With titles such as Tormented Souls and Song of Horror proving that there’s still a place for old-school survival horror in the hearts of gamers, Lamentum feels like it has hit the Nintendo Switch at the perfect time. Ok, sure, the game’s 16-bit style might be a bit different to the 3D fixed camera angles of those aforementioned games, but its gameplay mechanics and eerie atmosphere certainly echo the titles that spawned the genre back in the 90s. And believe me, I mean that as a compliment.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Taking place in the mid-Nineteenth Century, Lamentum puts players in the role of aristocrat Victor Hartwell as he visits the eerie Grau Hall mansion as a means to find a cure to the ailment that has inflicted his wife. Grau Hall itself is home to many mysterious secrets and there is no doubting that Victor will find the answers he seeks, but it also holds a vicious evil that will test his mettle as he faces all kinds of grotesque and mortifying horrors.
It feels like a blend of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and, in some ways, Stranger Things, and you know what? It makes for an effective amalgamation of ideas, with Lamentum’s plot and world keeping me fully engrossed from start to end. I’m a sucker for a good horror game and you don’t see a lot set in the mid-Nineteenth century, so it felt like a change of pace to the typical big hitters of the genre. With plenty of shocking sights to be seen as you venture through Grau Hall, it certainly ticks all of the right boxes as to what a horror game should offer.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, Lamentum is very old-school across pretty much all facets of its design. The cryptic puzzle-design that demands clever thinking from the player, the locked doors that require specific keys, the limited ammunition for your weaponry, the save system that requires limited inkwells (which is something I’m admittedly not a big fan of) – it has all the pieces in place to feel like a survival horror game from the 90s.
“With plenty of shocking sights to be seen as you venture through Grau Hall, it certainly ticks all of the right boxes as to what a horror game should offer.”
The puzzle-design was great through, with Lamentum’s enigmas managing to perfectly balance out some cryptic brain teasers with those that just take a little bit of tinkering from the player to solve. Sometimes it’s just a case of using the right item in the right place, whilst other times you might have to make an effort to explore your surroundings carefully and jot notes down. It was one of my favourite things about the game, with plenty of fresh ideas introduced as you progress further on.
On the other hand, the combat was a little bit clumsy. Thanks to the limited ammunition of your weaponry, you’ll find yourself resorting to using melee weapons more than you would in a typical survival horror game (which is probably something that’s more befitting of the game’s era). Lining up melee attacks perfectly could be a little bit tricky though thanks to some awkward timing with each weapon, whilst the toughness of the monsters you face mean that you can probably expect to die on a regular basis. Admittedly, the top-down presentation of the game does make it a little easier to evade these monsters than in your typical 3D horror game, but it’s a far way from being an easy game – especially since Victor has a stamina meter that will quickly dwindle away.
I will give a shout out to the monster design though. Lamentum features some really nasty looking creatures, with their cosmic-horror stylings certainly giving the developer plenty of freedom in making monsters that look utterly grotesque. I was a fan and loved seeing each new type of enemy (even if they managed to kill me on a regular basis), with the gruesome baddies of the world some of the coolest I’ve seen in a horror game for some time.
“Between the morbid but exquisite world, the great puzzle-design, and intriguing story, there’s plenty to invest yourself in.”
As a fan of old-school survival horror, I enjoyed my time playing through Lamentum. It took around eleven hours to beat too, so it’s a pretty meaty adventure. I must acknowledge that some aspects of its design haven’t really aged all that well though. Take the limited save system for example – it’s something that a lot of survival horror fans love, but with the tough difficulty and occasional sudden death from a trap in the game, it could make for some frustrating moments where I’d lose progress. (Note: A new save system was introduced after this review was written that allows for infinite saving, which can be activated at any time from the options menu.) It can be a little guilty of being too cryptic at times too, with the lack of direction leaving me in a few instances where I had no clue what exactly I needed to do, whilst the limited inventory could be a little tiresome too. I know, I know, these are old-school features that some gamers are sure to appreciate, but, personally, they could just feel like a little bit of a hindrance for me at times.
Despite these flaws, the game certainly offers more highs than lows. Between the morbid but exquisite world, the great puzzle-design, and intriguing story, there’s plenty to invest yourself in. There are collectibles to dig out and multiple endings on offer too, with plenty of depth found across the overall experience. Plus, the sound design is absolutely on point, with the music and sound effects capturing the eerie vibe of the experience perfectly.
If you’re a fan of old-school survival horror, I have no doubt that Lamentum’s mixture of clever puzzling with a dark narrative will hook you in. It’s clear that it wears its inspirations like a badge of honour, but it comes together to make for an experience that’s both fun and genuinely eerie.
It does have a few shortcomings, especially with its combat and limited inventory, but it’s otherwise an entertaining and creepy survival horror escapade that will certainly resonate with fans of the genre.
– An intriguing narrative and world
– The puzzling is great
– The sound design captures the eerie vibe of the world perfectly
– Monsters feel unique and gruesome
– Melee combat could be clumsy
– Some of its old-school design could be a bit of a hindrance
Developer: Obscure Tales
Publisher: Obscure Tales, Neon Doctrine
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC