The Quivering was released in late 1998 though I never saw it on the shop shelves here in Australia, which is not really surprising as it's only an adventure game after all. Thanks to the efforts of Mr Bill and Lela and Al Mac of Playing Games Interactivewe finally got hold of a copy some time ago. However, it languished unplayed "until we had some spare time" (ha ha), though I must admit I also resisted playing it because I was wary of its save game 'innovations' and arcade sequences.
Recently, having plucked up the courage to tackle it, I installed the game and promptly set off exploring. I went up the hill past the castle and beyond the billboard advertising the Gates Motel (suitably accompanied by the theme from Psycho) where I promptly died. I also died at the swamp and in the dark woods. It was not an auspicious start and the manual was not overly helpful. I knew I needed to collect imps before I could save my game and that I also needed imps to solve certain puzzles, but what would happen when I ran out of imps? At this point The Quivering very nearly went back into my "to be played when I have some spare time" pile. Fortunately, Bill and Lela came to the rescue once more. Their enthusiasm for this game and, more importantly, their notes on how to get the imps to regenerate saved my sanity. I could now relax and enjoy the delights the game had to offer. And they are many.
The Quivering is a first person perspective, cartoon-style adventure game with wacky third person cut scenes. The unlikely hero of this comic-horror tale is Spud whose laconic sarcasm is delivered in the disarming, dull monotone of a London nightclub bouncer assuring you that he takes no pleasure in nailing your head to the door. Spud has been summoned to the sleepy village of Warty Hollow by his 'mad scientist' uncle, Olivetti Franken-Stamp who, in an experiment to control evil with his Ghoul cube, has inadvertently opened up a portal to Dimension X and unleashed all manner of nasties and some really cute imps. The demon lord, Big D, has taken control of your uncle's castle and turned him into a raven. Fortunately, he managed to escape with the Ghoul cube and now relies on you to send the demons back to whence they came.
Your first task is to find your uncle for without the Ghoul cube you have no way of capturing imps, or of saving your game, or of storing inventory items. Though dubious of this feature at first I quickly became very comfortable with it and it added to the fun. Rather like Dr Who's Tardis this Cube is much bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. As well as your inventory it also contains a cage for captured imps, a platform to equip imps with tools and the save game mechanism.
Equipping and using imps to solve problems is a novel and sometimes-hilarious variation on the traditional inventory based puzzles though I must admit I was frequently stuck early on because I kept forgetting to use these cute critters. It also didn't help that I knew I was occasionally sending them to a certain and particularly uncomfortable demise. However, I consoled myself with the knowledge that they would soon regenerate and live happily again until I found a new and improved use for them.
Other puzzles are more familiar and are solved by talking to characters and using more conventional items in the usual way. As I mentioned above you will die a lot so it's perhaps not a game for players very short on patience. Navigating the small swamp maze is timed so you are likely to be gobbled up by the swamp monster several times before you reach your destination. Similarly, the basement maze zombies are likely to test your patience, as is the guy with the chainsaw, not to mention assorted denizens of a 'hellish' amusement park. Saving your game is crucial as is managing your supply of imps.
Despite these potentially frustrating features The Quivering still manages to deliver a huge amount of fun. It's a surprisingly longish game with some genuinely humorous moments where you'll get some good belly laughs. Rosemary and I still chuckle over the heart-pounding escape from the chainsaw maniac at the Gates Motel. The tension is built up in classic horror movie style, then you relax as you think you are now safe only to be thwarted at the last second ... to say more would be to spoil it. You will need to play the Quivering to find out what happens. Not all the humour works though, in particular the smelly granny jokes fell flat, but this was made up for by the entertaining puzzles, the numerous horror movie caricatures and the cameo appearance of Elvis.
Navigation is easy using the simple point and click interface and 360-degree "Super-Look-Around-O-Vision". The skull cursor has an arrow when you can move in a particular direction and also changes to indicate actions such as 'talk', 'use' and 'take'. A right click will bring up your Ghoul cube inventory and pressing the space bar allows you to skip animations, but not conversations. Perhaps the most glaring omission was the subtitles (complete lack thereof) and this game cried out for them. I missed what some characters were saying because they mumbled, or I couldn't decipher their accents, or simply because the music drowned out their words.
The game comes on two CDs, runs fine under Windows (despite trying to install DirectX 3 without warning) and the way it is set up eliminates unnecessary disk swapping. The graphics, music and sound effects are all very well done especially as you explore the creepy forest and sample the thrills of the amusement park.
As well as providing many amusing puzzles this is a game that constantly taunts and challenges the player with frequent death; it makes saving a strategic exercise and even prevents saving during the last arcade-style sequence so it needs to have something going for it ... something to keep the player coming back for more. That factor is fun and The Quivering has a plentiful supply of it. Even dying is fun; I took serious risks just to see what would happen ... but not until I learned that imps were also in plentiful supply.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2001.
All rights reserved.
Pentium 75 MHz; DOS/Win 3.1 / 95; 16 MB RAM; SVGA Graphics Card; All Major Sound Cards Supported; 4X CD ROM Drive.