‘Twas the week before Halloween and all through the house, A reviewer was getting clobbered for using Christmas references in October. Ahem. But seriously. The great gods of the gaming journalism world thought that it would be a great idea, what with it being Halloween at the time of writing, for me to try out a horror game. If you’re reading this in February or something then I apologize but it’s context at least. I don’t play many horror games. I tend to play games to relax and that is not really what horror games are all about. However, it is Halloween right now so I thought why the hell not eh? Right, that’s enough context. Let’s get to it…
Ok, a little disclaimer from me in the future before we get going. I am going to try and keep this as spoiler free as possible. The very nature of this game means that I feel like everything you encounter should be encountered for the very first time in the game. That adds to the creep factor immensely. Right. Off back to me before I played the game.
The first thing I want to talk about is the art style. It’s got a beautiful hand-drawn feel to it. Very dark but somehow feels very colorful at the same time. All the environments and the ‘background’ items in the game look like cardboard cut-out versions of their real-life counterparts. While most of them are interactive in a very simple way, you can walk up to most of them and push/knock them over, the items you are meant to pick up or use tend to be highlighted with an almost golden sheen that helps to make them stand out starkly from the rest, making them nice and easy to spot.
From a gameplay standpoint, this is wonderful as in the starting area you never feel like you are being told what to do in order to progress. Ape Law instead drops you into the game and lets you wander around, discovering the mechanics for yourself. For those of us who are used to having our hands held through the tutorial level of a game be ready for this. Personally, I feel like it’s refreshing to have to work it out yourself.
Albino Lullaby mentions in its steam description, and this is a direct quote, that it “doesn’t rely on jump scares or gore”. It’s difficult to describe how the game makes you feel. And even more difficult to say how it does it, however, that’s my job really isn’t it so I should probably at least give it the old college try.
Firstly, the beginning of the game has no enemies. None of the ‘grandchildren’ (and we’ll talk about them in a minute) are present in the first area. Which didn’t make me feel safe. Mostly because I was expecting them around every corner. Ape Law has managed to use my prejudices against me. I am playing a horror game. Therefore I expect things to jump out at me and try to bite my face off. Nope. None of that. This meant that the whole first level I was on the edge of my seat. All tense because I thought I knew what was coming. There are notes dotted around the place, written in childlike handwriting which add to the uncomfortable feeling.
After a while though I was beginning to relax. Thinking that they’d given me it easy on this one. Then I heard them. The grandchildren are freaky enough to look at. Until you hear their tortured and watery voices though, you don’t know just how freaky they are. And the fact that you have nothing to defend yourself with doesn’t exactly make you think happy fluffy thoughts either. The first time you catch a glimpse of one looks like this.
He’s muttering to himself while in the bath. Nothing threatening about that right? Until you hear what he’s muttering. I shan’t spoil it for you but suffice to say I was really glad he wasn’t paying attention to me right then.
The second thing that makes the Grandchildren so creepy is the fact that they simply won’t stop chasing you. You have no weapons. They have a fear of blue light and there are several lamps you can light, once you have the matches required to do so, which will temporarily pause their advance but when you turn around again just in time to see the lamp go out after allowing yourself a quick breather and see a huge mass of them surging towards you it can be horrifying enough that you may want to make sure you didn’t have a big meal right before sitting down to play.
Even the one weapon you are eventually given only knocks them down for a few moments, before they get right back up and start to home in on you again. Did I mention it only has one shot? There are recharge points all over all the levels but they only contain one charge and so you have to plan how and when to use them so you can make your way to the next one. Personally, I felt that there were slightly too many recharge points but the single-use nature of them did mitigate this a little
Finally, the Grandchildren are creepy simply because of how they look.
I mean really. How can that not creep you out?
I’m not going to tell you much about the story as I feel that spoiling it would ruin the gameplay experience for you but suffice it to say that you are trying to escape from a nightmare in which the entire population seems to be out to get you. An environment is a machine that constantly moves and changes as you play. One thing I did notice is that most of the areas make up a circular path, allowing you to avoid the grandchildren simply by running around as they will usually follow the path you took rather than trying to cut you off.
All in all I rather enjoyed my time with Albino Lullaby. Ape Law was determined to make a horror game that didn’t rely on the old clichés and they’ve succeeded. Very well done chaps and I look forward to episode 2. It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve had a good few hours with the game and even at full price Episode 1 only comes in at £6.99 (or your regional equivalent) so it won’t break the bank either.
Episode 2 is due for release on the 15th of March 2016 with episode 3 due 15th of September of the same year. Albino Lullaby also supports the Oculus Rift if you like your scares in Virtual Reality.