The Horror at Highrook preview – A wonderfully gothic Cluedo-like

A haunted mansion. Strange rituals. Eccentric investigators. What more could you want?
the horror at highrook preview

The Horror at Highrook is defined by such a unique mechanic, it surprised me how little I’ve seen it in modern games. To tell its tale of a haunted mansion and mysterious happenings, it locates its action on a dynamic Clue/Cluedo-like board where each card movement sparks a new event or epiphany. While LudoNarraCon 2024 is on, it’s a novel idea worth demoing for yourself.

Our grim tale begins with the disappearance of the Ackeron family, the former residents of the Highrook mansion. When rumours of strange occult rituals and demonic pacts emerge around Highrook, a group of investigators are sent in to uncover the truth. Each has a specialisation that guides your path, and allows you to uncover slices of the manor’s mysteries, one card placement at a time.

As mentioned, the action takes place on a Clue-Cluedo board, where the mansion’s rooms are laid out like a floor plan. In each room, you’ll find an ‘action’ tile where you can place a particular card (denoting an item, ritual, mystery, event) and then you can place an investigator alongside them, to unlock a new mystery.

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Placing the Mecanist Astor on the board, for example, will allow you to investigate records, secrets, victuals, devices, mysteries, and tracks in particular rooms. Once you investigate, you’ll spawn new cards, when can then be analysed by other investigators with deeper specialties.

>the horror at highrook demo
Screenshot: GamesHub

Sometimes, you’ll uncover a ritual note or journal entry that fleshes out the lore of Highrook, and teases greater mysteries to come. There are references to a Pale King, and to the apocalypse, hiding in this tale, uncovered only by placing Scholar Vitali in the Archives for research. In this Archives, you might also find a Forge Code, which can help you unlock other parts of Highrook, and greater skills.

In the game’s demo, the interlocking nature of these clue mechanics is made very clear, in all its intricacy. It’s a novel system, with mystery cards breeding more cards, and these cards allowing you to dive into Highrook’s history, and learn more about the game’s unique horror lore.

By nature, the demo’s mechanics are limited, with some rooms locked off and advancement beyond a certain point made difficult – but even within this small teaser, the style and novelty of The Horror at Highrook shines.

More games should lean into the Clue/Cluedo aesthetic. More games should be inspired by the tabletop experience, and find new ways to represent board game-style play. With each card pull, and every new discovery, the game does an excellent job of pushing up the stakes and intrigue, and making a case for its novelty.

>the horror at highrook demo
Screenshot: GamesHub

Paired with a strong pop art aesthetic, gothic vibes, and killer twists, The Horror at Highrook‘s gameplay loop is most compelling. There’s such a strong sense of mystery in this adventure, with its demo tangling plenty of hooks to catch keen players.

Be wary – one taste, and you won’t stop thinking about its mysteries. The game has plenty of them, and a clear vision to keep them humming. Post-LudoNarraCon 2024, it’s one of my most anticipated future games, and I would certainly recommend keeping an eye on it as development work continues.

There’s just something about it. The killer cel-shaded art. The novel translation of Clue/Cluedo‘s best ideas. The creeping, eldritch horror. The way you move investigators to new rooms, to discover handy new secrets. It’s engaged the tabletop-loving portion of my mind, and the part of me that loves organisation. It’s a special game, and one that’s entranced me.

You can now check out The Horror at Highrook as part of LudoNarraCon 2024.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.