Lone Survivor is a two-dimension survival-horror game, and as such, it captures the desperation of surviving encounters with despicable monsters in tight corridors. As an unnamed man living in apartment 206, located in an inner-city complex, you learn about the basics and unpredictability of surviving in a dreadful post-apocalyptic world. These conditions are perilous to the sane mind, and through the game's four to five hours, it becomes clear that Lone Survivor is a brilliant, unsettling psychological thriller as well as an excellent survival-horror experience.
Developer Jasper Byrne knows his survival-horror conventions, for he implements tried & true elements from the genre and translates them beautifully into Lone Survivor's two-dimensionality. As in classics Resident Evil and Silent Hill, conserving ammo and sneaking past enemies undetected is essential for surviving, but Byrne further emphasizes the human condition in a disaster situation. A man needs protection, but he most definitely requires food and drink to live.
Slowly, you access new areas in the apartment complex as you solve puzzles and find keys to open previously inaccessible doors. Along the way, you find various processed food items and edibles that perish rather quickly. Your character will remind you when he is hungry, thirsty, or sleepy. But you do not simply eat whatever you grab. Sometimes it needs cooking, and at other times your character must devour it before the next day, before it goes bad. This focus on taking care of the human body makes the scenario presented in Lone Survivor much more realistic, and it causes you to consider how to utilize food. That said, I do not know if your character can actually die from starvation; my guy got pretty hungry a few times, but never to the brink of death. Nonetheless, snacks and meals are vital for keeping good physical health and an alert mind.
Bodily upkeep is obviously a must, but what about the cogitating faculties? It is here where Lone Survivor truly shines, differentiating itself from games in its respective genre wherein damage or extinction to the main character's physical well-being is the only threat. To avoid spoiling some of Lone Survivor's most memorable moments, I will simply say that your actions or lack thereof have consequences that affect the outcome of the game. There are more than several endings, each contingent upon how you thought through situations and made decisions that were detrimental or helpful to your very person-hood.
Perhaps you are wondering exactly how Lone Survivor provides a chilling atmosphere that frames a grotesque universe void of humanity when the visuals look like something from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Sure, the graphics are a "throwback," but that does not render this game sub-par in that department. Contrarily, Lone Survivor looks great, because the muddy, pixelated style intensifies the blood-stained environment. Lighting effects are especially impressive; in many areas, you need to flick on your flashlight to see where you are going, and the shadows provide hiding places from monsters. Though it is a creepy (some would say frightening), complex survival-horror game, the visual-effects brim with indie charm. Thus, Lone Survivor is an exquisite blend between retro aesthetics and modern survival-horror attributes--a nice combination.
One of the best characteristics of Lone Survivor is its musical score. Here's a bold statement: not since Super Metroid has a game's hauntingly dark graphics and ambiance enticed me into its two-dimensional world. While ambient tunes and looming, ginormous, howling bass sounds play throughout, there are also some thumping electronic numbers. In apartment 206, sad-filled synthesizers depict the bittersweet mood of being safely at home, though everything without is utterly ruined. When walking down a particular hallway, a sublime beat melds together with a rainy piano--an Entroducing-like tune that reminds you that there may be hope yet, though dim.
What are Lone Survivor's dull spots? The map is a bit confusing; it takes some getting used to, but I honestly do not know how else Byrne could have drawn it up. Some criticize the story as being convoluted, but I disagree. The internal dialogue shows off Byrne's noteworthy writing, and I was never confused by the plot. Aside from the map, Lone Survivor's only other real weakness occurs when encountering a few enemies in which you feel somewhat unfairly disadvantaged (your character cannot run, only walk at a brisk pace) but it is not a major issue.
So if you are a Wii U owner who is thirsty for a meritorious survival-horror experience, I heartily endorse Lone Survivor. I bought it on a whim, and it has more than met my expectations. Byrne's modern-day survival-horror classic (it is one in my eyes) revisits gaming's past, successfully incorporates modern horror elements, and tops it off with indie delight.