: Superflat Games
: Superflat Games
: Survival Horror
: March 27th, 2012, April 23rd, 2012 (Steam)
The survival horror genres has suffered a considerable decline during the past generation of gaming. Gone are the days of gritty slow-paced, story-driven adventures and have now been replaced with polished action packed thrills with the occasional scare thrown in. Superflat Games, the one-man studio headed by Jasper Byrne, brings us Lone Survivor and attempts bring survival horror back to its roots, with a twist.
Lone Survivor tells the story of a nameless protagonist, known only as “you”, as he attempts to escape a city devastated by some unknown plague that has transformed its inhabitants into zombie-like monsters. In this psychologically draining adventure, you will not only have to escape from the nameless horrors that now inhabit your apartment building, but also have to maintain yourself in good physical and mental condition as your world spirals into madness. At times, your character will question what is real and what is a product of his demented mind. As you make your way through your apartment complex and the rest of the city, you will encounter a couple of other odd-minded survivors as well as a variety of diseased monsters. While the story is short, it is quite engaging and you will find yourself replaying the game several times in order to flesh out your character’s story.
Lone Survivor is definitely not for fans of polished graphics and flashy effects as this indie title sports a unique old-school look. This 2D side-scroller has a pixelated look that might remind you Super Nintendo titles, although at times it might display more advanced lighting effects. The combination of pixelated graphics and the almost omnipresent darkness allows the game to play with your mind and have your imagination fill in the gaps. This limited visibility permits the game to play on your fears of the unknown, similar to the way that Silent Hill’s use of fog was used to create a sense of implied horror and dread.
Unfortunately, while this look is excellent when it comes to the actual gameplay and is a great component of what makes this game so unique, it does come with small drawback. Text can be hard to read, particularly when contrasted with certain colors in the background, and since this game lacks any sort of voice acting this can become a problem.
As most other survival horror titles, Lone Survivor depends heavily on its soundtrack and sound effects in order to create an atmosphere of powerlessness, dread, and above all, solitude. As a 2D side-scroller this title lacks any sort of voice acting and naturally as the only survivor of an epidemic, dialogue is greatly limited.
The faint grunts and groans of enemies in the distance, the crackle of an alerted enemy (certainly a nod to Silent Hill) and the muted thud of your steps all help bring the dead world of Lone Survivor to life. This game’s soundtrack succeeds and excels at immersing you within the game world and maintaining an aura of isolation. This chilling soundtrack is key to this game’s success and I’d whole-heartedly recommend that readers check it out.
Controls in this game are extremely simple and responsive. Movement is consigned to the arrow keys, while other actions such as shooting and using certain items are mapped to the number keys at the top of the keyboard. Unfortunately there aren’t any control options and the use of any sort of gamepad is not supported natively.
Throughout the course of this game the player is constantly faced with the decision that is so common in the survival horror genre; should I fight or flee? Ammo quickly becomes scarce, and in what seems as part of the game design in order to emphasize the “everyday man” aspect of our protagonist, gunplay is clunky and unintuitive as our character can only shoot in three directions and has limited range.
However the game offers a variety of manners in which one can avoid all combat entirely as you are able to lure monsters away with rotten meat or shock them into submission with flares. You may also use your surrounding to your advantage and hide from most enemies in a variety of situations.
Your character’s health can impact the gameplay as well as the final resolution of the game’s plot. As you progress through the game you will start to feel hunger, thirst and get tired and depending on how you resolve your needs, the storyline will be affected. Within the apartment complex you will find a variety of drugs that have different hallucinatory effects but will also provide you with certain supplies. While a drug might make you very sleepy and make you have unnerving dream sequences, it might also reward you with ammo, flares or batteries for your flashlight. All of these drugs will have a different effect on your psyche and this will come into play as the game goes on.
One of the more aggravating aspects of this title is the map system. Deciphering your map and your route towards your goal is needlessly complicated as it gives you a top-down view of your world, despite the fact that you are navigating it in a 2D side-scrolling fashion. This is made even worse by the fact that opening your map does not pause the game world. This can make the game very frustrating at times, especially during a certain timed chase scene. If you have not at least partially memorized the map by that point in time, be prepared to be very frustrated.
It is also worth mentioning that due to its focus on solitude and loneliness like many other games in the horror genre, Lone Survivor lacks any sort of local or online multiplayer support.
Indie games tend to be on the short side, and by clocking in at around 4-5 hours, Lone Survivor is no exception. Currently Lone Survivor has three different endings, each of them depending on item use, your interactions with other characters and your mental health. While all three feel complete and give closure to the story line, game creator Jasper Byrne has promised to continually update the game and add more endings as time goes on in order to flesh out the story and expand on the game’s length, so be prepared to come back to this game in the near future.
Last Survivor is a game that brings the survival horror genre to its roots. Slow-paced, tense and drenched with a lonely atmosphere, this is a game that will leave you feeling uneasy and maybe even emotionally drained. Don’t let its old school minimalistic graphics fool you, this game also packs a good amount of scares and disturbing imagery.
While it might not be for everyone with its heavy emphasis on survival and its tendency to play with your mind, Lone Survivor is a good indie game and for $10 it will be a welcome addition to the gaming library of any survival horror fan.