If you told be I’d be waking up this morning only to play a first person horror game, I wouldn’t really bat an eyelash; anyone that knows me or reads my stuff on here can guess that kind of thing. So after my morning ritual of looking spitefully at the sun, I booted up Lust From Beyond Prologue, a Adults-Only rated game developed by Movie Games Lanarium. Looking at their developer page, they have a bit of a scattershot of games under their belt, including Lust for Darkness, Drug Dealer Simulator (which is exactly like it sounds) and Agony; a game made famous for being full of sex but hilariously bad from a gameplay perspective. Lust for Darkness seems to be what they are trying to evoke once again, and to a startling degree of similarity. Both games have you in a sex cult that is attempting to understand and open the gate to Lusst’ghaa, a magical land of everything horny. Both games are first person horror games that have you exploring a mansion and an alternate world inspired by a famous surrealist artist (Darkness has inspiration from Zdzislaw Beksinski, while Beyond has an H.R. Geiger inspired world on top the influence from Beksinski) and your task is to survive and get to the bottom of things. I’m hesitant to use the word “survival” near the world “horror” in these kinds of games, because while you have to manage health and sanity, that’s about it, and the survival aspect boils down to “don’t look at spooky thing” or “use item to fill meter.” It’s fine for what it is, but there needs to be a better word to describe games that do this. People would argue “walking simulator” fits the bill, but the last time I went on a walk, I didn’t get mauled by a monster with a vagina chest. Even one of the characters from Darkness pops up in Beyond, so I think it’s very safe to say this is a sequel through and through.
A Breath of Familiar Air
The gameplay is your standard fare for this kind of game; you move around in a smaller environment, free to explore the places you’re able to and opening every drawer you can and nicking everything in sight. To the game’s credit, all of the items you pick up can be examined completely, a feature that is sorely lacking in some games these days. While there’s nothing in this prologue that takes advantage of it by, say, making you solve a puzzle by moving an object around, I have some kind of hope that the developers take advantage of that feature. There is no combat to speak of in the prologue, and the only threats I encountered were enemies that would attack me once then run away, or these plant tentacles that beat you if you get too close. Judging from the trailer, it looks like some form of combat will be in the final game.
Visually the game strikes a few distinct tones; Victorian in the real world (although the game takes place in the modern day, what with mentioning e-mails and such), sexual imagry, and a Giger-esque world in Lusst’ghaa, where the world is infused with innuendo. The lighting for the real world is very on point; lots of lamp lights, candles and ornate furniture in the mansion. It has this very warm and cozy feeling to it, even when you get introduced to the sex cult angle. There’s a point in the prologue where there’s an orgy going on in the recreation room, but the fireplace is burning and the moon is high in the sky. It looks like it would be a wonderful place to curl up with a book if it weren’t for all the naked people doing the “no pants dance” together on the leather sofa; not exactly a lot of room left at that point.
Duality of Horror
So the hybrid horror elements the developers are pushing with this game are sexuality and body horror. Its a pair that often goes hand in hand, with the focus being on visual horror a lot of the time, and sex being more of a backdrop or just something in the way of the horror (I’m looking at you, Friday the 13th movies). Beyond tries to bring sex more in line with the horror, not just through light incorporation of Giger’s signature style of “biomechanical surrealism,” but in sexual acts themselves.
For the first bit of the game, you get to explore the mansion and at one point, you stumble upon the creepy sex dungeon of the cult leader. Now, I’m not one to judge, but there’s a lot to unpack in that one room; I think there’s enough kink in there to make any fetishist blush. Not only are there a slew of devices used for sex itself, but plenty of innuendo, nude statues, penis-shaped deities, and the like. Hell, the game even shows hardcore sex at a point; That point being the aforementioned couch orgy, where the developers actually included hardcore penetration between a few characters. On a side note, future game developers: if you’re going to actually take the time to model genitalia, sexual intercourse and the like, there are plenty of animators and 3D artists that make pornography on a pretty consistent basis that look pretty damn accurate (not like a good lad like me would know anything about that or how to contact those people).
The Terror of the Titular
The horror element is much more consistent compared to the sexual one. Easily drawing from the above artists, Lusst’ghaa has a very familiar feeling to it, if a little limited. Gieger inspired horror tends to be fairly predictable in regards to the “otherworldly” look; developers/art directors always choose the fleshy walls with the rib patters, very much like the hives in the “Alien” series. The same goes for a few of the creatures in Lusst’ghaa; bony, rib lined and slightly off looking. Personally, I wish the game opened up the designs a little more. At the same time, I get that everything is supposed to look like vaginas, penises and anuses, so you’re kind of limited when you have to adhere to those designs. All of this being said, the style is always entertaining to look at, so it isn’t exactly a deal breaker to me. The few enemies you encounter in the game look like they were ported over from Agony. Pointy headed, clawed bipeds that crawl around and move in erratic spasms. There were a few times in the demo where they made me jump, but the game follows that typical jump-scare trope of having a monster pop out accompanied by a musical sting. Jump-scares have their place, but in this case, they definitely aren’t earned.
In writing this over the last couple of days, its occurred to me that I may be slightly harsh on this game. After all, I am no game designer, and this team is quite small. However, given their previous games, they have a chance to kind of invigorate the genre. With the announcement of Amnesia 3, and games like Maid of Sker releasing to a good reception, first person horror is seeing a bit of a resurgence as of late. I just hope this game goes more the way of Amnesia, and less the way of Agony.
Lust From Beyond releases on September 24th.