There are very few games that we struggle to put our reviewer hats on and view objectively rather than subjectively, there are even fewer still where we have the urge to shut down our computers within 10 minutes of playing. Albino Lullaby was just such a game. While the start is enticing, creepy and disturbing, enough to lull you into the nightmare world that
While the start is enticing, creepy and disturbing, enough to lull you into the nightmare world that Albino Lullaby creates, it becomes progressively more uncomfortable from then on out. Within the first five minutes, we encountered disturbing notes that rendered our ability to take the game as a game almost nullified. The notes hinted at a sex slave trade between the (asylum? prison? school?) children and their guards. At this point we’d had enough – so we looked to Steam reviews and our fellow staff members and they indicated that progressing on would be a good idea whilst the Steam Reviews were mostly positive.
So we soldiered on. The in-game version of progressing the story is done with notes left by a variety of children and grand-children, the grand-children presumably of the “guards” of said institution who are all serving “grandmother”. The objective on your main menu reads: ??? at all times. That’s where my frustration with this game stemmed. The whole “find a plot” routine has been done to death and whilst there was a glimmer of a story here it just wasn’t clear enough to make sense of until late game.
Why the need to do this to players? No, the plot isn’t edgy – it’s confusing. Give us some slight view of a story line, rather than dumping us into what appears to be a dreamscape and telling us we should be scared, give us a reason why. The start of the game indicates we’ve been here before – and that this is some form of dream or memory – so tell us what we’re experiencing. The overall effect would be entirely more nerve-wracking than the confusion that reigned supreme for us here.
The world is this game’s saving grace. With a Borderlands-esque sketchy drawing art style and 3D environments, you’re fully succumbed into the Albino Lullaby landscape and mood. Whilst we played on computer, we can only imagine how immersive the game might become in Virtual Reality (VR). The environments are sufficiently disturbing, creepy and mood setting, followed by the extremely well-done ambient noise and background effects. The overall effect leaves you just slightly on edge enough that any slight scare is enough to set you off.
Movement was surprisingly in depth for a VR-capable game, with the ability to jump, run and crawl, all nice additions in a game where avoiding the enemy is at the top of your priority list. The controls are responsive and clipping is extremely rare – the physics when running into things is slightly unrealistic as chairs go tumbling from a slight push.
The enemies in Albino Lullaby are… well, again, downright confusing. We were left feeling more confused as to why we were being chased by walking thumbs (by the way, how do they move?) than being scared of an undefeatable foe. The game quickly showed itself to be a stealth game, wherein being seen by one walking thumb meant the rest somehow telepathically knew where you were. How? Or rather, why? What purpose does it serve having thirty of these unkillable foes chasing you rather than the one? Why aren’t we told early on why blue lamps stop them? Why don’t we possess a torch considering how dark this game is? Why don’t we have a mini map? Or any map?
Questions, that’s what this game is good at – leaving you with questions.
The beautiful and well-crafted world that feels like a puzzle within a game, the creepy ambience, the well scripted/written notes, it just isn’t enough to pull through on the directionless story, poorly executed plot or the over-arching horror theme. We’d love more direction, we’d love more story, we’d love a torch and a mini-map.
This could have been next level creepy.
Should you buy it? No, not in its current form. Add some story to the beginning, make it so that the walking-thumb army can’t telepathically communicate your position, give a mini map and a torch, explore story-telling rather than note dropping – and then maybe. Perhaps the whole ‘explore ’til your tired’ thing works better in VR, and we might be keen to try it. However, as a game, it just doesn’t work well enough to warrant splashing cash just yet – especially so if you’ve already dropped $1.5K picking up a decent VR set up.