Question your trippy reality in one of the year’s best indie titles
I’m not overly well-versed in horror games. I put about 8 hours into Resident Evil 4 before giving up on it, and I’ve only scratched the surface of Amnesia. Silent Hill, on the other hand, definitely attracted my attention enough to see the first two games to completion. Silent Hill 2, in particular, is nearly a masterpiece. In their early iterations, those games treasured atmosphere and figuring out ways to get under the player’s skin better than anything else in gaming. It makes sense then that Lone Survivor comes from Superflat, the same guy who made Soundless Mountain II – a demake of Silent Hill 2.
Lone Survivor is, at its core, a sidescrolling adventure game. You play in a 2D world that is conceived as a 3D space with super simple controls: left and right arrow keys move you, X interacts with objects, C puts you in gun mode, and F toggles your flashlight on and off. Though the world can be a bit confusing to navigate, it’s all there for a reason and helps with the psychology the game invokes. This game isn’t about pulling off fancy mechanics, it’s a game that plants just enough seeds in your head that things will keep growing long after you’ve quit out of the program.
What is and isn’t real is a key theme to the strange happenings going on throughout the game. There are plenty of things going “bump” in the night (and “skree”, “blarble” and “wuuuurrrkk”) to make you want to keep the lights on, but Lone Survivor isn’t about cheap scares. It’s the sort of game that scares you because of how you look at things afterward, when you’re away from the computer. You’ll need to explore the world, but you’ll never know what to expect or what result you’ll get from your actions. Things happen that don’t make sense, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out the game goes and switches gears – but it never feels cheap or unearned. That’s just how things go in this world.
The graphics are simple, but completely full of details. You can interact with a lot of the world, and the game keeps track of how you choose to conduct yourself. You’ll see a coat in a closet and your character doesn’t want to put it on because it’s not his. The sneakers make too much noise, which won’t let you slip past the ghouls that might be out there. It’s all a testament and a nod to when horror games took those little things very seriously.
The sound design and, in particular, the soundtrack are absolutely stunning. The music plays your emotions to match the scenes perfectly. The ambient sound makes a completely empty hallway utterly harrowing to walk through. The sounds coming from behind a closed and locked door entice and induce anxious feelings that you didn’t know you could have.
Lone Survivor has multiple endings available and will vary drastically depending on what sort of actions you take throughout the game. The choices aren’t necessarily explicitly clear, but in a game where details matter, you’d better believe that every little thing will affect the ending. If you have the stomach for it all, you’ll want to play through multiple times. It’s a game that should warrant a fanatical following; one that will appreciate all the little things that make this of this year’s premiere indie titles.