Everything about The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow feels unsettling, whether it’s the haunting opening, the uneasy sense of unwelcoming in the village of Belway, or the distinct eerie visuals on show throughout the adventure. It’s just one of those games that feels foreboding to play, but believe me, I mean that in the best way possible.
Check out some screenshots down below:
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow puts players in the role of Thomasina Bateman, an antiquitarian who has been writing a book on the barrows of England. She receives a letter inviting her to the mysterious village of Belway to examine Hob’s Barrow, but upon arrival, finds that the man who invited her is nowhere to be found. Worst still, the inhabitants of Belway want nothing to do with Thomasina and try to stop her investigation in its tracks. Whilst it’s common for close-knit communities to be wary of strangers, there seems to be something ominous going on in Belway, whilst the alarming dreams Thomasina has there make her even more determined to see what menacing secrets are being hidden away.
I don’t want to go into too much depth about the narrative, because it really is the highlight of The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow. I was fascinated from start to end, with every twist, turn, and revelation pulling me even deeper into Thomasina’s plight. Everything just feels so unsettling, with the peculiar villagers and ghastly discoveries you make all helping establish a genuinely sinister vibe throughout your adventure. It’s really captivating, whilst the excellent script, engrossing interactions with characters, and brilliant voice acting that fits the vibe of each character perfectly all help bring your journey to life.
“Everything just feels so unsettling, with the peculiar villagers and ghastly discoveries you make all helping establish a genuinely sinister vibe throughout your adventure.”
Whilst I wouldn’t say I’m an aficionado in the point-and-click genre, I’ve played enough to tell which ones are good and which ones to bad. Thankfully, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow falls into the former category, with the game striking a nice balance of exploration and puzzling. It gets all of the basics right, with it easy to navigate your surroundings and pick out details, whilst the puzzles are never so obtuse that you’re left trying to use every item in your inventory with every object in the environment as a means to progress. There are plenty of features on offer that help streamline the adventure too, with things like being able to highlight interactable objects ensuring you don’t miss any small detail, double-clicking on area exits to skip the walk towards them making it quicker to get around, and fast-travel via a map making travel much more accessible when having to backtrack to previously visited areas.
The puzzles are well designed too, with each offering enough challenge that you won’t solve them straight away, but never leaving you scratching your head for too long. Point-and-click adventures often like to indulge in obtusity, but that isn’t the case here. There are some genuinely creative enigmas to solve, with some challenging you to think outside of the box or utilise your items and surroundings in an unorthodox (but undeniably clever) manner. It’s really rewarding and nails that satisfying ‘eureka’ moment so often felt in the point-and-click adventure genre. That being said, you will want to make sure you exhaust all dialogue options with characters and fully explore your surrounding in any given opportunity, because there will be times where you simply can’t progress if you haven’t gathered all the information and items that you can. What else would you expect from the genre, though?
Check out some screenshots down below:
Visually, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow manages to capture the vibe of the old-school releases in the genre that came before it, with the beautiful pixel art environments complemented by some wonderfully animated characters. It gives players a visually impressive world to explore, whilst some special visual effects add to the overall atmosphere. The only thing about the presentation I was a little unsure of were the close-up illustrations seen in-game; not because they looked bad, but because they made me feel… well… uneasy. There was something about the detail seen on Thomasina’s eyes, a cat glaring at you in bed, or a vomiting priest that just caught me off-guard, with the visual style and detail giving each scene more cinematic pizazz. I guess it’s effective visual work really, especially since the game is going for an unsettling vibe, but I still haven’t fully decided if I liked it or not.
Thankfully, everything else is spot on, with The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow proving to be a really pleasant surprise. I went into the game with little expectation, but went out of it feeling fully immersed and genuinely uneasy thanks to the captivating horrors that unfolded before me. It’s just a really, really good game and one that point-and-click adventure fans certainly won’t want to ignore.
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow Review
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a captivating and unsettling point-and-click adventure that simply does everything right. The eerie narrative, the enjoyable sense of exploration, the creative puzzling, and the impressive presentation… it really has it all, with it easily standing out as one of the more unique releases that I’ve played in the genre.
The sinister vibes won’t be for everyone and I’d be lying if I said the experience didn’t leave me feeling a little sombre by the end, but it managed to achieve exactly what it set out to do. The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a special game that manages to blend together horror and point-and-click adventuring in a thoroughly entertaining way.
Developer: Cloak and Dagger Games
Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch