Check out our review of Lamentum, a brand new survival horror game from developers Obscure Tales…
Find out why it manages to combine retro flavour with genuine frights to make a title you have to play this Halloween.
Hey how’s it going guys! This is Tom from UDS and welcome to our review of Lamentum, a brand new survival horror game by developers Obscure Tales. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know before you play, and don’t forget to subscribe for more on all things gaming every single week. You’re not going to want to miss it…
We live in a world in which technology such as near photorealistic graphics and virtual reality have made video games more immersive than ever. This is perhaps no more effective than in horror titles, delivering the most visceral spooks and frights possible.
Yet as the medium advances, games that helped pave the way tend to lose their lustre. Don’t get me wrong, titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill are stil modern classics, but thanks to ageing graphics and campy dialogue, they don’t get the heart pumping quite as much as their modern contemporaries.
But the question remains, could you make an effect, frightening and above all enjoyable experience in a retro style? This is exactly what Lamentum sets out to do.
Set in 19th century New England, you play as Victor Hartwell, a devoted husband whose wife is deathly ill from a mysterious sickness. When conventional methods fail, you take her to the mysterious Grau Hill Manor after hearing that its master, Lord Steinrot, may hold the key to her cure.
But before long, everything starts to go a bit pear shaped. You wake up in a blood soaked bed to find the mansion has transformed into a Lovecraftian nightmare, with once beautiful paintings now depicting hideous scenes, only matched in their horror by the vile monsters skulking through the corridors. You’ll have to be the bravest of brave boys if you’re to uncover the mystery of what’s happened and ultimately save your lady love.
It’s a premise that fits the bill for a blood-curdling time, but with pixel art and a third person perspective, will it do enough to delight and fright? Watch on to find out…
Starting with the gameplay, it’s very reminiscent of those early Resident Evil titles. You slowly piece together the story of what’s happened by exploring this macabre world, all with very little direction from the start. Instead, it’s down to you to figure out the best path to take, with environmental exposition and prompts gently steering you in the right direction. This really helps to make everything feel natural and connected, rather than strong-arming in mechanics or tropes that could pull you out of the moment.
As with any survival horror game worth their salt, there’s a variety of different puzzles you’ll have to solve along the way. Depending on your outlook, you might find some a little obtuse or deliberately, fiendishly difficult, but the main thing is the answer is always there, you just have to look for it. I spent longer than I’m proud to admit seeking out a rune I needed to complete a puzzle, only to realise I had the items needed to discover it in my inventory the whole time. When that penny drops and you finally figure out what you need to do, there’s few feelings more satisfying.
Much like similar games of old, combat is slow and ideally avoided. Once you manage to find a gun, you’ll soon realise ammo is scarce, and even melee attacks need pinpoint accuracy to be effective. It makes every enemy feel all the more threatening and dangerous, and reminds you that Victor is exposed and ill-prepared for this world he’s only just beginning to learn about.
As you can probably tell from my tone already, I was super impressed with this game, and it really does manage to give you the chills throughout. I loved the use of lighting, which helps to give a sense of tension and paranoia despite the third person perspective. Even with a torch you’re not going to be able to see that far in front of yourself, and it’s the unknown which is often the most terrifying part. It’s features like this that could never have been done on retro hardware, and reminded me that despite its nostalgic veneer, there’s plenty of innovation under the hood.
The world you can see is truly horrific too. Despite the limitations of pixel art, Obscure Tales have managed to create areas dripping with Lovecraftian terror, with everything from the monster design to the haunting paintings on the walls making for a foreboding atmosphere that will chill even the steeliest of hearts. You can even find excrement in the toilet!
This tension is ramped up even further by the fact you have limited saves and only a few places that you can use them. Much like the similar system used in classic Resident Evil, it makes every encounter feel all the more dangerous, as not only does your character risk his life, but you risk losing a hefty chunk of progress.
In fact, my only real criticism of the design is that the dark colour palette can mean you miss doorways and other interactable objects among the gloom. My advice would be to whack the brightness up all the way to max to make sure you don’t miss something and have to backtrack.
The story helps to frame everything in a captivating package, with the mystery of what happened that fateful night in Grau Hill Manor. I found myself wanting to read every scrap of paper I could come across not just on the off chance it could hold the answer to some future riddle, but out of curiosity of what happened while you were out cold. It might all be a bit derivative of its influences, but it takes the best of what’s come before to spin a compelling tale.
With summer winding down and Halloween season fast approaching, Lamentum has put me right in the festive mood. It absolutely succeeds at what it sets out to do, and although it’s not really one for repeat play throughs, it’s one of the most captivating gaming experiences I’ve had all year. If someone tries to argue with you that old school games aren’t scary, lock them in a dark room with a copy of Lamentum and see how long they last.
But what did you think of Lamentum? Please let me know in the comments below, I love reading your thoughts. And while you’re there, please consider subscribing for more video game content every week, or visit upsidedownshark.com to find out more about everything we’ve got going on.
But until then my name is Tom, this has been UDS and we’ll see you next time.