Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Lone Survivor

Review: Lone Survivor

12:00 PM on 04.02.2012 // Jim Sterling
  @JimSterling

Jasper Byrne has made a name for himself with some incredibly clever indie titles in the past, including the brilliant Soul Brother and the famous Silent Hill demake, Soundless Mountain. His latest release, Lone Survivor, is his most ambitious title to date, and I feel quite comfortable saying it's his greatest. 

Lone Survivor has more in common with Silent Hill than recent official entries have, recapturing the foreboding psychological horror and introspective storytelling in a way that shames Konami's own efforts. 

If you're a horror fan, this game is essential. 

Lone Survivor (PC [Reviewed], Mac)
Developer: Superflat Games
Publisher: Superflat Games
Release: March 26, 2012
MSRP: $10.00

Lone Survivor is a game about isolation, survival, and overwhelming desperation. You step into the shoes of a nameless character (labeled only as "you" in dialog boxes) who attempts to find answers and stay alive while striking out from his small apartment. An infection has turned most of humanity into violent mutants that twitch and stagger throughout the streets, leaving only the player to forage, fight, and look for anybody left alive. 

The narrative is often disturbing, and sometimes confusing, with clear nods to Twin Peaks. The survivor, already mentally fragile, is prone to hallucinations and much of the exposition revolves around his dealings with seemingly imagined characters. A man who wears a box on his head, a taunting old creep on a stage, and a sinister figure with a bright white face act as the primary antagonists, though their motivations are unclear and their words remain elusive. While much of the game is abstract and obscure, it remains compelling, managing to enthrall rather than alienate. 

Byrne wears his love of Silent Hill on his sleeve, and its pervasive influence is undeniable. The game is structured around the survivor's apartment, with players leaving its safety to solve item puzzles, challenge monsters, and collect essential supplies. Each new area has a map to discover, which updates as players explore, very much like Konami's horror series. Monsters emit distorted noises to give away their positions, are attracted by the player's flashlight, and can prove difficult to fight thanks to the player's unwieldiness with his pistol. To some, the similarities will border on shameless, but it's done so well, so much better than Silent Hill itself has done it for years, that the resemblance is more than welcome. 

Monsters can be fought with a pistol found early in the game. Pressing "C" switches the survivor to a fighting stance, and the gun can be aimed up and down with the directional keys. Shooting creatures in the knees sends them stumbling back, and going for headshots require good timing, but deal extra damage. Ammunition can be scarce, however, and the infected must be challenged only when necessary. 

Combat is not always necessary, and it's often preferable to use stealth. Creatures can be lured away by dropping rotten meat on the ground, and recesses in the walls can be stepped into, allowing the player to sneak past idle opponents. The system works fairly well, although I've had a (very) rare few instances where monsters had seen me anyway, and camped outside the recess indefinitely, attacking thin air until I stepped back into view. I'd have loved more opportunities to exploit the luring system, too. It feels like rotten meat has a very specific use in very specific locations, and I'd have loved more inventive opportunities. These minor niggles aside, the stealth manages to be surprisingly effective at building tension. Even though opponents can't hurt you while in a hiding place, it still manages to be scary whenever you sidle past one. It's certainly a testament to how unnerving Lone Survivor's creatures are.

Resource management is a big part of Lone Survivor's challenge, as players will need to consume food and sleep at regular intervals, as well as ration use of the flashlight to save battery power. Some may find the frequency with which the survivor complains about weariness or hunger a little excessive, but since sleeping saves the game and hunger can be ignored for a decent length of time, players shouldn't feel too pressured. The effect of the survivor's complaints are often more psychological than practical, since one is always mindful about venturing too far from the apartment and may grow paranoid if out in the field for an extended period of time. Two-way mirrors are dotted around the environment at crucial locations, allowing players to teleport back to the safe house when needed. 

Much of what makes Lone Survivor so compelling can be found in the optional activities, with players able to maintain a healthier protagonist by making a better living for themselves. A stove can be fixed to cook better quality food, a cat can be befriended, and a plant can be taken care of. Conversely, some activities have less clearly beneficial effects on the player's sanity, so whether you want to talk to a plush doll or attempt to eat rotten food is up to you. Anything you do throughout the adventure is recorded for use in a psych evaluation at the end of the game, and whether you conclude your journey sane or mad is all directly influenced by the choices you make. 

One huge contributing factor to the story is drug use. Players can collect red, blue, and green pills, all of which are conveniently left in the apartment's bathroom and mysteriously restocked when used. Red pills reduce the need for sleep, while blue and green pills are to be taken before sleeping, and unlock dream sequences with the game's mysterious supporting characters. Pill usage often rewards the survivor with extra items, but the long-term costs may not be worth the benefits. It's all up to the player to decide, of course, and nobody says you have take any pills. 

At times, the survivor's whining can prove a bit annoying, while the map system can be difficult to deal with. Maps are presented in a top-down fashion, but the sidescrolling gameplay often means players will go scurrying off in the wrong direction. It's also fairly irritating that enemies continue moving while the map's open, and there's an infuriating chase sequence partway through the game, which requires a near-perfect memory of the environment. At their worst, however, these are but minor setbacks that ultimately do little to dent the overall enjoyment of a very well made product. Some may even find they help amp up the survival instinct. 

Although graphics are rudimentary, the atmosphere is absolutely stunning. Environments look suitably grotesque and the creatures manage to disturb despite -- or perhaps thanks to -- the lack of detail. Sound plays a big part, with some hideous noises made by enemies and some wonderfully astute use of music to punctuate the adventure's most important moments. Again, the Silent Hill inspiration is clear as day, with a reliance on rusted coloration, industrial noises, static sound effects, and a bittersweet soundtrack. 

On the first playthrough, it will likely take you around three hours to complete, but there's a good chance you'll only experience a portion of what the game offers. The multiple endings and the influential optional activities will add a significant amount of extra gameplay for those who become absorbed in Lone Survivor's enthralling world. After clearing the game once, I feel like I've got much more of the story to uncover, and I'm more intrigued than I was when I started. Should you wish it, Lone Survivor can be a lot more than it first appears. 

Lone Survivor is easily among the best survival horror games that I've ever played, a feat that's truly remarkable when one considers the 2D perspective and visual limitations. Demonstrating that a commitment to ambience and art direction trumps technical superiority, this guaranteed indie classic manages to provoke -- and sometimes even frighten -- as much as the genre's most lauded entries. Its depressing premise, eccentric characters, and engrossing narrative bolster the solid survival gameplay to create a journey that's sure to stick with players for a very long time. 

More Silent Hill than Silent Hill, Jasper Byrne's Lone Survivor shows survival horror's best and brightest exactly how it's done.



THE VERDICT

9

Lone Survivor - Reviewed by Jim Sterling
Entrancing - It's like magic, guys. Time disappears when this game and I are together, and I never want it to end. I'm not sure if this is a love that will last forever, but if it is, you'll get no complaints from me.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory



 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

destructoid's previous coverage:
Lone Survivor


  Aug 06

Lone Survivor, Stealth Inc. 2, The Swapper hit Wii U this holiday season

Curve Studios offering Nintendo fans plenty of indie action later this year


  Jan 29

Curve's four game PlayStation bundle is a great deal

Proteus, Thomas Was Alone, Lone Survivor, and Stealth Inc., all cross buy PS3/Vita


  May 19

Sup Holmes burns bright with Jasper Byrne

Get to know the people that make great videogames


  Nov 12

Lone Survivor coming to PS3 and Vita

Pants-filling horror adventure to expand to new platforms


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Six Reasons Why YOU Should Buy Soul Sacrifice Delta For $8!

Mega Man X Drinking Game: The Super Smashed Bros

Video Gaming Bits -- Rampage: Total Destruction

Roses are black, PS4 lights are blue; This is a game, and it has valkyries too?

Cblogs of 02/10/16 and WONDER-isms

Modern face of survival horror

Discussion Discussion on Games

PStoid Episode 38: Doomed from the Box Art

Cblogs of 2/9/16 - Only Slightly Late Edition

Narrative Mistakes: Mass Effect's Reapers As Primary Villains

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
Does anyone know how to get PS4 screenshots onto a PC without needing a flash drive? I don't have a spare.
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
This is an example of how bad my drawings are. I honestly think drawing stick figures would've been easier on the eyes. :( The worst thing about this image is that this was made after I got BETTER. Trust me, you don't want to see my earlier stuff. T^T
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
So I received a mysterious box in the mail today. When I opened it I was blown away...The friends I've made here on Destructoid are amazing (More pics in the comments).
Parismio avatarParismio
FRISK PACIFIES YOUR FACE!
MeanderBot avatarMeanderBot
Woe is me. This month's Cblog theme is basically an excuse to draw pretty girls, and here I am with no time.
Gundy avatarGundy
Maybe one day I'll reach bronze rank in Rocket League...
Nathan D avatarNathan D
A very Bloodborne-y moment.
TheLimoMaker avatarTheLimoMaker
Back in tip-top shape guys, feel waaaaay better than I have done these past few weeks. Plus my voice sounds slightly raspy now, meaning my Batman impression has been upgraded. Apologies to Gaj and Solar the most, my male-up kisses go to you: Xxxxxx
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Wait... Is that...? Could it be...? It IS! Gravity Rush's Kat has taken a break from rushing and graviting to sacrifice some souls in Soul Sacrifice Delta! Which isn't even going for $8 on the PS Store right now! What a steal!
ScionVyse avatarScionVyse
Finally got my in game time down to under an hour in Super Metroid. I'm pretty happy about that.
Shinta avatarShinta
https://killscreen.com/articles/falling-through-a-100-million-stories-in-gravity-rush-remastered/ Really great article about Gravity Rush's director (director of Silent Hill), and his 1970s French comic influences.
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
Unpopular opinion time: I not only consider Kanye West to be one of my favorite rappers of all-time — yes, I'm being serious — but he's one of the very few people in the world whom I'd consider to be a role model. I truly wish he would notice me one d
Nekrosys avatarNekrosys
Trying to play through Undertale's Genocide Route. After forcing myself to kill the Greater Dog, I'm really not sure if I'm emotionally capable of handling this game anymore...
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
"I would buy [game] if I had a Wii U." THEN WHY DON'T YOU!? "I don't want to." So you want to play [game] but you're not willing to buy hardware to play it? "Yes." Guess you don't really want to play [game]. "No, Nintendo should make games for Xbox." ಠ_
Torchman avatarTorchman
Nathan D, they say ROCKET PUNCH!
Sir Shenanigans avatarSir Shenanigans
There should be an online multiplayer version of Gwent.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
Torchman, what do the five fingers say to the face?
Jed Whitaker avatarJed Whitaker
Can we just get a yarn version of Bionic Commando already?
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Alright. All Waifu are garbage because they're all fake. There, I said it.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
All of your waifus when someone gives them a dollar.
more quickposts


Contest!


Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -