I've got something special for you. Apt. 204. Enquire within. ~The Director

User Rating: 8 | Lone Survivor PC
Lone Survivor tells the pixellated story of a man who is (or is not?) insane. Starting from his base of operations, his run-down apartment, "You" venture forth, collecting food, and ammo, and gunning down mutants (or real people?). You cut giant walls of skin with scissors. You indulge a man's pill-popping addiction - or heal him. You spare the lives of Fatty Monsters by using flares, or you shoot out their knees and gun down as their heads crawl toward you. All the while you encounter strange people (or hallucinations?), and a girl that you know must be very special. You listen to the radio, and read disturbing diary entries of a person which may - or may not - be you. You teleport through mirrors, sleep and eat and name a kitten and take care of a house plant named Chuck and attempt to get where you are going, away from everything, away from the plague... or is it a plague?

Getting the gist of the game?

Like many other indie-game stories, this one tells little yet suggests much. It provides far greater framework than the likes of Braid and LIMBO, yet it lacks the masterful denouement which Braid's final level offers. Indeed, the various endings of Lone Survivor don't quite manage to scratch the itch, to offer a full accounting for those things which You witnessed.

I find this, from a critical perspective, to be a conundrum. The story IS compelling, yet it is incomplete. Why do these highly acclaimed video game stories rely on abstract mystery, rely so heavily on the player's interpretation? Is this a requirement for good story-telling in this medium? Will such an... unsatisfying story only ever be the domain of indie games? After all, interpreting Lone Survivor does require you to use your brain, your creativity, your perception. Video games are not known for being intelligent.

I give Lone Survivor a score as high as an 8 because the sound design is excellent, because the music is fabulous and perfectly used, because the gameplay is horror-filled, suspenseful, well-balanced, well-paced.

I give Lone Survivor a score as low as an 8 because the story not as robust as it could be. It does provide excellent framework for interpretation yet too much is left to the player. The graphics are weak, of course, but that is the price of such a strange story, and indeed the horror might very well not have worked with stronger visuals. Even so, I was annoyed by the very pixellated text - could we not have a cleaner, more legible font? Or controller support? Or a way to keep our aspect ratio the same without having to adjust it every new game? So there are some interface-type weaknesses.

In summary, I enjoyed the game because I enjoy video games as art, as a story-telling medium. I appreciate developers who try to push the boundaries and who try new things. So, in this perspective, it was an excellent purchase. Yet if I were looking for something more mindless, something more relaxing, something more sensually bombastic, I would not have found Lone Survivor at all appealing. So should you get it? Ask yourself which type of game you're looking for.