Lust For Darkness is a hyper-sexual horror game featuring sex-crazed cults and different dimensions. Between these focal points and design references drawn from the Cthulhu Mythos, the project seems to be inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. Unlike many similar games, Lust for Darkness casts the player into more uncomfortable situations than frightening ones, separating it from jump-scare titles. Alas, the inspired world can only bring the project so far due to interactions that leans heavily on generic horror experiences from the past, making getting through the underwhelming gameplay difficult.
The lack of tutorials is just the first way that the game refuses to hold the user’s hand. While objectives and tasks appear large on the screen then fade out, tutorials do not. Akin to another of the developer Movie Games’s in-production titles, The Beast Inside, the controls for interacting with the world require the user to click to hold an object, then move the mouse to manipulate it, which is imprecise and frustrating. Furthering the lack of direction, whether a room holds a puzzle is not made clear until an object is picked up and the player notices small text that tells them to interact with said object. Almost anything in the world not nailed down or oversized can be picked up and tumbled to see it in three dimensions. Being able to inspect objects in this way provides a better look at the lore by introducing odd statues that portray a bizarre domain of demons and cults.
The world is one of the title’s best elements, feeling peculiar and often alien. Lust For Darkness depicts a mysterious realm that players will want to know more about thanks to the presence of demonic relics, a cult, and a hidden dimension. Another great aspect is how Lust For Darkness distinguishes between two different environments : human and demon. The former is filled with earthy tones and a lifelike look, while the demon counterpart contains a more organic structure, using flesh-like textures and curves to build the walls, along with blue, purple, and red hues as the main colors. The statues and objects that relate to the latter continue the analogous color scheme, helping them to stand out among the more familiar environments and giving the feeling of demons crossing over. However, the game becomes too dark at points, as shadowy areas turn to pitch black; raising the brightness does not help because the colors wash out. Increasing the level of light would improve visibility, preventing users from straining their eyes trying to discern something that may or may not be present. Although the world is great, the poor lighting takes away from the presentation and makes the title unsettling, but not in the way horror should be.
The developers create disagreeable situations by incorporating scenes and situations that generate feelings of anger or discomfort. The opening involves a female escaping from a cell in a basement. After seeing a scary figure, the user is subjected to a situation that, while thankfully censored, is distressing due to the combination of allusion and audio. The situation takes the gamer out of their comfort zone in a new way—one that is not of fear as in most horror titles. Following this dark and unsettling experience, the game switches to a male protagonist in a bright house, providing a sense of security and contributing to a rollercoaster of emotions. Eventually, the protagonist acquires a letter that leaves them in a shocked emotional state. Through such scenarios, Lust for Darkness proves to be better at setting up discomforting scenarios than frightening ones. For example, when the player comes across their second demon, the encounter has no build-up. The monster is not foreshadowed in the section of the game, seemingly coming out of nowhere and feeling like it does not belong. Instead, Lust for Darkness has the potential to be unique among horror games by by building up the world and suspense rather than relying on the trope of jump scares
Sound is a powerful driver of emotion, but is even more important in horror experiences than elsewhere. If timed well, audio can alter a gamer’s heartbeat, but Lust For Darkness overuses sound, taking away from its impact. Nevertheless, the sound design still has hope as it is well-crafted and eerie, often making the player feel wary. An example of the noises being beaten to death is whenever a new objective or task appears, resulting in a long, suspenseful musical effect that stretches on to the point of being monotonous. This tune makes users expect a lurking enemy or for something to happen, giving a false sense of suspense and, later, detracting from the emotion. When the score is quiet or absent, it generates a lack of comfort that makes the player feel more alone and unprepared for the future. Horror titles such as Silent Hill use silence well to create a frightful situation, but Lust For Darkness does not follow such understated examples. Due to the abundance of music, the sounds start to lose impact and become comforting as a result of breaking the natural rhythm of the quiet moments. The audio design for the game works on the rare occasions it is used subtly, but loses effectiveness due to near-omnipresence, which contrasts against the underwhelming animations.
The visuals of Lust For Darkness leave much to be desired, particularly as a consequence of the animations being stiff and lacking character. In a title filled with sexual themes and scares, movement needs to sell the atmosphere, but the effort falls flat in this project. On one hand, the protagonist sometimes walks by people partaking in sexual acts. Far from seeming appealing, even in a voyeuristic sense, the characters seem almost mechanical. The sex portrayed features no emotion or physical responses. Instead, the animations are stiff, with minimal movement and overlapping animation. Furthermore, the patrolling enemies look generic, making them seem weak. Even when an enemy chases the player, it looks uninspired and lacks any personality that might make the game more terrifying. All in all, the animations need work to prevent Lust for Darkness from being generic. Given the project’s sexualized core, the animation should embrace those themes, rather than using them as set dressing.
In its current state, Lust For Darkness is not awful; it has mystery and a world filled with unexplained lore that can make it truly unique. Having surpassed its crowdfunding goal almost seven times over, many fans are expecting greatness, yet the project needs work to be remarkable. The world shows that the developers have great ideas, but the nuances are not yet present. If the player wants a horror title centered around lore and world design, the project is a solid choice, though it requires more time to achieve its desired effects.
Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash
Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.
While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!
We Were Here Together
We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.
The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.
We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.
The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.
Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.
The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.
We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.
During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.
I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.
Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario Party—Cake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.
Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.
The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.
While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.
The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.
Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.
The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.
Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.
The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.
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