True survival horror, if done right, should affect a player both physically and psychologically. Jasper Byrne, a single indie developer known for Soul Brother and his Silent Hill de-make Soundless Mountain, has crafted an expert survival horror experience in Lone Survivor that effectively plays with the character’s (and player’s) mind.
Lone Survivor is a 2D game, with simple graphics and little detail. This lack of detail creates an air of mystery around monsters and the environment, leaving most of it to the player’s imagination, and players often imagine far more grotesque things than could every actually be conceived on screen. This is greatly accentuated by the atmosphere and music; both are haunting, and disturbing. Some walls and doors are covered in a strange skin-like growth that is truly disgusting, and the shrieks made by the monsters can be bone chilling.
You play as a character only ever identified as ‘you’, fighting to survive after some sort of infectious outbreak has transformed almost everyone into horrifying monsters. Along with fighting these things, you must also fight to maintain your sanity, the latter challenge being far more interesting and more of a catalyst for horror. A number of things factor into maintaining your sanity; sleep, food consumption and, most importantly, drug use. There are three types of drugs, and they all affect you differently. And while they provide an immediate and temporary boost, the long-term effects may not be worth the rewards. Whether or not you take these drugs, along with a number of other factors, will have an effect on your experience and outcome, and make for a thrilling narrative.
To me, horror is so much more effective when it goes the psychological route, rather than the physical and typical route of bad-guy axe murderer or what have you. Lone Survivor is an exercise in the attempt to hold on to sanity in the face of a terrible crisis, and is truly great and totally disturbing. There are no monsters as terrifying as the thought of losing your sanity, and battling against yourself is the hardest battle of all. Lone Survivor is one of the best survival horror games in years, worth everyone’s time, and essential for fans of the genre.