Another PC indie title heads to the Vita. This time it is psychological survival horror Lone Survivor. Aside from being a straight up port, this is a director’s cut which should be the definitive edition.
What makes the Vita an ideal platform for Lone Survivor, is just how personal an experience it is. The game advises you at the start to play on your own, free from distraction, in a dark room, with headphones on. As good as this was on a PC, it could be difficult to find that exact setup, whereas on the Vita, you can go anywhere to get the perfect playing environment.
It is a survival horror and despite the basic graphics it does the horror side as well as most games with huge teams and a massive budget behind them. It is steeped in atmosphere, from the very get go, you understand why you are advised on your playing conditions. There is something unnerving about the pixellated graphics. It could have been easy for a bit of an HD ‘upgrade’ but the game would have lost something. It is hard to pinpoint what that something is though, a game that on the surface is this basic, shouldn’t be as unsettling as it is.
The game is far from basic though, yet the graphics and the controls may be lifted out of the 16-bit era, but underneath that exterior is a game that has many layers. From the moment the game opens, you are left on your own, with some minor teases as to what you could be doing, rather than trying to funnel you down a path.
It’s not just certain sections where the game does the unexpected either. In most games you find a moment where everything comes together and you find yourself going through the motions. Here though you expect the unexpected with almost every step. The game does weird in such a fine way, Twin Peaks weird if you will. You character will have hallucinations, step into other worlds and you’ll find that you are left questioning what is real and what isn’t. Which quite the achievement for a simple looking video game.
The game does a wonderful job of making you really consider your approach. There isn’t really a trial and error where you can keep going back and forth trying new things over and over. Yet at the game time everything is trial and error. Every decision you make will have an impact on your survival. Resource management, the decision to use combat or stealth, no decision you make is ever cut and dry.
The combat is probably the weakest part of the game, but for one, it isn’t vital, as you can use stealth, or combat, whatever you see fit, what is best for the situation you are in. The resource management is one area where the game really tests your nerve, your character will let you know when he is hungry or tired, your flashlight has limited power and you need to decide when it is really needed.
It is for the above reasons that you move forward with trepidation, afraid to venture too far from the safety of your apartment and that all important save option. You can get a little braver as you progress, but you never once feel that you are starting to be the one in control, you are always feeling a sense of danger, that something just around the corner will have a nasty surprise.
Lone Survivor is an amazing showcase of how atmosphere can be created, it doesn’t rely on fancy graphics, but it still does a wonderful job getting into your head. It is already a classic on the PC and the chance to play all over again on the Vita and PS3 is very welcome. The Vita edition is the definitive version for us, locked in a dark room, with headphones on, we dare you not to be afraid.