Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut

Screenshot from Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut

Does your favourite video game genre fall under one of the following categories: platformer, survival horror, or a good old point-and-click? If so, then you should enjoy Lone Survivor. I say 'should' because it takes a lot of cues from titles in these genres - but often not in the way you'd expect.

As a 2D side-scroller, there's no platform-based action; as an adventure with a keen focus on your decisions, the choices you can make are often insignificant to how the game plays out. And as a survival horror game, it dishes out supplies whenever you need, while combat is slow and often clunky.

After spending a few hours with the game, it's safe to say that these juxtaposed design decisions have all been made intentionally, and further confirms the idea that the unnamed player is fighting to survive both the zombie apocalypse, and the undertones of his own sanity.

The game itself is extremely basic, with a simplistic control scheme doing its best to avoid distracting you from the experience, although this is somewhat lost on the Wii U GamePad. The secondary screen merely duplicates the TV, often falsely diverting your attention between both screens when a jump-scare catches your eye in two places. Meanwhile the touch-screen could've been used to offer asynchronous access to the player's inventory rather than keeping it in an overlay which takes over the unpaused game when opened. Yet even with such a criticism, it has to be said that even this drawback does add to the overall tension as you fumble after a healing item, or battery for your torch, while a zombie lurks ever-closer.

When it comes to fending off the undead, the pistol will be your favourite ally throughout - although its use will probably guarantee you one of the bad endings. Pushing the right shoulder button and mashing the trigger is a slow affair, with the pixellated foes taking no visibible damage, as you slowly fire off round after round. Collision detection isn't the greatest either, as you'll often find yourself taking damage before the enemy has physically touched you, and scuttling away feels slow and unsatisfying - especially given how little damage the player can take before his imminent death.

That's not to say that death is depicted as a negative outcome in the world of Lone Survivor. As you start your journey in your apartment, it's necessary to return here as often as possible: sleeping in your bed acts as a save point, while skipping you to the next day in your never-ending nightmare. This also introduces a unique mechanic, in that the game - or rather your unconscious self - leaves you a selection of pills in the bathroom for you to take as you please.

Red pills refresh you, allowing you to avoid sleep for longer, while taking a blue or green pill before sleeping will result in one of two types of lucid dream. These result in an encounter with an unknown character, whom may ask you a series of questions. Either way, as the following day commences, you'll notice an increase in ammo, batteries or food supplies.

Lone Survivor's main challenge is usually derived from actually navigating the apartment. Mirrors, scattered throughout the corridors, act as portals back to your bedroom, while a map is always on-hand to point out any areas of interest. As the map is top-down, and the game is obviously played from a side-scrolling perspective, it's undeniably a challenge to keep track of where you've been, and where you're headed next.

There's little doubt, then, that Lone Survivor is a clunky affair, and its enjoyability depends almost entirely on each player's patience. Some will absolutely revel in the slow-paced action and convoluted map, while others may well be put off by its underlying retro personality. If you're willing to take a chance this Halloween, you may well find yourself enthralled in one the most unique horror games of recent times.

7 / 10