Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut (Wii U) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 28.03.2017

Review for Lone Survivor: The Director

The survival horror genre has never thrived as much as back when 3D started becoming mainstream in the industry. It's indeed hard to think of any game that would fit in it dating back to before the advent of 3D gaming on PC, as well as on consoles, starting with the 3DO which became home to the original Alone in the Dark, and then later on the PlayStation, which, as everyone knows, was the first platform to receive the original Resident Evil. Older ventures like Sweet Home for the Famicom are said to have inspired Capcom for the creation of its epic; however, how much survival horror that game would be in the purest sense of the term is up for debate, and even if Resident Evil Gaiden did find home on the Game Boy Color, that one didn't really make history. Does it mean that 2D survival horror can't work? Well, Jasper Byrne, the creator of indie title Lone Survivor took it upon himself to make it work in super low-res 2D, but highly stylised, and originally made using Flash. The definitive Director's Cut version thereof, eventually found its way to the Wii U eShop, and it is this version that Cubed3 is about to review.

Lone Survivor opens on a nameless hero who does not remember how long he has already survived the ongoing zombie apocalypse that has struck his world. 'Zombie' might not be the right choice of words, though, since the monsters found herein are not given a clear origin or source from the get-go, other than they appeared in an outbreak and that since then, the protagonist has survived on his own and hasn't met another living person in what feels like forever.

The style of presentation is very striking right from the start, since this uses a highly pixelated form of 2D, where each pixel sort of resembles either tiles on a wall, or the blown up pixels of a CRT monitor depending on whom is asked. The very low resolution and the level of detail and limited amount of possible art that result from it actually will remind of Atari Lynx titles to those who are old enough to have experienced them back in the day. Everything, however, is very clean, and enough detail is featured to avoid the scenes feeling barren, while enough is left to the imagination of the player for the sense of immersion to work its magic.

Moving strictly left to right, this survivor can examine things, to which he will react and describe them through monologue written in such a way that it's obvious that this is a result from too much time spent alone, which is really clever. He will also collect items to fight off monsters, which is done by drawing a handgun found early on and aiming up at an angle, straight, or down towards the ground exactly like old school Resident Evil. Found documents expand the story or make it more mysterious, and key items are periodically found that open access to new areas previously unreachable, again in a way that is not too far off from Capcom's style, although the story itself is told in a much different way and tone.

Screenshot for Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut on Wii U

Lots of flashes occur, and the hero isn't sure whether what he sees and experiences is real or not. Is it all a hallucination, or should he truly fear for his life? The veil of mystery is never truly lifted until the end, and it all works brilliantly to move the player forward. Thus he explores his environment, both fighting and hiding from or sneaking around the monsters that roam it, in search of other survivors, as well as some answers to the stuff that happens around, foraging and scavenging for food through the ruins of his apartment lot as well as, eventually, the streets that surround it in order to survive.

The survival horror moniker tends to be used a bit loosely in general, being attached to titles that do not really meet the criteria that define it. Lone Survivor, however, is horrifying all right, as was already established, and features survival at its most absolute sense. It's up to you to manage the character's health, hunger, and even state of sleepiness, by making sure the protagonist sleeps, is well fed, and avoids being hit too much. This goes as far as having the hero cook some of his food, which cannot be done before finding gas for the stove in his apartment, but also the right utensils needed to cook his food into, or the can opener in order to eat the contents of tins or even combining certain types of food with one another to enhance them and so on and so forth.

Truly, this level of attention to detail was not expected from something with this style of presentation. More than eating to survive, what the player chooses to have the hero consume over the course of the scenario also has an ultimate influence on the ending of the game. Revealing more about this, though, would be major spoiler. This comes with 5 different endings, from best to worst, all affected by a massive amount of contributing factors which are all detailed after it is completed, and which will prompt the most eager to dive back in (especially since it's not a very long adventure), to try and act differently so as to affect the ending and try to get a different, and, hopefully, better one, since getting the best one on first try would indeed be most surprising.

Screenshot for Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut on Wii U

Up to perhaps four-to-five hours are needed to first reach the end, and while it may not seem long, is not only enough for the price so that it feels like good value, but it also does not wears itself out over time from the repetition of the actions which are kept simplistic given its choice of presentation, as it is indeed not Resident Evil 7 in terms of interactivity either. It knows not to overstay its welcome, and that means it lends itself well to speed running, which should make a part of the target audience really happy. Completion time is also one of the contributing factors to the ending, so, subsequent playthroughs shouldn't last nearly as long.

The ending, without spoiling anything for readers, is built upon well. Some subtle hints are given along the way as to what it all leads to, but it is sufficiently surprising to make the player step out with a feeling of "that was neat!" Of course, the full exposure of who the hero is, the seemingly hallucinations and everything else depends on which ending is obtained, which means that most players should want at least one more go after it's over, not to mention that this being the Director's Cut version, some new dialogue is given to the characters on further plays.


 
Indeed, this particular edition introduces a whole slew of additional content and improvements, of which the new expert mode is an important one. This, as the name implies, is for people who know their way around it all already, and comes recommended mostly to those who already have beaten it at least once. Playing this game for review, the expert mode was selected right off the bat, however, it blocks access to the map altogether for the entirety of the adventure, which going in for the first time wasn't the most comfortable way to first experience the game, and makes it needlessly convoluted due to how the style of presentation affects how navigating the otherwise "2D-presented" 3D locations is handled.

What the expert mode leads the player into should have been better explained right off the start, but thanks to this review at least, those going in will know what to expect and act accordingly to make sure the experience is not soured in the slightest by this kind of initial mistake. In addition to this, the difficulty is overall better balanced than originally, with more items to be found and used for survival, some additional story elements, characters, and visual effect improvements (mostly in the lighting section), etc. The Wii U may have received this late compared to other platforms but at least it did receive the complete package right out of the gate, and sports some of the features that were already previously exclusive to certain console editions, such as touch-screen inventory and menu management, like found in the Vita version, or the rumble found on Sony's home consoles.

Screenshot for Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut on Wii U

The Wii U being what it is, however, cloud saves and trophies/achievements are not in this particular iteration, which are really the only drawbacks of this particular release when put against the others. That, and perhaps the incompatibility with the Wii U Pro Controller. The Gamepad is indeed the only accepted method of input for this title. There is however something to be said about the immersion factor brought by playing this off-TV with the Gamepad alone, in complete darkness and wearing a good pair of headphones, as recommended by the game itself. It really is a disturbing experience like few others exist in video gaming.

The weird situations found in Lone Survivor, in spite or perhaps thanks to its unique presentation, work to convey a mysterious and creepy vibe around its already disturbing plot. Games centring around slow paced action like this, and more focused on overall atmosphere are not very common anymore, and to find one this well made that succeeds at it using so few pixels is even more surprising and this makes this a truly unique experience worth experimenting for anyone looking for something that does make the player feel something; something truly uncomfortable...

Screenshot for Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The fact that a game with this style of presentation works so well to make you feel uncomfortable and creep you out is a testament to how well written and designed it is. It would have been easy to put too much of one thing or another in it so that the subtle balance of it all would be lost and this adventure feel like a complete mess, but that's not the case. It's a truly disturbing story that demands using your imagination to perceive this as more than a bunch of huge pixels on a screen, and this involvement is part of what makes the cake lift at the end of the day, and that is a genuine tour de force. That's not to say that it's perfect, as some things are not always executed brilliantly, and yet, in the end, the atmosphere and immersion are not spoiled by such little shortcomings, and the experience ultimately still comes highly recommended.

Developer

Curve Studios

Publisher

Curve Studios

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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