“If nothing else…I don’t wanna die alone.”
From the twisted minds of Jasper Byrne and Curve Studios comes a survival horror tale that is as affordable as it is terrifying. Using retro 8-bit graphics and a killer sound set, Lone Survivor is a game that will have you quaking in your boots and loving every minute of it.
As you begin the game, you wake from some eerie dreams to what is now your reality. *You* are the lone survivor. It’s a story we’ve heard before; some unspecified event has caused the world as we know it to descend into catastrophy. Something has caused the people of the world to mutate into soulless, skinless caricatures of the human beings they once were. The vaguely shapeless look of the world and its inhabitants due to the retro looking graphics only serves to add to the terror, by allowing you to lend your own insecurities and vulnerabilities to the game.
The game play itself is really quite basic – you won’t have any trouble picking up on controls or refining lightning fast reflexes. The environment is 2D (a fitting match to the simple graphics). The emphasis in Lone Survivor is clearly on the haunting story line, which is told in text boxes that complement the style of the game.
You begin in your apartment, and soon decide to make your way out into the world in search of other survivors. You can walk from apartment to apartment, enter doorways, explore tunnels, etc., but there isn’t really any sort of rush for the most part. Instead, your skill is put to better use managing supplies and wending your way through endless hallways in search of answers, many of which are never fully understood. This is a game that sets out to mess with your head, and it succeeds in that quite handily. The fact that you can also replay the game in a quest to unravel more clues and uncover alternate endings only adds to the appeal of the game.
Managing supplies will be a main factor in your style of play, and the choices you make have real consequences to how your game plays out. You are a surviving human being after the world has suffered a dire fate, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get peckish once in a while (or kind of all the time). You are often hungry, and must forage for food to keep yourself from suffering the dire consequences that would stem from passing out amongst the zombie hordes. You have a flashlight, which is super handy for exploring your environment. Unfortunately, the need to conserve batteries means you must use it sparingly or suffer the dark consequences.
You also get tired, requiring a trip back to your apartment for a nice lie down. Sleeping rejuvenates your character, but it also save the game, so heading back home for a quick nap is a task you’ll perform often. Two way mirrors scattered around the environments help you quickly morph back to your place, so while you will be working your way back and forth quite a bit, it’s not nearly as bad as it could be.
Lone Survivor is all about choices. You can avoid sleeping and eating for longer periods by resorting to popping the colorful pills you find in the medicine cabinet, but their effects on your tenuous grasp of reality are sketchy at best. You acquire a weapon fairly early in play, but a scarcity of ammunition make the use of stealth nearly always a better option. As the game instructs you, “There’s usually other ways around the situation than violence.”
Lone Survivor: The Director’s cut is that rare game that blends your own fears and insecurities, an eerie sound set and vague yet horrifying graphics into a psychological thriller that defines horror as a state of constant vulnerability, made all the more vibrant by the uncertainty of not knowing whether it is you who is crazy, or the world around you.