Warning: it’s another asylum game
Jump-scare horror games, or “YouTube Bait” as they’re often now called, are a dime-a-dozen. Especially ones based in an asylum.
Lost Within is a jump-scare horror game that takes place in an asylum (cue the laugh track). Thankfully, it has a handful of redeeming qualities that elevate it above the competition.
Lost Within (Android FireOS [reviewed on a Kindle Fire HD], iOS)
Developer: Amazon Game Studios, Human Head Studios
Publisher: Amazon Game Studios
Released: April 17, 2015
The setting of this spooky affair is the old Weatherby Asylum — an abandoned relic of the past, set to be demolished in one day’s time. Of course, your stupid idiot police officer avatar winds up “checking it out” one last time to see if there are any stragglers, and you get sucked into a hellish underworld of scary fun. It’s a setup you’ve seen a million times before, but Lost Within has a level of polish rarely seen from the genre, not to mention that it’s a mobile-only affair.
Using touch-style controls you’ll navigate the labyrinthine tunnels of horror, and they are surprisingly responsive. All you have to do is touch an area to get there, double-tap to run, swipe to turn, tap to use defensive items, and you can even use your device to lean around corners with an optional gyro setting. Mobile games have really come a long way, and co-developers Amazon Game Studios and Human Head should be commended.
That polish extends to the visual style as well, which is stunning on an Amazon Fire HD tablet. The crazy writing on the wall that you’d expect out of an asylum is clear and concise, and every environment looks like there was a lot of work put into it. Screenshots don’t really do it justice, as the framerate and smooth engine are the strongest aspects of Lost Within.
This is a jump-scare game under-the-skin though, and it won’t really offer up a lot that you haven’t seen or rolled your eyes at before. I really like the literature that narrates the history of the asylum and its inhabitants, as it strays from the typical “diary” setup often with things like newspaper clippings, but once you’re done reading up, it’s back to a corridor simulator with “scary” monsters. In case you couldn’t pick up on that obvious sarcasm, those creatures aren’t really all that threatening, or nearly as interesting as the lore bits.
Said corridors are often fun to roam through thanks to the mechanics, and freaky flashbacks are a constant source of entertainment beyond running and outwitting the baddies in the “real” world. What Lost Within really thrives on is the ability to tell a compelling story in an easily-digestible way throughout the experience. In-between the jumps and frights I had a burning desire to unravel the game’s various mysteries, and press on to the next area.
Amazon Game Studios only has a few games under its belt, but it’s already making a name for itself in the industry. With a little more creativity Lost Within could be a full-blown retail game, which could be where the publisher is heading with the acquisition of Double Helix and a few other talented developers.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]