The Excavation of Hob's Barrow
released on Sep 28, 2022
The Excavation of Hob's Barrow is a folk horror narrative-driven adventure. Explore the isolated moors of rural Victorian England as you uncover the mysteries of Hob's Barrow. The answers lie in the soil...
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This review contains spoilers
Oh great, now I have to be haunted by this game for the rest of my life. To be cursed by a disquieting tale of folklore, superstition, archaeology and cats that falls somewhere between Lovecraft and The Wicker Man without truly being quite like either.
I often struggle with what I specifically want to talk about when reviewing a game, but here it’s only more so. I’m a southern person whose family come from a small bit of Wales, and who spent over half a decade living in the north, and those differing perspectives and tones and communities all inform how I’m perceiving Thomasina, how I’m perceiving this village, and the northern sorts within. The alienation, the closeness, wariness of others, distance from anyone but the village you live in, there’s stuff to connect to that makes you understand the less sinister characters more, but does nothing to lessen the unease when dealing with peculiarities, eccentrics and absentees, none more than the local lord, who upon your meeting (well, re-meeting, his identity is unknown earlier on) shows you his DEFINITELY NOT SUSPICIOUS ancient church he’s having rebuilt to bring back the worship of something… old. Forgotten. Dangerous.
You have regular nightmares, visions of the barrow you’ve come to excavate, communicating with a sort of goblin creature (the mythology is brilliantly explained, but I’ll keep it simple here), trying to convince you that your ultimate goal is to free him. Thomasina talks to the player via a letter to her Mother, some time after the game’s story has finished. We know that whatever he’s promising isn’t going to be what we really want. But the deception, the corruption of him, infested with the increasingly powerful, sanity-breaking, unseen Abraxas, is still a gut punch, as you see that no matter the intent, this evil is beyond anything anyone could have prepared for. And Thomasina’s fate is a capstone on that.
There’s a lot about Thomasina’s Father. He’s the root of the story, after all, bedridden, incommunicative and non-functioning as he is. We all have Daddy issues, but the way this played out was unanticipated. To not truly know your parent, to then learn they were something the opposite of what you expected, and had done something terrible along the way… it’s effective.
The whole game is effective. The hens are gone. The church is risen. Abraxas walks.
Just like KvAdam, I'm also loving the resurgence of point and clicks since it's always been one of my favourite genres.
This is one of the darker ones to come out in recent years and that's honestly a refreshing change. I particuarly enjoy the more detailed animated scenes that help to amplify the surreal horror of what you're witnessing.
It seems to leave questions answered but that's kind of the point and sometimes I feel - you don't NEED to have them answered.
This review contains spoilers
Thomasina, ma'am, please call me.
Oh I guess- right, that ending, yeah, you're a little busy. Damn, sorry for your loss ma'am, kind of seems like it interrupted a masterfully crafted retro-point and click adventure you were on, kinda seems like it sort ruined the whole vibe a little bit. Kind of seems like its the sort of thing that might even be used as a warning in many reviews, something that blocks people from being too interested in your experience.
But, still, phone number's on the table, if you're free.
I love all these retro-style point ‘n’ click adventures that keep popping up everywhere recently, it feels like re-living my childhood with them. I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, too, and luckily, I wasn’t disappointed at all.
You play as a young brunette who comes from a privileged British family, and decides to follow in her father’s footsteps to become a famous archaeologist, but meets unexpected horrors that she needs to overcome. No, no, her name is not Lara Croft, and believe me, this is where all the similarities with the Tomb Raider franchise end! Instead of fighting your way through countless enemies, you need to solve puzzles – and let me tell you, some of them will be quite challenging even for adventure game veterans (I should know, I consider myself one).
I loved the beautiful pixel art graphics, the music, the voice acting… so everything, basically. Of course, probably the most important element of this genre is the story, but I wouldn’t want to give too much away about it, so let’s just say that, in my opinion, they’ve managed to create the perfect balance of humour, drama, mystery and horror with a spot-on atmosphere to boot. My only complaint is that they leave us with too many loose ends (or they weren’t loose at all, maybe I just didn’t pay close attention, I’m not sure), so I would really love a sequel where we get at least some of the answers. And it wouldn’t hurt to make that one a bit longer, either.
Anyway, highly recommended for adventure fans!