I’ve played a lot of pixel art games recently, and it’s been a phrase synonymous with cutesy characters and pretty pastel colours. Thankfully Lamentum could not be more different. This is an old-school survival horror game which looks as if it could have easily been released 30 years ago, clearly inspired by legendary titles such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil.
It tells the tragic story of young aristocrat Victor Hartwell and his desperate attempts to save his wife, Alissa, from a seemingly terminal illness. As a result, he seeks help from a mysterious count who uses unorthodox treatment methods. Apart from the very obvious Dracula vibes, things in general don’t seem quite right from the moment the couple arrive.
Before long it becomes clear something terrible has happened and Victor awakes, wounded, in a nightmarish world. Following notes which seem to have been written by Alissa, Victor sets off on a hellish mission to save his wife from a mansion filled with monsters.
Lamentum claims to be “inspired” by games such as Resident Evil, but it’s more accurate to say that it borrows pretty heavily from them. Most strikingly, you can only save your progress by collecting ink which you use to jot down your thoughts at your desk. These appear pretty regularly in certain rooms which are signposted by calming music, alongside a chest to store items as you only have limited space on your person. Sound familiar so far?
You will also acquire a map pretty early on, and see that certain rooms are marked with symbols. This is because you need a certain key to access them, which you will discover as you explore. Afterwards you will need to backtrack to open said doors and that’s where the map comes in really handy. Points of interest will also be annotated with a question mark indicating something important needs to be done there. There are four core areas to explore in Lamentum which adds up to a fairly meaty adventure.
Victor will also keep a log, which details important events and conversations and holds handy hints on how to progress if you get stuck. However, whilst the puzzle solving is pretty simple on the whole, there are a few with ever so subtle clues that are easily missed. It’s worth reading every journal entry and having your phone camera handy to capture the details.
For the most part you’ll be searching for shaped or themed items which act as keys to gradually unlock more and more of the mansion you find yourself trapped in, as well as other areas of the estate. Lamentum gradually unfolds in true survival horror fashion and pretty much nails the genre in terms of gameplay.
Like any good survival horror game, Lamentum is a mix of problem solving and edgy combat. You’ll only be able to withstand a few hits, and some enemies and traps will see you off in one fell swoop. A bloody red border will thicken around the edge of your screen as you creep closer to death. Dying can be pretty punishing too, as there is no autosave function so you will need to make good use of that ink I mentioned earlier.
To stay fighting fit you will need to use bottles of Laudanum (a cocktail of painkillers) to heal yourself, or as it is here, withstand your injuries. However, it can be quite difficult to grab a few seconds to do this when being chased down by multiple enemies looking to tear your head off (quite literally in some cases).
Avoiding the numerous monstrosities that roam freely is often the best policy, but Lamentum has foreseen that strategy and moved to make it less effective. Victor’s fear when in the presence of an enemy will limit the time he can spend running and before long he will need to stop and catch his breath. Your screen will blacken as you sprint, before you come to a potentially fatal halt.
Inevitably, there will be times when combat is essential and melee attacks are the bread and butter of the game, yet as with any survival horror tale ammunition is forever scarce. This means the key to staying alive is timing your attacks very carefully, to avoid those of your enemy. There are some pretty horrendous creatures that you will have no choice but to run from as trying to face them down is suicide. You’ll know when this is the case.
Lamentum, for all of its cliches and borrowed elements, does a really good job of telling an emotional, bleak and terrifying tale of love, mystery and monsters. The well written dialogue and blend of in-game pixel art sequences and hand-drawn cutscenes creates a pacy and intriguing narrative that draws you into its world. You’ll have a few decisions to make that may alter the story itself, as well as there being four possible separate endings.
It may lack originality, but Lamentum is a great example of a retro survival horror game. Those who are fans of the genre will almost certainly enjoy what’s on offer here. It may just win over a few newcomers too.
Pick up Lamentum from the Xbox Store