If the key to survival horror is in state of the art visuals and immersion then clearly nobody has every informed indie developer Jasper Byrne of that. While the likes of The Last of Us, The Evil Within and Alien Isolation use the newest gaming hardware to keep you on the edge of your seat, Lone Survivor attempts to appear creepy using only PSOne-quality 2D sprites and some slightly disturbing dialogue.
After originally launching on the PC in 2012 and on PS3 and Vita this year, Lone Survivor has finally made it’s way to Sony’s most advanced platform yet the port remains almost entirely identical to it’s older brothers. The lead protagonist roams the halls of the near-abandoned apartment complex with the same disturbing surgical mask on his face and the obviously Silent Hill-inspired monstrosities look much the same as they always did.
For those newcomers among you, Lone Survivor is an side-scrolling horror show that follows one man’s quest for survival and descent into madness after a plague has turned his home-town into aggressive mutants with attractions to light and rotting flesh. The player inhabits a lonely world where food, sleep and self-defence act as the only means to survive. The creatures that plague the apartment building in which most of the game takes place cannot be reasoned with and thus the only way to live is either to use your wits and avoid them or take them down by force using whatever limited supplies are at your disposal.
In a time when most indie survival horror falls into the Amnesia-style, defenceless first person category, Lone Survivor can be quite a refreshing experience. It makes clever use of visual distortion and sound to disorient you and creates an atmosphere that is generally creepy. I use creepy in the loosest possible sense as Lone Survivor does fail to scare and in all honesty I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to these things. We’re now at a stage where Resident Evil is nearly 20 years old and sadly I just don’t think it’s possible for crude retro-sprites to put the fear of God into us any more.
This is not to say that Lone Survivor is a poorly animated game, as it isn’t however unfortunately the same cannot be said about certain aspects of the design which can turn a play through into a deeply unpleasant experience. Jasper Byrne has obviously tried to incorporate a challenging puzzle system however many of the puzzles are slow and nonsensical and the lead character’s requirement for food and sleep soon loses it’s charm. Likewise, the map can only be viewed when the game wants you to see it and I actually found myself having to retrace my steps on many occasions before eventually resorting to Google Image Search.
All in all, if your thirst for indie on the PS4 hasn’t already been satisfied by the offerings of PlayStation Plus or you’re looking for a more simple survival horror to entertain you this Halloween then you could do worse than this game. However with a publisher-enforced exclusion from the PlayStation Cross-Buy system and an asking price of £7.99, Lone Survivor is hard to recommend. Those who have played any of the previous versions will not find anything new here and even in the currently shallow pool of the PS4 downloadable market, most players will be able to find a better investment for their money.