GAME NAME: The Lone Survivor: The Directors Cut
DEVELOPER(S): Superflat Games, Curve Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Superflat Games
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation VITA
GENRE(S): Puzzle, Horror, Indie, Survival Horror
RELEASE DATE(S): September 24th, 2013
The post apocalypse looks like the perfect getaway from life, work, taxes and irritating neighbours, but is it really the remedy to life? Many games give off a whiff of love for Armageddon, but few show you just how bad and terrifying it really can be. This is The Lone Survivor, a story about an unnamed man as he survives in a world where few people are still alive, all while battling both monsters and his mental instability.
You play a guy named “You” – it’s not his real name, as his name is no longer relevant – who’s been hiding in an apartment waiting out an infection that’s turned everyone into monsters. One day he decides that he can longer live in isolation and decides to venture out into the unknown in search of survivors and supplies.
The Lone Survivor is an indie side-scrolling psychological survival horror game that does what it sets out to achieve – freak the living hell out of you. I pride myself on having nerves of steel and hardly ever being scared of horror games, though I do still need to play certain horror titles, so when I say a game is freaky, THE. GAME. IS. FREAKY. Before you even start the game, a personal message from the creator, Jasper Byrne, shows up and asks that you perform “the ritual.” It’s basically playing the game in a dark room with headphones on and making sure no one interrupts you. Playing it this way adds depth to the game. It seems like obvious horror game logic, but if you don’t play it that way, it loses a bit of its edge.
Depending on your play style, you can either attempt to eliminate all enemies or take the stealthy approach by using recesses located within walls. You can also use rotten meat to lure or distract the monsters, giving you time to slip by. Another means of defending yourself is using flares. Flares stun your enemies for a short amount of time, allowing you to move passed them, and into safety.
A lot of people might be put off by the visuals; in terms of graphics, it’s similar to older SNES games, but oddly enough it works in the game’s favour. Despite the visual limitations, there’s a lot of depth to each level. Many sections of the game are misted out or completely dark, requiring you to use a flashlight to illuminate a small percentage of the screen. Using the flashlight has its pros and cons, such as letting you see in the dark while also alerting all enemies to your location. The flashlight also needs batteries to work, and the batteries are limited and require you to scavenge for new ones.
You’ll need to scavenge for a lot more than batteries; food, ammo and key items are needed to survive and solve puzzles. Certain items have no purpose, so it’s quite difficult figuring out what you need and where to use it, if you can. In order to keep You alive, you’ll need to feed him regularly and take naps back at your apartment. However, moving back and forth can be tiring, but it’s made easy by several mirror checkpoints which instantly takes you back to your apartment. Sleeping is also the only way to save your game. Sleeping and keeping him fed are methods of recovering life, as well as maintaining his overall mental health.
You’s mental health is a key focus to this game’s narrative. Since he’s been in isolation for so long, You’s managed to develop symptoms (though not specifically mentioned in the game) of depression and possibly schizophrenia. During the game, You will experience plenty of hallucinations and vivid dreams. Each dream sequence is activated by sleeping right after taking a certain coloured pill – this is very important if you want to make sense of the confusing narrative. On my first playthrough, I missed a lot of the plot’s details and found the story lacking, but after my second playthrough, which I wholeheartedly recommend you do, you’ll know more and be able to play the game a little better. Like older horror titles, and I’m talking horror games like Silent Hill and Clocktower, the game makes more and more sense with each playthrough.
Each ending depends on your actions in the game, but you won’t know what these actions are until you’ve completed your first playthrough, hence the suggestion that you play the game at least twice. It’s a very clever thing to do. The first playthrough will be focused on scaring the life out of you and the second will give you more depth and understanding of the world and of You’s mental state.
The game scores big time with the soundtrack. The music is beautiful and so is the background noises, which add so much to the freak factor of the game. Similar to Silent Hill, you’ll hear scratches, abstract noises, static noise and generally freaky sounds that really put you on edge. Together with the misty and dark visuals, the game really wants to unnerve you. Having the game on the Vita means you can experience the game really close to your face, trapping you in the world.
It’s not all fun and scares though; the game does have a fair amount of issues. The combat system is a little clunky. You’ll only have one weapon the entire games, a handgun, which is simple to use but very sluggish. Aiming a little bit of a hassle, but I guess that’s just to give off the feeling the You doesn’t know how to use a gun. And sometimes, because of the pixelated graphics, it’s difficult to see finer objects or hidden crevices.
The confusing plot may irritate people, especially if they’re not thinkers. The game is also very difficult the first time round and you’ll be easily frustrated with the frequent deaths. Another issue I had was the constant reminder that You is tired or hungry. This continuous reminder contradicts the ritual by constantly interrupting the experience.
Overall, the game is a very good psychological horror that will make your toes curl and hair stand up and once you put all the pieces together, the game becomes a very rewarding experience. If you’re a fan of old horror titles, specifically Silent Hill and Clock Tower, you’ll definitely find yourself enjoying this game.