We’ve seen plenty of video games that embrace the Lovecraftian trope, with varying themes utilised from several different stories that typically fall within the survival horror genre. It makes sense really, given that Lovecraft’s stories were thematically eldritch or dark, so they fit the genre perfectly. Many developers tend to draw from these without deviation, which is why I was so surprised when I saw that Movie Games Lunarium had taken inspiration from what we have come to know when faced with a game of this style but turned it upside its head with Lust from Beyond. It’s a follow-up to their previous release Lust from Darkness (which also utilised similar themes), though it’s not necessary to have played it in order to understand what’s going on here.
Lust from Beyond is for all intents and purposes a survival horror. Where it differs greatly from the usual outing is the overarching commitment to being a mixture of terror with a nice big helping of not-so-subtle sexual content and references. Don’t get me wrong, whilst some may recoil in disgust at the mere thought of such explicitness in their video games, Lust from Beyond builds a story that makes the whole thing seem at home and, dare I say, underpins the story massively to make the entire experience feel more enjoyable.
Played across sixteen chapters, Lust from Beyond places players in the shoes of protagonist Victor Holloway; a mild-mannered antiques dealer who suffers from both terrible and lustful visions (typically when he’s… you know… going at it). Without spoiling too much, this leads to a couple of violent episodes with his partner and Victor is railroaded into seeking help from an illustrious doctor in the town of Bleakmoor. But of course, nothing is ever that easy.
Lust from Beyond takes a first-person approach to gameplay, with players leading Victor through Bleakmoor and the many obstacles that it puts in his path. The first of these comes in the form of the many puzzles you must solve to progress through each area – whilst these varied in difficulty, they shouldn’t pose any issue to the average player and were actually a welcome reprise from the tension. The puzzles themselves ranged from simple to complex, with some requiring a simple fetch and find and others requiring a bit more thought to complete. Some of the tasks seemed rather mundane, but I enjoyed them nonetheless and they fell in nicely with the game’s vibe.
Unsurprisingly, the next obstacle in our protagonist’s way are his enemies. Victor starts off akin to a fledgeling bird with nothing to defend himself with but his incurable wit and humour, so it can be quite daunting in the first hour or two where the tone of the game is far more concentrated on stealth and avoidance or running away from enemies at top speed.
This situation improves hugely after the first couple of hours, with Victor gaining access to a knife and, eventually, a revolver. This levels the playing field a bit and changes it from being a ‘peek around corners’ experience to a satisfying ‘shoot them in the face’ extravaganza. Combat itself was your standard affair, with nothing feeling too tough but equally nothing being too showy, though I suppose the developers chose to concentrate on the other aspects of the game.
Enemies come in various forms with Victor facing off against the Scarlet Lodge in all their mishmash of leather and metal masks. It’s like fighting at an S&M convention, so if you’re into that sort of thing you’ll be in your oils here. On the flipside, when Victor gets to go to Lusst’ghaa or the Land of Ecstasy (don’t look at me, I didn’t name it) you’ll come across the likes of the ‘Changed’, veritable sex demons who want nothing more than to bludgeon you to death for trespassing in their realm. This game, right?
Victor will eventually have access to essence powers that he can draw from the environs in Lusst’ghaa, which fits in nicely with the puzzles to provide some head-scratching moments. Unfortunately, the powers aren’t usable for violent purposes, so you’re best-off sticking to the knife or revolver for those encounters. Whilst we’re on the subject, I will point out that every lever you come across in the realm is exceedingly phallic and I genuinely found it hilarious. Yes, I’ll admit it: I lost any sense of maturity I had whilst playing this game.
On the subject of the environments, the game is gorgeous to look at. It’s clear to see that the world of Lusst’ghaa draws heavily from H.R. Giger, with plenty of Lovecraftian tentacles added in for good measure. You’ll also quite often come across the Changed in very… uncompromising positions. I’ll leave that up to your imagination.
When you’re not reality surfing through the Land of Ecstasy, you’ll be met with some impressive ‘straight out of the 20s’-style settings in Bleakmoor as well as a particularly notable sex dungeon. It’s pretty horrifying, so I hope you have a strong stomach. The environments across the board are meticulously crafted and I’d argue were the best aspect of providing Lust from Beyond’s sexualised-horror tone.
If I were to make a couple of quibbles about the quality of Lust from Beyond’s visuals, I’d say the NPCs were a little janky when it came to interacting with them. The lip syncing was out of place, they love to wave arms, and they just looked a little unnaturally awkward. I kept thinking they wanted a handshake… turns out they did other things with their hands that I categorically refuse to mention.
Let’s address the big horny elephant in the room. Yes, the sexual content in Lust from Beyond can be explicit to the point where you’d perhaps argue it borders on pornography, but in reality it is also pretty tasteful about the entire affair. It settles into the setting quite comfortably and never felt like it was being too excessive, but rather meshes well with the narrative and its different themes. Not a fan of seeing sexual content? That’s fine, the game has you covered with an option to turn on censorship. But let’s be honest, if you’re planning on playing Lust from Beyond, it’s unlikely that you have any issues with that kind of stuff…
Ultimately, Lust from Beyond is a pretty enjoyable game. There’s a lot on offer across its seven-hour campaign and between its attention to detail and genuinely interesting setting, I can honestly say that it impressed me more than I initially thought it would.
I can imagine that it might not have the widespread appeal for those who don’t associate a survival horror with suggestive or outright sexual themes and it might not have all the pizzaz of some of the heavier contenders in the genre, but Lust from Beyond does showcase a different take on horror that we rarely see and delivers a uniquely enjoyable escapade in the process.
Developer: Movie Games Lunarium
Publisher: Movie Games S.A.
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed)
Click here to visit the official website.