Living on a diet of prawn crackers and irradiated fruit salads, I did it. It took 21 days, a couple nervous breakdowns and the companionship of a stuffed cat, but I survived.
Lone Survivor is as much a sim as it is a horror title. Beyond the mere task of surviving his environment, the main character – referred to as ‘You’ in the game – is in constant need of maintenance. Every day is punctuated by a play-by-play of his physical and emotional health. When he needs rest, you sleep; when he’s hungry, you eat. Though these solutions may appear obvious, they require a certain level of planning to ensure you can return back to your apartment in short order, or you’re carrying an effective meal. Managing resources isn’t exactly a new concept for survival horror, but these extra layers of depth create a symbiotic connection between you and You.
Inspired heavily by the Silent Hill franchise in terms of atmosphere and overall structure, Lone Survivor puts the emphasis on cautious exploration over enemy engagement. Most enemies can be avoided, which conserves ammunition and saves You from the potential stress of combat. By deciding to either engage or avoid, Lone Survivor offers an opportunity for players to define their character by action or inaction, which figures heavily into the game’s myriad of endings.
Like many horror games, Lone Survivor is best played in the dark with a set of headphones. Most of the game is played in an oppressive darkness that hides the environment as well as its demonic denizens. The sounds of the Thinmen – the basic zombie-ish enemy type – foreshadow their positions offscreen, which fills most hallways and alleys with a sense of dread, no matter whether the threat is imminent or not.
Though Jasper Byrne may be inspired by Silent Hill and David Lynch, it’s clear he’s used their language to create Lone Survivor‘s own unique dialect. Byne’s understanding of the genre is evident in the humorous and just plain weird moments that break up the game’s constant feeling of tension. He knows the player’s stress has to be managed in order for them to properly care for You. And that’s why Lone Survivor is littered with minor victories like meeting and friending a new NPC, or cooking your first meal, which offer a brief but necessary reprieve for player and character alike.
In truth, Lone Survivor doesn’t really break a whole lot of new ground. It channels many of the best voices in horror and reverently distills them into one beautiful, dreadful sidescroller. But, during that process, Byrne has created an experience that surpasses many of his inspirations by including You.
Lone Survivor was developed by Jasper Byrne. A copy of the title was provided by the developer and reviewed on PC.