mikelemmer's Lone Survivor (Steam) (PC) review

Silent Hill's Scarier when Starving

Download Size: 105 MB

Time Played: 3.7 hrs.

Ending: Green

Final Grade: C-

What I'd Pay: $10

Steam Price (4/25/12): $10

Day 13. I woke up and turned on the radio. It spat and hiss, then I heard something say in a raspy voice, "We're... waiting... for you..." No idea who, or what. Went to the kitchen, cooked some beans to eat over a gas stove (no electricity), then checked my supplies: 2 flashlight batteries, 1 clip of ammo, 1 emergency flare, some sleeping pills, an old squid-on-a-stick and a jar of pickles. I needed more to clear a path to the basement (and to eat), but I had searched every nook and cranny of the apartment building...

...Except for the northern corridor. The one with 3 monsters in it. I gulped. Each clip had 10 bullets; it took 4 to kill a monster, 3 if I got lucky with head shots. I might- might- just be able to make it, and pray whatever I found was worth the effort. I headed downstairs, sneaking past an easily-fooled one I didn't want to waste ammo on.

I reached the corridor in question. I knew there were 2 monsters close together and another one further on, but that was where I chickened out and turned back. Past that... I didn't know. The map said there were several rooms, hopefully with ammo and food instead of more monsters. I put the map away and stepped forward towards the first two creatures. They shrieked and cowered as I threw down my last flare and dashed forward to shoot the 3rd one. I didn't wait for it to get close enough for a headshot, I just unloaded 4 bullets into it from a distance. Down it went. I ran forward, but screeched to a halt. Two more monsters past it were lumbering my way, attracted by the gunshots' noise. I'd have to risk them getting close to get off the headshots, else I would run out of bullets before they were dead. I fired off 6 shots methodically, even when one of them swiped me. They both went down.

I checked my clip. Empty. I had no ammo left. I heard the flare behind me fizzle out; the stunned monsters would recover soon. I had no ammo left. My heart beat like mad, I sucked in breath. I had no ammo left. I fell to my knees and clenched my head. I had no ammo left, I was gonna die here, I had no ammo left, I was gonna die here... my vision began to blur, and then... I don't remember what happened next...

Lone Survivor is a 2D homage to the Silent Hill series (specifically Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 4, and Shattered Memories) that ups the fear factor by emphasizing the survival in survival horror. You not only have to worry about conserving ammo (else you get killed by the monsters), but keeping yourself fed, getting enough sleep, and preserving what remains of your sanity. You're constantly pushed forward by scarce supplies, desperately scrounging for food, ammo, and batteries as you try to escape the infected city.

That requires getting past the monsters: fleshless monstrosities that resemble the enemies in Shattered Memories. They trudge back and forth until something grabs their attention, then they lunge forward trying to rip it to shreds. Until you get the handgun, your only option is to sneak past them, either by using a hiding spot nearby or luring them past a hiding spot with a hunk of rotten meat. Once you get the handgun, you can shoot them dead, but since ammo is scarce, stealth is still preferred. If things go pear-shaped, you can also toss a flare onto the ground to stun them and run past, but flares are more scarce than ammo. It's easy to kill or sneak past them; it's harder to do so with enough supplies left for the next group.

It would all be easier if you weren't constantly hallucinating, or seeing things that weren't meant to be seen, or traveling through mirrors without any explanation why. Flashbacks and phantoms are your companions, and even your dreams grow strange and disturbing. The "infection" of the building itself, like it's turning into some hideous monstrosity, doesn't help matters. There are few breaks from the madness: a helpful survivor here, a friendly animal there, small rays of hope in a dark, crushing world. You'll need them; your mental stability once you finally escape this madness determines which ending you get.

It was an experience: a dark, desperate, feverish experience that impaled itself somewhere deep in my mind. This game knows how to slowly twist the knife, constantly forcing you to make tradeoffs as you watch your dwindling supplies and try to claw your way out of this hellhole. It's unlike anything I've seen recently in horror gaming. A $10 game that manages to improve the genre more than its $60 cohorts? That's scary.

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