Reviews: Lone Survivor


(You know, it's weird. Despite being the first trope page that I ever created, this isn't anywhere near my top tier of best games. Guess I just wanted to get something out of it. Oh well.)

Jasper Byrne's Survival Horror / Adventure Game hybrid is something that looks like it's got everything such a project should have, at least on paper. Zombie Apocalypse, retraux 8-bitty graphics, mentally unstable protagonist, icky veiny Mordor architecture... the works. The execution... now that's something completely different.

The survival mechanics seem more like a deconstruction of survival horror tropes than anything. You've got food, yes, but you're not gonna get as much out of eating it as you will from cooking it and mixing it with something else. This, of course, requires you to return to your apartment hub and use the oven to do so. While a pretty novel take on the subject, it does tend to get a bit tedious. Thankfully, this is mitigated by several teleporting mirrors and whatnot. The combat system allows you to play through the game guns blazing, or as a pacifist. The latter is, as is par for the course, the more rewarding option. How you deal with the Humanoid Abominations is entirely up to you; however, both this and almost every other choice you make can heavily influence the ending you get. This, too, is a pretty sweet concept and would have worked, if not for...

The narrative being a complete and unsatisfactory mess. Cryptic Conversations and a metric fuckton of vagueness is all well and good—being spoon-fed exposition is a plague on gaming these days, make no mistake—but next to nothing in the game is spelled out. Is anything that you see even real? Needless to say, this is detaching to the point of not-giving-a-shittedness. None of the aforementioned endings seem to resolve anything. It seems like it would be hard for anyone but the creator himself to be able to make sense of it, which begs the question as to whom he created the game for.

Granted, Lone Survivor is pretty goddamn creepy, and apart from your apartment you never really feel safe. Atmosphere is important, and this game's got it in spades. As a game however, the mechanics are middling to good. There are plenty of novel and interesting concepts in this game, but most of them seem wasted on the perceived ineptitude of Mr. Byrne.

A decent Alpha release

I would never consider this game, an ambitious little hybrid of Silent Hill and Resident Evil to be a full-fledged finished product. There was simply too much going on that was utterly mindbogglingly about the game-play and design choices for me to believe Jasper Byrne had actually completed it.

The game-play influences the ambiguous "your-character-is-insane" story, if you play pacifistically or violently. A good idea in theory, but in practice is bewildering beyond words. Taking pills is, apparently, a requirement for further progression of the game and story, but the game doesn't tell you that. Taking blue pills are needed yet detrimental to getting the better ending, but how would you ever know that?

The answer is, you don't. Not until its too late, of course. When you get that 'psychiatric evaluation' in the credits.

Lone Survivor has some "quirky" design choices, some work, others are an 'abomination of ass' that only served to encumber you and ruin an otherwise decent survival-horror experience.

Your character refuses to equip more powerful weapons, cause its "not his style". Let the absurdity of that sink in for a second. Navigation in the 2D side-scrolling game, is a pain the backside. Its not like Metroid or Castlevania where exploring feels rewarding. Here its a chore. Using the map is dreadful, trying to orientate yourself to understand where you're going is miserable, think of 'Friday the 13th' on NES.

And then we have your apartment. Good God. Your apartment. Believe it or not, you have no basics. Nothing. Your hungry-meter is a nightmare to deal with because you lack all the cooking essentials to prepare food with. And the game expects us to believe we've survived this long after the outbreak? It takes ages to "escape" from this building because for some reason, you don't have the damn key to access your own damn fire-escape ladder *right next to your bedroom*. And its crawling with more monsters than there are out on the streets! This is your sanctuary? That arbitrary design choice just ruins the immersion for me. I don't accept that premise for a second.

I think if Jasper Byrne had some outside assistance, removed the clunky user-interface, maybe promoted the alpha via Kickstarter, we could have had a very good horror game. Alas, he didn't, and we don't.