By LIM YIN TUNG
You can lose your way, lose sleep, lose your sanity and lose your temper in this one.
THE survival horror genre has been largely ignored by videogame developers who prefer action-oriented titles such as Resident Evil 5 or Dead Rising. Only with the recent release of Silent Hill: Downpour did we get a true return to the survival horror experience.
However, there is now a newcomer to the survival horror genre by the name of Lone Survivor; a 2D-sidescroller horror game published by independent developer Jasper Byrne under Superflat Games.
This game puts you in the shoes of an unnamed surgical-mask-wearing protagonist surviving an infection-plagued world where the people have turned into grotesque mutants. You live day by day, surviving on whatever you can find.
The objective of the game is not only to avoid the mutants as you try to escape from the apartment you are living in, but to also fight to keep your sanity by doing various things, such as talking to a plush kitty (not kidding), talking to a plant you have named Chuck (again, not kidding), eating better food and trying to get enough sleep.
There is no meter to determine what the current state of your sanity is but it will ultimately decide which ending you get at the end of the game.
The gameplay for Lone Survivor is almost the same as any survival horror game, you look for items to help you along the journey and solve puzzles along the way. The one thing about Lone Survivor is that it does not really tell you what you need to do and sometimes throws you into a situation where you are completely lost.
This, however, helps increase the tension in the game as it progresses. Because supplies are scarce, you might actually run out before you even manage to solve the puzzles.
You will also have to think quickly and at the same time try to stay calm as you see your supplies dwindling fast.
"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" and this game takes that line quite literally because it is very important for you to find good food in the game because eating better food results in better mental health.
You will meet an assortment of interesting characters, such as a man with a cardboard box on his head and "The Director" who plays a pivotal role throughout the game.
Depending on your mental health, you will get different items from the characters, which will help you progress in the game.
By the way, there are two ways of getting rid of the mutants - either you use flares or fire the handgun. The type of tactic you use to manoeuvre around the mutants also greatly impacts the ending you will get, so choose your tactics wisely.
The biggest gripe I have with the game is the clunky menu system. You press the spacebar to bring up your inventory and from there, you get access to your items.
For me that is fine when it comes to cooking food and getting water, however, when it comes to situations like using a flare, it's a real pain.
As you are staring down a mutant, the action of pressing the spacebar, scrolling down to the "ignite" icon and placing the flare is quite a troublesome series of actions, even more so if the mutant spots you.
Secondly, the map is a quirky top-down type for 2D-sidescroller, which might be troublesome for some players if they do not have good imagination. It took me quite a long time before I could actually navigate around without any problems.
The last gripe I have about the game is that there is no pause menu for the game. You can pause the game via the "P" key but if you forget the controls of the game after a long break, you will have to remind yourself to stop by the cupboard in your room to refresh what keys to press. If you forget and venture out into the open, you will have to travel all the way back to your room just to get acquainted with the controls again.
However, these are just very small blemishes in an otherwise unique experience.
Lone Survivor is a particularly good experience and shows that you do not need amazing graphics to produce a great game.
The 8-bit art style is used surprisingly well and there are moments where I jumped at the appearance of a boss.
The soundscape is also very good, making good use of scores and sound effects to send chills down your spine. Finally, here is another worthy entry to a genre that has been largely ignored for years.
Pros: Sanity system keeps the game interesting; great puzzles that require a lot of thinking; scarcity of supplies increases the tension in the game; interesting characters.
Cons: Clunky menu system sometimes makes you want to tear your hair out; map may be confusing for some players; no pause menu for quick key referenceends.
PC SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Windows XP/Vista/7, Intel Core2Duo or above, 2GB RAM, nVidia 7900/equivalent, DirectX7.0, 150MB HD space
MAC SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: OSX 10.6.8, Core Duo, 2GB RAM, nVidia/AMD GPU with 256MB or more, 300MB free hard-disk space
PRICE: US$9.99 (RM30) at Steam Online Store