Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Barrow Hill - an autumn equinox game

With the autumn equinox coming up, I thought I'd write about one of my favourite computer games - Barrow Hill. It is an atmospheric adventure game set in Cornwall at an ancient stone circle at that time when the day and night are of equal length but the wheel of the year dips towards darkness.

It starts with you driving along a Cornish country lane past a row of standing stones as the sun starts to set. You are listening to the local radio station, with DJ Emma Harry "taking you through to the Witching Hour", when your car suddenly crashes. You find yourself trapped in a horror story in which some destructive force has been set free from the ancient barrow and is killing all who encounter it.

One of the reasons I like Barrow Hill is its pagan tone. An important location is a beautiful underground shrine called Anneka's Well that is tended by the local Wiccan. Sadly, the witch has been called away and isn't around to assist you in person, but she has left some clues. There's even a leaflet about Wiccan magic on the postcard rack at the local service station.

The storyline itself harks back to pre-Christian times, when guardian stones were set at the barrow and a ritual enacted to keep the destructive force entombed. Now, someone has set it free and you have to work out how to put things right.

Although Barrow Hill is not a real place, it is modelled after the standing stones at Duloe in Cornwall. Anyone who has visited Cornwall will see that the game designers have done a good job of catching the county's charm with the beautiful scenery at places such as the well, the stone circle and a ruined chapel - nicely balanced with a little dark humour in things like adverts for appalling-sounding tourist attractions and seriously unappetising-looking cakes at a run-down cafe.

The PC game Barrow Hill has been out for a couple of years, but is definitely a rare classic and worth trying if you like point-and-click horror games.

Barrow Hill (PC DVD) is available through Amazon

Links
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2008/09/mabon-bad-witchs-god-of-week.html
http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2008/09/autumn-equinox.html
http://www.aboutbritain.com/towns/duloe.asp
Barrow Hill (PC DVD)

2 comments:

Catty said...

Sigh... not available for a Mac! :(

badwitch said...

That's a shame.