without any sort of visible container. None of it affects his move speed, although movement speed is affected by what weapon you have readied — even if that weapon is currently holstered — leading to realizing that you move more slowly with a put-away Thompson SMG than you do with a put-away pistol.
  • Idiot Ball: Yes, Jack. Sleep in the hotel where you found body parts in the manager's office and read his journal SPECIFICALLY SAYING HE TORTURED AND KILLED THREE PEOPLE! I'm sure only good things will come of that. Though since the town's curfew was already in effect and Jack was confined to the building by the time he finds this out, he probably didn't have a choice.
  • Immune to Bullets: The higher-level eldritch horrors can't be stopped by a well-placed .30-06, obviously. But that doesn't mean they can't be killed. A star-spawn of Cthulhu that appears briefly at the beginning of "The Esoteric Order Of Dagon" is bulletproof but can be killed with a conveniently placed flamethrower, while the bosses (such as Dagon, the shoggoth, and Hydra) usually require some unique level specific thing (like a 108mm naval gun or the Yithian Lightning Gun).
  • Impending Doom P.O.V.: As Jack is being stalked by various monsters and gets psychic visions of them following him.
  • Improvised Weapon: The crowbar.
  • Interface Screw: Madness will blur your vision, slow down your perception of time, make you hear things, make you deaf, make the screen go all wavy... the Sanity Slippage effects alone do more to make the game scary than all the Cthulhu Mythos beasties put together.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: The cult at the beginning, Jack's time in the asylum, his mission to Innsmouth... all of this was set up by the Great Race of Yith to put him in the right place at the right time so he could kill two imprisoned Flying Polyps which were about to break free. In the end, while the Yith did help him on his quest, they do not cure his psyche, instead leaving him to die in a mental institution.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique - Used by J. Edgar Hoover on Jack to force him to "cooperate".
  • Jerkass: Hoover; he's got a mission to clean out Innsmouth and he doesn't care how many people get hurt as long as the job gets done. Of course, you're more expendable than he is...
  • Karma Houdini: It's never revealed what happened to Mrs. Waite after she killed her daughter Ramona. Only her husband is blamed for what happened, and she is never mentioned again afterwards, making it unknown if she was punished by the Order of Dagon, was one of the many enemies Jack and company kill during the game, or if she successfully got away with her actions and is still at large.
  • Kill 'Em All: The only non-historical named characters to survive the events of the game are Agent Mackey, Jacob Marsh (who is only arrested), and Dr. Eric Hardstrom (the doctor of the asylum). Everyone else, including Jack himself, dies horribly at some point. Attempting to kill or letting Hoover die triggers a Non-Standard Game Over.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Not only the antagonists are Cthulhu's cultists, but the underwater beings Dagon and Hydra are two of the bosses (the latter being the Final Boss).
  • Lost Superweapon: The Yithian lightning gun, more powerful than any other weapon on Earth, was left in a cave at the bottom of the sea for you to find.
  • Lovecraft Country: Most of the game (except the Prologue in Boston) is set in and around Innsmouth.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In his flashback to his time on the Yith's planet, Jack meets the alien who is his actual father.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Reading the diary of Thomas Waite reveals that he was considering putting his daughter Ramona out of her misery before she became a full Deep One like her mother. Said mother ends up being the one that does it instead.
    • Some genetic experiment in the Marshes' lab asks for this, and you can give it to him with your rifle.
    • Hoover does this to one of his agents who had encountered the shoggoth and been half-melted by its acid.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The case of a missing grocer reveals some very disturbing secrets.
  • Monogender Monsters: Averted with the Deep Ones once they finally attack in force. About half of them are clearly more feminine than the other half, though still quite ugly and monstrous.
  • My Greatest Failure: Ramona's death haunts Jack for the rest of the game.
  • Mythology Gag: In addition to being based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Shadow Out of Time, the game draws significantly from Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, specifically the "Escape from Innsmouth" and "The Raid on Innsmouth" scenarios.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Anyone called Marsh, and more than that, Waite. Anyone who's read Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep is going to be running twice as fast as everyone else.
    • "You ever hear of a thing called a 'shoggoth?'"
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jack investigates the door to Mrs. Waite's 'room' in the attic, causing 'her' to break down the door and run downstairs to rip her little daughter to shreds. Mr. Waite eventually slits his own throat from grief the day before he's about to be hanged for being framed as his daughter's murderer. Good one, Jack.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: In the early levels of the game, you can sometimes see what appear to be large, hulking gargoyle statues looking down at you from the rooftops of nearby buildings. But as you come closer to where they are, the "gargoyle statues" begin moving and creep out of sight.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries:
    • Hydra, queen and "Mother" of the Deep Ones, has two pairs of breasts. Could be justified, as Deep Ones can interbreed with humans, and therefore must presumably share some genetic material.
    • Some of the standard Deep Ones appear to have them as well.
  • Notice This: Downplayed; Inventory Items and some of the items you can interact are brigthened but not all environemntal objects are, which combined with the dark, murky graphics makes for many a Guide Dang It! moment.
  • Offing the Offspring: Ramona Waite is brutally murdered by her own Deep One mother after Jack accidentally releases the latter from captivity. Thankfully, the killing itself happens off-screen.
  • Optional Stealth: As soon as you get your hands on the weapons, you can still complete some puzzles in the stealthy way, but is much easier (and satisfying) to just whip out guns and crowbar and kill all those fishmen around.
  • Outside-Context Villain: The Flying Polyps have nothing to do with the Order of Dagon or the Marshes and come almost completely out of nowhere. The Golden Ending reveals that they were the true enemies of the game the Yith were guiding Jack to defeat, with the Order merely being the obstacle in his path.
  • Personal Space Invader: Flesh-eating starfish like to leap out at you and stick to your face if you get too close.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Jack can use an empty firearm to Pistol Whip/Buttstroke enemies after it's empty by trying to shoot it after it clicks empty.
  • Precision F-Strike: Upon regaining consciousness in the bottom of a factory, Jack sees the formless brown acidic mass of the dreaded shoggoth flowing into the room and pretty much taking up the entire (very large) area. His response is a whispered, quavering "Oh...fuck..."
  • Primal Fear: It's implied Jack is afraid of heights, as looking down from a high place is one way to lose sanity.
  • Psychic Powers:
    • Jack is hinted to have these throughout the game, and has visions of monsters following him. It's explained that Jack's father was mind-switched with a Yithian moments before Jack was conceived, giving him a bit of the alien's mind-projection abilities. These are used at the end of the game to take control of Hydra's Deep Ones.
    • The Deep Ones' priests and a few of the cultists also have powers, including Robert Marsh, who has telekinesis, telepathy, the power to shoot energy balls, and some sort of attack that resembles a force push. Hydra also uses hers to shield Y'ha-nthlei from an attacking sub.
    • When Jack's sanity is low, he will sometimes hear his Yithian "father" call to him, or urge him on. In one instance he even directly references Jack's powers:
    "Use your gift, Jack."
  • Puzzle Boss:
    • You can't directly hurt the shoggoth. It's the size of a small house, and it's a Nigh Invulnerable, formless, no-organs-or-weak-points blob monster made out of acid, so a pistol would be useless. Fortunately, both times you face it, it's in an area full of industrial machines that you can use to hurt it. First, you have an electric prod hooked to the vat that it's in, and later you cause a natural gas explosion to put it down for good.
    • Hydra. You need to mind-control Deep Ones and use them to open water pipes in to Hydra's chamber so that you can use the Lightning Gun on them to electrocute her.
  • Real Is Brown: Most of the game's world has a dark, depressing murky brown texture to it, sometimes accompanied by a sickly green tint. Even with the lighting at maximum, it can be pretty hard to see what's happening sometimes.
  • Red Shirt Army: All of Jack's government and military backup drop like flies, but the prize is taken by the squad of U.S. Marines that try to help him attack the Order of Dagon. They're all dead literally minutes after the level starts.
  • Religion of Evil: The Esoteric Order of Dagon. They worship an Eldritch Abomination who plans to wage war against the surface world.
  • Respawning Enemies: In the refinery, the various workers reappear at different locations.
  • Sanity Meter: Looking at too many scary images in the game makes Jack start to hallucinate, panic, and eventually go insane in a Non-Standard Game Over or commit suicide.
  • Save Point: Areas marked with the Flaming Eye sigil allow you to save. They also drive away enemies, which will avert their eyes and run away.
  • Self-Surgery: You need to treat the wounds that Jack suffers, which includes bandaging, setting splints, or stitching them up.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: Jack's visions of monsters following him.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: You'll occasionally have to destroy padlocks in order to open doors.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": If you walk around with a broken leg, a sickening crack is heard with every step.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The music in the opening and ending is an upbeat, swinging tune... played in an insane asylum while a man tries to hang himself.
  • Standard FPS Guns
    • The Knife: A bowie knife and a crowbar.
    • The Pistol: An M1911 semi automatic.
    • The Revolver: An M1917 Revolver.
    • The Shotgun: A double barrel shotgun.
    • The Marksmans Gun / The Sniper Rifle: A Springfield bolt action rifle.
    • The Automatic Gun: A Tommy Gun with a drum magazine .
    • The Lightning Gun / BFG: The Yithian Lightning Cannon.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: The Attack Of The Fishmen and Jailbreak chapters, since Jack is unarmed and everyone in town is trying to kill you.
  • Steam Vent Obstacle: Several. They are damaging and can cause interface screw if they are releasing toxic gas; they are part of a puzzle in one location where they need to be turned on in the correct order.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Sure, take a nap in Innsmouth's hotel, which is managed by a man who you know butchered at least one previous customer, and who you can hear plotting to murder you immediately before and after you check in. What could possibly go wrong? At least Jack has enough sense to make damn sure he's bolted the door and blocked the doors to adjacent rooms before nodding off.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Justified, as all the deep waters in the game are cold (the game occurred in winter on the New England coast) and stormy seas.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Dagon has the greatest chance of inflicting damage to Jack when he attacks from the side of the ship. He can only be attacked himself when he comes up over the bow, putting him directly in the firing line of the main gun. Dagon's decision to attack from the bow is mostly random, but has a report that it can be manipulated by being in the right location.
  • Tap on the Head: Jack seems to be particularly susceptible to getting knocked out and - of course - losing all his weapons in the process.
  • Title Drop: "I now walk in the shadow between worlds... and it is there I have finally glimpsed upon what lives in the dark corners of the earth."
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Half of the marines assigned to help you infiltrate the Esoteric Order of Dagon die because they stopped to beat up a group of cowering hostiles, while on breaking ice.
    • When the waves start hitting the Urania, Officer Winter calls out for the crew to take cover. The player is the only other person to do so; everyone else on deck is killed. What's more, more crewmen will occasionally spawn and run out to the deck only to die.
    • The last crewman you see alive on the Urania locks you out on the deck and welds the door shut. You, the one who's fought through countless Deep Ones and the only one with weapons, and while a Deep One approaches from behind.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: At one point you must recover a hammer from a room containing a Beloved that won't let you in alive. You have to put a special blue flower in its food bucket in order to kill it and access the room.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The Ur-Example, Innsmouth, especially thanks to the aforementioned corruption.
  • Unexpected Shmup Level: Of a sort. You begin your escape from Innsmouth with Burnham driving a pickup while you hang on in the back and shoot at cultists.
  • The Unfought: Cthulhu. You do hear his calls, though, and it's easily one of the creepiest moments in the game.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • The final timed escaped sequence is almost impossible to complete on the PC version without using a trainer, as a programming oversight results in your movement speed being slower on the PC version. This is actually a bug related to the screen resolution you are using. The higher your resolution is set to, the slower Jack moves. If you have a large monitor and try putting the game to something like 1400x900 so the screen is not stretched and blurry, you will move about as fast as chilled honey. This is fixable though, if you choose something like 800x600. The bug is claimed to be fixed in the Steam version, although some users experienced the issue.
    • A rather infamous glitch exists in the PC version where during the attack on the Coast Guard cutter, some mages that you have to shoot with a cannon and the reef they stand are invisible. (They do generate, but the game doesn't render that far out.) There is no real indication as to why this occurs and it only occurs on some copies of the PC game. Unfortunately, the only way around it is to download the save game file of a person who does not have this glitch, or use a trainer program. The bug does exist in the Steam version.
  • The Unseen: Esther Marsh. On top of being one of the vicious Marsh siblings and part-Deep One, she's a Mad Scientist, and you do at least get to see some of her handiwork in the form of mutated plants...and an incapacitated Deep One in agony and begging you for death.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Enemies drop neither ammunition nor weaponry, not even when it would be really helpful, such as taking a weapon when you have nothing but a crowbar, or maybe taking Sebastian Marsh's revolver in the battle against Robert Marsh.
  • Unwinnable by Design: A few times near the end, which is especially unpredictable since in most of the game it's impossible to do a mistake during the riddles. But it isn't as frustrating as it seems, because at these moments it is impossible to reach a savepoint.
    • On the ship, restarting the engine requires you to find a blowtorch, turn a specific wheel, fix a pipe with the blowtorch, then turn another specific wheel. Not turning the right wheel will cause the boat to explode and kill the player.
    • On the Devil's Reef, a door near of the exit of the level must be reached within a timer. To launch it, you have to put a jewel in a mechanism, run to the other door and put a red crystal in the opened claw in front of the door; when timer expires, the claws close; if the red crystal is put in the claws the door opens, if not nothing happens. The first difficulty is that the timer can only be triggered one time. The second is that near the launching mechanism there is claws like the ones you have to reach; the ones near the launching mechanism hold a green crystal and opens too when you put the jewel in the timer's mechanism. The green crystal can be picked up by the player but if it isn't in the claws when the timer expires the door won't open.
  • Vague Hit Points: The screen turns grey (along with reduced movement) if the player takes damage with a small amount of slow-motion if the player is dangerously close to bleeding out, having color restored as they gradually regenerate health. The health screen shows which wounds are untreated, along with a heartbeat electrocardiograph. Additionally, the game's sanity meter is also left vague showing distorted view as it lowers.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Jack's narrations are always delivered in the same Film Noir inspired monotone no matter what else if going on around him. This can get especially weird if he happens to be in the middle of a massive psychotic breakdown and otherwise sobbing and muttering incoherently to himself.
  • Walk It Off / Heal Thyself: Both, at once. Various parts of Jack's body can be injured and can be treated with medical supplies. He will slowly heal over time but it's not safe to try this if you're in the middle of a firefight.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Cthulhu himself does not appear in the game, despite it being called Call of Cthulhu. Several statues of him are featured, he is referenced numerous times, and one of his "chosen" is even fought, but Cthulhu himself is never seen in the flesh. Some thought that it made it scarier and gave the lesser known Great Old Ones Dagon and Hydra some recognition, while others were very disappointed that he wasn't in the game. Of course, if Cthulhu deigned to show his big noodly face anywhere in the game, there wouldn't really be much of a game, as Jack's options would be INSTANT DEATH or GIBBERING INSANITY, FOLLOWED BY DEATH.
    • Even looking at a certain statue of Cthulhu will drain your sanity, though. So it's possible that Cthulhu does make a cameo of sorts.
  • Written by the Winners This trope is directly acknowledged in the obtainable Letter from Sebastian Marsh.

Alternative Title(s): Dark Corners Of The Earth