LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!! BOYS AND GIRLS!!! IT IS OCTOBER!!! THE SEASON OF SPOOKS AND I HAVE NO NEW HORROR GAMES TO SPEAK ABOUT!!! There are plenty of horror games set to come out this year, but they all have gone into hiding. Scorn delayed until next year. Call of Cthulhu on track for its October 30th release date. Infliction an October 18th release date. Visage sits comfortably in early access, more content to be a demo rather than a finished product. Finally, the last chapter of Bendy and the Ink Machine comes out October 26. HOW MUCH POLISH DO YOUR MONSTERS REQUIRE?!?! I am sure some of you would like me to review Baldi’s Basics, but I loathe games built on random chance. To stand here before you, not discussing a horror game, should be a crime. I have no choice to but to return to my backlog and find a finished horror game.
On a dark and stormy night, I turned to my trusty cauldron known as my Steam library and began the dark incantations. Knowing I was looking for a more atmospheric story than one that had monsters screaming at you, a threw in a copy of The Shining into the cauldron. The green goo began to furiously bubble. The cauldron violently rocked back and forth. Lightning crashed across the sky, despite the lack of a storm. I was overcome with the need to laugh at the top of my lungs. Just as the cauldron began to settle, the game known as Lone Survivor bubbled to the top. I had heard whispers of this game being a better Silent Hill game than Silent Hill Origins, Homecoming, Shattered Dimension, and Downpour combined. No turning back now, I thought.
The game opens with the main character saying the city has been ravaged by a terrible plague, you might be the only remaining survivor, and your name is not important. With your supplies dwindling, you must venture out to answer the one remaining question: are you the lone survivor? Upon exiting your apartment, an uncomfortable atmosphere engulfs you. The feeling that things aren’t as they should be, settles in like a thick ominous fog rolling in on a pitch black night. It could stem from the two-dimensional pixel art that makes the environment and monsters hard to make out. As you exit your apartment, you are greeted by a monster the main character describes as being inside out. It appears to be a humanoid completely covered head to toe in some fleshy substance. The pixel art succeeds in creating an unsettling loom over these creatures and in combinations with their twitchy movement, make them a frightening enemy without having to resort to jump scare.
It is not only the enemies that give a sense of unease. In true Silent Hill fashion, you do meet other people, but they seem to be disconnected from reality helping that uncomfortable feeling fall over you. After making your way through a hallway full of monsters, you find yourself at a party with people who don’t seem to grasp the dangers lurking outside. They tell you to relax, calm down and dance the night away as the monsters patrol outside. After stepping out onto a balcony to retrieve a gun, you return to the party only find all the guests have turned into the same monsters in the hallway. You start to question whether the party was actually happening or if it was all in the main character’s head.
You continue to question who’s real and who is in your head, especially when you start taking pills. As you adventure through the apartment building and ruined city, you will occasionally find pills to take before you go to sleep. These pills will cause you to dream up characters such as The Man with the Box on his Head and the Seated Man. After a brief conversation with these figures, you will awake with more supplies in your bag, causing you to continue questioning what’s real.
Despite these scenes, I found myself frequently taking these pills, because resources were few and far between. Staying true to the “survival” part of survival horror, your limited resources only add fuel to the fire that is the nervous tension blanketing you. Lone Survivor gives you two options to survive the onslaught from the lumbering monsters blocking your path: sneak around them or gun them down. While the game is in a two-dimensional setting, there are backdrops that will allow you to sneak past the fleshy creatures. You can even lure them to specific spots with some rotten meat; unfortunately, you can only carry 6 slabs of rotten meat and the meat only temporary distracts the monsters. I found it much easier to kill the monsters with my gun, even with almost sticky gun controls similar to Silent Hill’s combat. It also allowed me to backtrack without previous monsters slowing me down or requiring me to run back to my room to stock up on rotten meat. I would have to scrounge around for extra ammo, but I had unlimited space for ammo and could receive more from one of the pills. Killing enemies ultimately saved more time, than trying to sneak past everyone.
Along with scrounging around for ammo, you will have to scrounge around for food as well. Every so often, the main character will feel hungry or tired and constantly nag you about it, like a character in an early access survival sandbox game. It feels like it is designed to do nothing but slow down your progress. Just as I feel like I am getting far in the story, I would have to turn around due to my character’s fatigue. Luckily, mirrors are smartly placed all throughout the buildings and city that allow you to teleport back to your room. Yes, the whining does get annoying, but the smart level design consisting of well-placed supplies and ways back home doesn’t make it deal breaking.
While I have only experienced Silent Hill 2 through Let’s Plays, I have always admired the arresting atmosphere the games employ. Many people associate horror with jump scares and are often turned off from horror by that fact. While I find games like Dead Space utilize the jump scare effectively, I can see why games like Five Nights at Freddy’s, a game that is nothing but jump scares, would turn people off from the genre. If you have been burned by jump scares in the past, I urge you to give Lone Survivor a chance. You will find there is more to horror than just robots jumping at you from off-screen. It’s the unsettling feeling lurking behind you. The feeling the monster is just outside of eyesight. The feeling that all they need to do is place one finger on your shoulder just to get you to scream in terror. That’s always been the type of horror Silent Hill has used to capture the imagination of its fans, including Lone Survivor’s developer, Jasper Byrne. So as you wait for the final chapter of Bendy and the Ink Machine, the release of Call of Cthulhu or the full version of Baldi’s Basics to be developed, I highly recommend you experience the terror this game has to offer.