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Lone Survivor Review: An intriguing, flawed horror game


Way behind the times, perhaps, but I finally finished it recently and needed something to throw here....SOOOOOOOOOOOO...

I first got Lone survivor as part of a humble bundle, unaware of what it was and any of the buzz it may have had around it. I played it on PC, but never got around to finishing it due to a frustrating basement area (more on that momentarily). I later got it on sale for Vita and have finally completed it. What did I think? Well…

Vita Edge?:

Not really. While I prefer it on the Vita and think that the Vitas OLED and smaller screen add more quality and detail than on PC, it’s more a matter of preference than anything and you should probably just consider playing it on whatever works for you.

Art Style and Music:

One of the interesting things about Lone survivor is its art style, being a pixelated style that still conveys quite a bit of detail. The pixels are pretty visible and lend everything an interesting texture if there’s enough light to see them, and the monster designs are appropriately messed up. There’s enough detail to know what things are, and see certain actions in motion, and personally I like the art style and the messing around with lighting coloration. I like the look and the minimalistic interface keeps things clean and ultimately found it to be a good looking game indeed. I like the music in general, as it generally fits a tone and makes you feel content or worried as the situation demands. The sound design is appropriate and the monsters sound as gross or odd as they need to, with situations introducing different music to indicate different things. The music is also well composed-unsurprising if you consider this guy also made some of the music for Hotline Miami, which I find to be an interesting wrinkle.

World and Atmosphere:

The world is a dark place, filled with horrible inside out man-like monsters the narrator calls infected and another more bizarre variety. The world is a creepy one, and an oppressive atmosphere hangs over the player as they make their way through the cramped and confined apartments, leading to a bit of claustrophobia. There’s gross fleshy growths to be found, and hellish looking corruptions spreading across certain surfaces, with certain areas being partially demolished by some unseen forces in the past. The character believes himself to be the last one left, and most of the game takes place in his apartment complex and the city around it. You grow to find landmarks and get pretty familiar with the apartment, knowing its safe zones and tricks to get through the apartments as quickly as possible. You become very familiar with it, and each new item found that enhances your living situation makes your apartment feel more like home and makes you feel like you’re making progress.

However the basement is a black mark on the game, as it’s really frustrating and a pain to get through on a non-lethal run. If you don’t play the game just so, flares become impossible to get and the basement is near impossible to work through without using the gun, which a nonlethal play through prohibits. If you don’t use up your flares at the right time, you won’t find more and basement feels needlessly frustrating, though this is a horror game so perhaps there is fairness to it.  

The unlocking of quicker routes that make backtracking easier make the world feel more coherent and I find it’s a nice feature that allows shortcut use to make things easier.  Getting outside feels good after being cooped up, and the city is also interesting, with different buildings containing different useful items and odd events to find. There’s secrets to be found, and depending on how you play the game and what secrets you find, you get different endings. This is inspired by silent hill, after all. It’s generally well set up, but near the end the game loses steam and just kind of ends after getting through the city, which feels like an interesting new part of the game in its own right but is quickly gone.


The world of Lone survivor is one in which nothing really makes sense, due to the unreliable narrator you play as. He’s literally only called “You” and he can’t remember his name, and as he goes through the world he sees several disturbing things that cannot be explained by anything other than madness or twisted magic. His only goal is to survive, and he can do so by lethal or non-lethal means. There’s things you need to figure out to get everything to work out, and the minimal handholding forces you to figure out things to do as good as you can. The apartment has a lot going on, and it’s interesting to watch the main character go through maddening events that can’t be explained and contribute to this story behind the scenes. After getting out of the apartment complex, the city only lasts for a bit and it isn’t too hard to figure out where to go, meaning the game doesn’t have much left after that and ends pretty quickly afterwards, somewhat anticlimactically I find. I like how the character has his own thoughts and responses to other characters, and how there’s a lot of hidden things in the game that affect your sanity-and by proxy the ending you get. However the ending feels anticlimactic and unsatisfying, and ultimately I wish the game had been longer to take more advantage of the latter half, and I wish it had ended on a higher note. I still enjoyed it, despite its imperfections and I hope Mr. Byrne gets the chance to make a new one at some point.


- “If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet.” ― Stewart Brand

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About Gamemaniac3434one of us since 11:25 PM on 02.01.2013

Who am I? I'm an avid gamer, beer snob, coffee snob and aspiring microbiologist. I love all sorts of different genres of games and different games from different years and as of recent years I've tried to get more into multiplayer games. I also really love microbiology and if you get me started on it, you will never get me to shut up about it.
-Gamemaniac3434 on everything, but Nintendo services