It took me a while to finally jump into this game. I downloaded it for free off of PS+ a while ago but never really played it mainly because I didn’t like the artstyle and I never really bothered to research the game much outside of just glancing at review scores. All I really knew about it was that it’s a generally well received 2D horror game. I like trying out games that are highly acclaimed, yet appear to me as being somewhat unappealing and something that would lie outside of my tastes, because they often surprise me. Hotline Miami and Guacameele are probably the two most prominent examples of this. I was very off-put by the aesthetic/style of both of those games, and for a long while would never even consider giving them a shot because they didn’t come of as something I’d like too much. Eventually, the never ending praise I had consistently seen thrown at the two games raised my curiosity high enough that I just had to see what the fuss was about. Of course, I ended up being very surprised by how much I enjoyed them, and even began to appreciate their artstyles a bit more. I guess that’s one way to broaden your horizons.
(No, that’s not a large grin. It’s a hospital mask.)
I’m not experienced with the survival-horror game genre much at all. I’ve only played a few of them at friends’ houses, but never really sat down on my own time to play one myself. The closest thing to a horror game I’ve ever completed was Bioshock.
Since the game took place in a pixelated 2D environment, I underestimated just how creepy the game could actually be. In retrospect, I feel like the aesthetic only helped to add to that factor. There were a few moments that startled me a bit, but nothing too bad. I was often tense, mostly when going to new areas for the first time. Because of the way the game is structured, I got to learn most of the areas very well. It was always fulfilling to traverse places that I’d cleared of enemies or just had gotten familiar enough with to be comfortable in them. Since there were no surprises during those points, it gave me nice earned moments of relaxation and security for whatever brief time I had to pass through the area again. You have to go back to your apartment pretty regularly to sleep so that your character doesn’t pass out somewhere in a dark corridor. (It is also the only way to save your game) There’s a clever checkpoint system that involves finding mirrors spread about world and staring at them to warp you back to the mirror on the wall of your apartment. You can then use the mirror at your apartment to warp back only to the previous mirror you used. It was a very convenient mechanic without feeling too convenient, and eliminated a lot of backtracking that you would otherwise have to do. Finding a mirror deep in an area that I wasn’t familiar with gave me feelings of accomplishment similar to discovering the shortcut back to a bonfire in Dark Souls.
You also have to make sure your character is fed decent food on a regular basis or else he’ll keep complaining about being hungry and probably die. Early in my playthrough, I thought these survival mechanics would be a bit cumbersome and serve to be detrimental to the experience, but they’re actually quite straightforward and simple to manage. I rarely found myself on a shortage of food. You’ll find what you need as long as you’re looking around the environment, and it’s not like it’s easy to miss things because there is a button prompt that pops up on the screen whenever you’re near something that you can examine. There are also a couple other methods of getting food aside from just finding whatever is lying about the environment. There were times where I felt like my character was getting hungry and tired a little too quickly, but overall I like what the survival elements added to the game. I only passed out from exhaustion once, and never succumbed to an empty stomach.
I didn’t find the game to be too challenging. There was one specific section that had me a bit stumped, and I could see it being a part that a lot of people would have some trouble figuring out. With that said, I wasn’t stuck there for too long. For the most part, just making sure you’re exploring every area that you can go to on the map and picking up anything you see will progress you through the game in a fairly smooth manner. The map was a bit confusing for me to follow at first because it’s tracking your 2D left-to-right movement on a visual layout with twists and turns, but I understood it well enough after giving it a bit of extra examination. There are no puzzle heavy elements really, just parts where you have to use common sense to know what key items to use so you can advance through certain sections. Though, you do have to worry about getting around the monsters too. The game gives you different options on how to handle those encounters, and this element of choice extends to certain aspects of the narrative, as well as the way you take care of your own character, all which contribute to 1 of the 4 endings you can get on your first playthrough.
It’s been a while that I’ve felt this immersed in a game. Many aspects of the story are presented ambiguously, which helps make the world all the more intriguing. That’s mostly what kept my interest high. I wanted to try to piece things together and figure out exactly what was going on. I wanted to know more about the characters you came across. I wanted to know more about the main character. I wanted to know how the story would end. The ending I got wasn’t too satisfying. I knew it would be something vague, but I was hoping it was at least something that would help me tie together some of the events that happened previously throughout the game. Though, I had gotten that ending based on the way that I played. I had no interest in playing the game over again to see the other endings or to visit the new areas opened up in new game +. Not because I didn’t enjoy the game, but because it was so dreary and dark that I wasn’t exactly excited at the thought of going through it again. So I ended up watching all of the endings on YouTube. Some of the other ones I found to be a lot more satisfying than the one I got, and even though they were still a bit ambiguous, they at least gave me an idea of what was actually going on. I was very intrigued by looking up interpretations of the plot on the internet after everything was said and done.
Overall, I enjoyed the game a lot. Definitely something worth playing.
Earphones are highly recommended, as the audio is a crucial part of the experience. The (good) soundtrack and sound effects heavily contribute to its eerie atmosphere.
Extra notes –
I played Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut on the PS Vita.
I played on the normal difficulty setting.