Equal parts horrifying and charming. A lot of fun too.
I don’t normally go in for horror games. A lot of them rely quite heavily on jump scares and those that choose to center themselves on atmosphere and pacing, tend to lack something in terms of character and narrative. This isn’t universally the case, but it is generally true that the genre has never completely appealed to me. With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised by Albino Lullaby, the debut game by indie studio Ape Law. The game is one of the strongest horror titles I’ve played in a good while, simultaneously creating an atmosphere that is creepy and horrifying, without relying on jump scares or gore as a crutch. At the same as this, the game provides a world that has character and charm to spare.
After the player is involved in a car accident, they are dragged into an underground city, populated by the enormously creepy ‘grandchildren’. I’m not going to lie, the grandchildren are perhaps the most grotesquely terrifying creatures I have ever encountered in a video game. They look like slimy, sentient versions of the Easter Island heads, and your first proper look at them is enough to send you racing as quickly as you can in the opposite direction. This is coupled with their almost too self-aware personalities. They’re capable of speech and their conversations with one another, even at their most innocent, are able to send shivers down your spine. This is in no small part down to the enthusiastic vocal talent present in the game. The acting performances seem to emulate the song ‘The Trial’ from Pink Floyd’s album The Wall, and based on the soundtrack, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was their initial inspiration.
The creatures are also fairly reminiscent of the Splicers from Bioshock, which is fitting, because Albino Lullaby is very clearly inspired by that game. While it does strip away the role-playing elements, the idea of a uniquely situated city, populated by somewhat deranged creatures, all under the rule of an enigmatic figure, is definitely present. The game is certainty proud of its influences, and any fan of Bioshock should definitely take a look at it.
In terms of gameplay, though, I have my reservations. Don’t get me wrong, the bulk of it is a lot of fun, and the use of moving walls and rotating rooms is fantastically executed and a lot of fun to play. As is outrunning the grandchildren, attempting to find safety in the occasional patch of blue light. Unfortunately, as fun as these are, there are a couple of hiccups. As much as I enjoy exploration in video games, there are a lot of the moments where the game does not make it very clear where it is you’re supposed to be going, or what you’re supposed to be doing. I definitely don’t think the game should start hand-holding the player, but the occasional nudge in the right direction wouldn’t have been too much to ask. As well as this, the stealth elements were not as well-executed as they could have been, and far too often it was actually easier for me to attempt to outrun the grandchildren, than to sneak by them.
As aforementioned, the game employs a rotating rooms mechanic and while it is incredibly fun, if you’re running the game on anything less than ‘high’ graphics, you can encounter a few game-breaking bugs, where the room will rotate and drop you into an endless void of nothing. Admittedly the first time I encountered this, I assumed it was a particularly difficult puzzle, and it took me several attempts to realise that I had actually encountered a glitch.
Aside from that, the game is virtually without issue. Sometimes it can get too dark, and you can’t quite tell where you’re going, but this is easily fixed by changing the shadow options in the graphics menu. The issues mentioned are probably on the nitpicky side, and overall I am impressed by the first episode of Albino Lullaby, and am very much looking forward to see where it goes from here. Though, as a word of caution, I would suggest not buying it if you don’t feel that your laptop is capable of running the game on high graphics settings. Not only does it add a lot of colour and vibrancy to the game, but ‘low’ settings can cause a few game-breaking bugs.
If you think that you can run it, I would definitely recommend getting this game. It is in equal parts terrifying, comical, colourful, and intriguing, with a good dose of ‘trippy as balls’ thrown in as icing on the cake.
Albino Lullaby: Episode 1 is available now on Steam.