As a heads up, you will be greeted with a content warning upon turning on this game: a warning like this on a Nintendo game is not something that I expect to see. Before I describe too much here, Burnhouse Lane deals with a lot of heavy issues, ranging from suicide to abuse of both people and animals, along with a lot of extremely graphic imagery, so keep that in mind before checking out this title and the rest of this review.
You have come to the end — with a terminal lung cancer diagnosis giving you only six months left to live and your husband having died of the same deadly disease years earlier, you have decided to end your life. In this tale, you play as Angie Weathers, a nurse who is getting prepared to leave it all behind. Before following through with the act, she gets a call from her employer offering her a job. Angie turns it down, saying that she is busy as she enjoys one last cigarette. This is where you take control, and you have to move the chair below the beam until the light turns green; this is where Angie will hang herself.
Burnhouse gives you the option of getting down from the chair and not following through with the act, but as soon as you walk away, words appear on the screen “THIS IS THE END”, “NO ESCAPE”, “GIVE UP”, and “IT WON’T HURT” begin to berate you. Angie can try going to the next room, but once again, the chair is waiting there for you; there is no getting away from this: in her mind, this is the only option. So you jump off the chair, trying to hang yourself and expecting the end... but the beam isn’t strong enough to support the weight, and it breaks.
She calls her employer back and says that she accepts the job, which will take her to the countryside in Devon, England. This will be her last job as she wants to travel to Japan and see the cherry blossoms like she had planned with her husband before he passed away. Angie will be looking after an elderly farmer named George by cooking for him and doing other tasks like watering the plants. This is all quite easy and very boring until you discover a mysterious door that leads to Burnhouse Lane. This place is essentially purgatory, where tortured souls wander, looking for a second chance at life. It's here where our protagonist meets a cat who promises to cure her disease if she completes the five tasks presented to her. She will have to use her judgement and wits to survive all the horrible things presented to her to win back a chance to live once again. This game is a hellish survival marathon, and I promise that you will encounter a lot of messed up, disturbing things. I don’t want to spoil anything more in the story, but it is interesting to see how Angie deals with the messed-up events that occur.
The visuals in Burnhouse Lane are actually very unique: it mixes hand-drawn characters and Photoshopped backgrounds. A lot of these are quite grotesque if you are in Burnhouse, though a lot of your time will be spent in the real world on George’s farm. I thought more time would be spent in the hellish world with only a few visits to the countryside. Animation-wise, I did find the movement of the characters, especially Angie, to be awkward and wooden at times, but ultimately that doesn’t impact the game at all. The gameplay is quite simple and primarily consists of puzzle-solving, key-hunting, and selecting from dialogue choices. Your actions will impact the story, so keep that in mind when you are interacting with the other people and creatures that you encounter.
Music-wise, the soundtrack is very understated, and you only hear it for small increments of time. When you do hear music, they are sad-sounding songs played on a piano that does a good job of depicting the feelings that Angie is having about her situation. Most of the time, you hear creepy sound effects like wind, groaning, and screams from the people and monsters that are trapped in the world of Burnhouse Lane.
I do wish more of the game would take place in Burnhouse. I found that world to be more interesting, and there was just more stuff to do other than chores like cooking and having awkward conversations with people in the real world. I think it would have been better to have Angie fighting against the monstrous inhabitants of that hellish world than spending time doing such trivial things. I think the game would have felt more engaging to play and more of a horror title than just a game featuring nasty visuals.
If you are a fan of 2D horror adventure titles or the other games released by Harvester Games, this may be a title that you are going to want to check out. If you want a creepy narrative-driven title full of character drama, Burnhouse Lane may be worth your time.
Burnhouse Lane (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
Burnhouse Lane is a 2D horror adventure title that deals with a lot of serious issues and is full of disturbing visuals. The game feels a bit uneven but is an engaging experience if you are looking for a creepy time.