Lust shack, baby, lust shack

Title: Lust for Darkness
Platform: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Movie Games Lunarium
Publisher: Movie Games
Price: £15/$15
TL;DR: Great atmosphere let down by pretty much everything else
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

Horror games are hard on everyone. They’re tough for writers and developers to create a setting that’s at once legitimately unnerving whilst still being playable – both in the way it looks and the mechanics of the game. And, of course, the genre is tough on the player; either treating us to a terrifying trip down trauma lane which leaves us sleeping with the light on and sobbing uncontrollably or leaving us with gritted teeth and clenched fists as we begin to process the fact that we spent actual money on something that wasn’t scary. Lust for Darkness occupies a space somewhere in between these two feelings; feeding off a Lovecraftian narrative gives it a creative freedom to beat the player over the head with some genuinely terrifying spots of gameplay, but is let down by generic gameplay, a story that’s hardly memorable, and voice acting that ranges from the disinterested to the overly dramatic.

Clocking in at just over three hours, Lust for Darkness manages to do a lot in its playtime. The story – without going into too many details – sees you play as Jonathan, who’s back on the hunt for his girlfriend who up and disappeared over a year before we begin playing. This vigilant behaviour ends up taking poor old Jonny on an unexpected trip to a Lovecraftian nightmare world, as you infiltrate a cult’s house party whilst enjoying an orgy and the impending arrival of their lust god… cool.

The game’s story really doesn’t offer anything memorable and to be quite frank, it feels like a bit of an afterthought. The game wants to show off all the squelchy violence and sweaty-palmed jump scares, using everything they have at their disposal to do this. So, if you were hoping for a story-led game, all you’ll find with Lust for Darkness is a plot born from necessity rather than anything compelling.

Whilst the story might not be anything more than a rip-off of a straight-to-video film, Lust for Darkness does treat players to a bonafide hell dimension – and it’s one that’s beautifully realised. Walking through these segments after taking in the ornate stylings of the mansion work together wonderfully to create an ever-present feeling of foreboding. Having arrived at the mansion in a spur of the moment undercover get-up means that Jonathan is at the mercy of the cultists that roam around the dimly lit mansion, giving way to figures showing up as if from nowhere, dodgy sex sculptures, and of course, the silence that dominates the halls – only broken at times by the game’s soundtrack of less than helpful music, or the death and sex dominated conversations of cultists. Needless to say, these all work to make you want to get out of that place as quickly as possible.

So, when you’re given that chance to escape you quickly jump at the chance. The only problem is that that escape you’re given comes in the shape of a demonic portal that drops you off in a labyrinth that simply oozes “bad times.” From the mist that dances on the surface of what I’m hoping is water, the rooms coloured only by vibrant greens or reds – or, y’know, the bodies of cultists that crossed over before you that now decorate the walls, mostly with giant penises extending from the ground and ripping through their bodies.

It’s clear that this dimension isn’t going to be the cosy, cuddly kind. It’s in these sections of traversing the game’s Lovecraftian hell that you’ll be treated to the meat of the horror; taking the unsettling atmosphere of the mansion and ramping it up to “we want to make you go insane.” And the effects of this are in the small details; the developers may have gone a touch overboard with some of the environments, reusing the same cave setting throughout, but they look to fill each segment with extras that constantly have you wanting to leave the game just to make it all stop.

It’s seen in the strange creatures that dwell in the world, spanning from terrifying goat people to huge heads that protrude from the wall; it’s the ever-present threat that anything you encounter in this hopeless world could decide to spring to life and chase you down; it’s the sounds that doors make, either echoing booms that make you think you’ve attracted some unwanted company or the slimy fleshy sounds of gates opening that’ll have you feeling like you’re walking through something that’s very much alive.

Amidst these spooky jaunts through this abyss, the game relies on a small – fairly generic – selection of puzzles to prolong your stay in hell. It’s a choice that doesn’t really fit in with the setting and would’ve felt more at home in the mansion you explore. Instead, you’re made to solve fairly simple pattern puzzles or use switches to cross invisible bridges using your mask in sections that only seem to be there to drag out the game’s length by a few minutes at a time.

Amongst all the puzzles and atmosphere of the game lies the game’s biggest issue – being the unfortunate mixture of stealth and chases. The choice for the game’s mechanics are fairly tough for most games to get right, with the Outlast series and Alien Isolation perhaps being the best example of how both can be done well. But Lust for Darkness is no Outlast. Instead, the early stealth section, that sees you having to dodge cultists who patrol the mansions garden and chase scenes that have evade evil goat people in hell – like the puzzles, just seem tacked on. The game’s real strength is in the atmosphere it creates and the environments. The tension that these two aspects of the game create are for more effective than actually being caught – so much so, that it feels like the game would’ve been far scarier if it relied more on its tension, teasing players with the fear of something happening.

Lust for Darkness – whilst being far from perfect, offers a fairly haunting experience. If you’re shopping around for a game that offers intensely unsettling environment. And if you’re not fussed about the game’s story, mechanics or puzzles, then Lust for Darkness delivers more of what we’ve seen before. But, if you’re looking for something a little deeper – or a horror game that doesn’t feel like a paint-by-scary-numbers experience with generic gameplay, then you can probably afford to miss out on this trip down sex cult lane.

The Good:

  • Great atmosphere at times

The Bad:

  • The voice acting feels out of tune with the game
  • Generic “run or die,” gameplay lets the game down – a slower paced, walking sim style would’ve been better
  • The puzzles – except one – are nothing new or challenging and seem to be there only to extend the gameplay

Family Focus

A game about a sadistic sex cult that enjoys orgies and sacrifices? No… no; Lust for Darkness is unsurprisingly an 18 in the UK and “M,” for Mature in the US. Expect graphic murder scenes and fairly tasteful nudity.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.