Backloggery

Backloggery.com

2017-11-02

The Anax: Call of the Cursed One Review

Title: The Anax: Call of the Cursed One
Release date: 2017-10-19 (Patreon)
2017-10-21 (public)
Developer & publisher: Anaximanes

"The Anax: Call of the Cursed One" is the third entry in the shared interactive fiction universe created by the developer going under the moniker Anaximanes. It is also the third title in the universe chronologically, though all the titles are being released in a different order to that one.

All of the Anaximanes' interactive novels are very fetishistic horror themed works, hence there is no surprise that for the second time the developer released his game near the Halloween. After his awesome first work "Slugs and Bugs" he publisher a much shorter and less intense work "Phantom" just last year. This Halloween he returned with his largest work yet "The Anax".
Ladies and gentlemen, the protagonist.
It's worth reminding that "Slugs and Bugs" was about 150k words long and the current work easily overtakes that figure with almost 230k. While my game time tracker refused to work with the current novel, I'm pretty sure it would take a person over 10 hours to read both available paths and complete the game.

At first glance the game might appear to be an egotistical wank for the author, considering he casts himself as the main villain within this particular story, but rest assured, such thoughts quickly left my noggin, as "The Anax" stands on its own as a quality erotic horror title.
By-atch.
The protagonist of the game is Evelyn Addams, who is apparently a sister to Kate, the receptionist for Erebus from "Slugs and Bugs". All her life Evelyn experienced supernatural phenomena, eventually creating a circle of friends, working as witches slash ghostbusters. Her other spoiled sister Brittany also fancies herself a witch, despite not having a iota of power, moreover she somehow also manages to attract a circle of followers, despite a bitchy attitude. There is no overexaggeration concerning her bitchy attitude, as Brittany is an asshole to everyone, be they family or stranger, thus there is no surprise that the only lover she manages to attract is a goodhearted simpleton with an IQ measurable with a medical thermometer. The only surprise is, how she actually convinced a bunch of rich snobs that she has magical powers.
It's like sorcerers should also be poets too.
But enough about Brittany, for she is not the focus of this novel. The focus is entirely on Evelyn and her personal demons. Some years ago she encountered a mysterious magical book which contains only a single spell... a spell to summon the ultimate evil - The Anax. Oh dear, I know where this is going - I have seen all of the "Evil Dead" movies... Can we start handing out Darwin Awards in advance, because anyone who deigns to summon ancient evils is just begging to have one on their shelf?

Anyway, The Anax can only be summoned at the place of his death, for once he was a young man named Anaximanes Ravenhurst. It took some years for Evelyn's group of ghostbusters to uncover the place, which is now apparently called a Ghost Nook Island, which was connected to the mainland when Mr. Ravenhurst was still alive. There is just one problem - the summoning needs to be performed by twelve participants, and Evelyn has only half that number of friends. What to do? Of course, invite your bitchy sister and her rich snob bootlickers along for a ride! It's gonna be fun!
Who will lead the ceremony, you or your bitchy sister? Seems like an easy choice.
Maybe you are scratching your heads, wondering why would anyone even summon some ultimate evil. You see, Evelyn's friends are fundamentally good people, and considering The Anax was once a mortal, they seek to vanquish his curse and redeem him, so that he could go to the afterlife. There is just one kink in that plan - Evelyn herself is not a good person. She puts up a nice facade and acts as a geeky unassuming woman, but is in fact, a mind control fetishist.

Now, note that Justine from "Slugs and Bugs" was also a mind control fetishist (I see that the developer is using an attested formula here), but she WAS actually a good person, thus that whole novel served as a seduction to the dark side, which might or might not happen at the end. "The Anax" already starts with Evelyn as a corrupted person, who only needs an excuse to jump of the slippery slope. She constantly fantasizes about achieving power, controlling people and ruling the world, and The Anax represents that power in her mind. During majority of the game Evelyn is constantly tempted to seize power and start corrupting her friends and acquaintances, and the player's firm hand is the only thing that keeps her on track. Though it is all subverted in the later stages of the novel.
The attack of sex zombies!
The plot itself progresses like a particularly perverted version of tag crossed with "Evil Dead". Obviously, the summoning goes balls up, The Anax is unleashed and all the girls start running around like chickens without heads. Once The Anax caches any of the girls, he turns her into an undead devoted slave, who also joins the hunt for others still not under the command of the Boogeyman, as The Anax is alternatively called. As the hunt goes on, The Anax starts displaying both frustration with Evelyn, who constantly slips his grasp, and a certain admiration to her. Eventually, at the end, the Boogeyman will face the Wicked Witch, and only one of them will leave the island.

The plot is not really the strongest part of the game, as once all the bells and whistles are removed, "The Anax" is a simple slasher fic at its heart. It's basically a monster dispatching a group of campers in a secluded location one by one and eventually facing the Final Girl. In other words it would not be anything particularly noteworthy if not for the writing. I have already noticed that Anaximanes is a good writer in the two previous games, but this particular novel really brings it home. Numerous flashbacks to the past eras, like the middle of the 19th century are given appropriate narrative that hearkens to the bygone era, not to mention that there are numerous poetic interludes, with all the original poetry also written by the developer. It all reads like a professional novel and not just any fan made porn interactive fiction.
She got wood, Evil Dead style.
The sexual content in "The Anax" is actually on the tame side and less hardcore than seen in the previous games, nor are there any extreme sexual fetishes. Mostly it consists of typical lesbian induction scenes, which happen once one of the undead girls under the Boogeyman's control catch a live one. There is an occasional scene with the participation of the main villain himself, but they are also very typical blowjob and vaginal intercourses. Not that the scenes are not hot, because they are, but Anaximanes (the developer, not the monster) raised the bar for quality fetish wank material very high with his first game, thus I might have been slightly disappointed in that aspect.

Moreover, in "The Anax" the developer decided to keep scares mostly separate from the erotic content, so there are almost no scenes of squick erotica here. There are still some disturbing content, and some bad ends can get quite dark, but the dev now actually added trigger warnings just before such content comes into play. That... I didn't like. I am altogether against "trigger warnings", as I feel that such silliness dilute the authors work. You are not supposed to expect horrible things happening before they happen; that just takes me out of the narrative. After all, if you are playing any novel by Anaximanes, you should already expect that there will be some disturbing content at the very least.
Ah, a real American nightmare...
Anaximanes is a brilliant photo manipulator with very suitable array of various photos chosen for the game. For his third title he went a step further, though. The novel consists not only of various photos taken from the wide web, but also of the photos the developer himself made, because guess what - the author cast himself as the main monster. Whenever you see either The Anax or the historical Anaximanes Ravenhurst, you are actually seeing the developer himself... manipulated to hell and back, of course, but still.

What surprised me most, though, is the sound. Anaximanes chose a really strong and impressive sound collection for his game, with some of the scariest mood setters around. The Russian lullaby "Tili Tili Bom" used to call The Anax to the world of the living is probably one of the most unsettling things I have ever heard in my life, and I don't scare easily. Moreover, the developer actually voiced a few of the Boogeyman's lines, especially his infamous greeting "Greetings, it is I, The Anax...".
Evil feels good.
The author put a lot of effort in crafting the main villain, which is understandable, because no one watches a slasher for the protagonist - they simply want to see Jason or Freddy in action. Nevertheless, in this case the game goes even further. Once you complete the Evelyn's story, you unlock the backstory of Anaximanes Ravenhurst. You jump back to the time when Anaximanes was a young rich land-owner and follow his footsteps up until the moment the noose wraps around his neck and fueled by despair and guilt and hatred of himself and those that wronged him, a monster rises from the ashes of love.

In a way, seeing is understanding, and understanding diminishes a certain amount of the monster's scariness. Lovecraft was very right when he said that there is no greater fear than the fear of the unknown. Once we finish the novel, The Anax is not "the unknown" to us anymore, rather we feel a certain pity to the monster and wish to redeem him. Ultimately, the novel has a pretty open ending, thus it's very likely that we'll see those that survived again in other stories by this developer, as all of them share the universe.
That's the developer from the back.
Programming wise, Anaximanes recently updated all his games, so now playing the game you also unlock certain nuggets of information, like character profiles. Initially I thought the feature to be bugged, as sometimes the profiles wouldn't unlock, while replaying the same segment for the second or third time, they would suddenly get unlocked. Once I completely finished the game, I still had 14 locked profiles, which I thought not likely, as I completely finished "The Anax", checking every option and every choice. After a discussion with the developer, he clarified that some unlocks have previous requirements, like reading other profiles first, or seeing specific game endings prior to the unlock, so the feature might not be buggy, like I surmised. I also mildly disliked that some information I deem important was hidden away in the profiles, for example, you only find out about Eleanora's ultimate fate by reading her profile. That is not something I endorse.

Otherwise, the game was practically bug free, though I encountered one page, where the formatting was gone completely wrong. Additionally, as a funny sidenote, Anaximanes constantly uses the word "hung" wrong. If a person is well endowed, he is "hung", but if somebody puts a noose around his neck and leaves him dancing under a tree, he is "hanged". Free English language lesson for you, boys and girls.
He can even play music, what a versatile monster!
To sum up, "The Anax" is yet another very solid story from Anaximanes, and if the cast of characters, including the protagonist, can get a bit bland and two-dimensional, the villain makes up for it. The Anax is a very well crafted monster, and if he ultimately might not be that scary, his personal story is very well made. Both the photographs and the sound are of the highest quality, and the game has an open ending that somehow doesn't make me want to strangle the developer.

Links of Interest

Official developer's blog
Anaximanes on Patreon
Official Hypnopics Collective thread (requires free registration)
TF Games Site page
"The Anax: Call of the Cursed One" walkthrough

Final Verdict: 86%

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this review! I am quite happy you enjoy my work! One thing, though, did you happen to play one of my early releases or the finished version? There have been no bugs in the character unlocks since August, so I am interested in knowing the case. Please email me:

    anax.the.cursed@gmail.com

    and let me know. I am perplexed and curious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I penned you a letter, sir, detailing my woes with the profile unlocks.

      Delete
    2. Yes, thank you! I will make sure that folks know on TF Games that all the characters are unlockable and that there are no bugs at all. Thank you!

      Delete