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Lazaretto Chapter One Review

Lazaretto Chapter One Review

They threw me down to the Lazaretto, for I was born rotten. Or at least that’s what you might guess after seeing the quality of the game I had to finish. I could definitely see how sitting through a glorified fun park haunted house ride like this, could be viewed as some form of divine punishment for past unmentionable transgressions against all that is right.

Rather than making models of folks you used to know out of coffee and cotton, The Lazaretto Chapter One puts you in the role of a nameless urban explorer. Because of reasons you go out alone one night to scope out the spooky old abandoned island insane asylum/hospital/wooden crate and concrete hallway depository after a mysterious and horrific event caused the facility to be shut down years ago. Ooooooooo! It’s a flimsy justification for the scenario with a tired typical horror game setting. You go to a place, the place is dark, creepy and weird shit starts to happen so you spend the rest of the game trying to escape from the place. In games like Outlast and Silent Hill, this context makes a modicum of sense since the protagonist is either physically or emotionally incapable of leaving the location. But in Lazaretto literally nothing stops you from heading back to your boat the moment you see your first hallucinated ghost child harmlessly roaming the halls.

Oh yes, that trope and more will be featured on our little tour through horror game mediocrity. Strange delusions that seem vaguely connected with the aforementioned horrible event but never threaten you, strange noises that you quickly discover will play on a loop as soon as you walk through a particular area, strange doors that strangely slam shut behind you when your back is turned, strangely placed inexplicably animated dolls, and the ever-welcome assortment of strangely relevant diary pages and keys scattered around the environment just waiting to be picked up by a roaming protagonist. I wasn’t kidding when I compared Lazaretto to a haunted house ride, where you get treated to a lot of “disturbing” imagery but none of the attractions can actually touch or threaten you because you checked off a box on the waiver they made you sign before heading in.

Ok, I shouldn’t say that none of the effects can. There are several instances where you have to hold down the sprint button and navigate away from whatever spooky scary skeleton is sending a shiver down your spine. The first one I encountered was some invisible chap whose presence was only announced by approaching footfalls and the annoying dimming of my flashlight. On its own, the idea of an invisible stalker adversary sounds like a relatively novel one. After all, the main weakness of the stalker figure in other games like Slender is that you encounter the creature so often that it becomes familiar and familiarity breeds contempt, not fear. Making the stalker incorporeal yet still hostile could be an interesting solution, except that you have to establish that this is an actual threat to you. Most people never consider the possibility of a disembodied sound coming to kill them, and you have to establish that this one can in the rules of your setting so the player won’t feel cheated. Nevertheless after dying to the transparent menace once, the most tense part of the game ensued as I had to frantically solve a physics puzzle and stay one step ahead of the thing as its footsteps got louder and louder.

After that, I met the second actual enemy and almost immediately all that built up tension was blown. Instead of a murderous ghost, what stalked the darkened hallways this time was some sort of malformed mentally disabled gentleman who’d somehow been living alone on an abandoned island all this time, trapped in the lower levels of the facility where he made his rounds pushing himself on the little scooter I once used to make the preschool teachers nervous by sliding around on it at unsafe speeds. Seriously, if push came to shove I’m confident that the real me could have fought this guy and won, if only by kicking him away. There was a point when I would see him and literally retreat to the nearest staircase because I knew he physically couldn’t go up it, and I’d stand at the top of the steps mockingly like the terribly ableist twit that I am as all he could do was look up hatefully at the man with functional legs. It was a shameless misapplication of the “all you can do is run” horror game phenomenon that bordered on satyire.

It’s towards the end of Chapter One that things really got weird. I’ll do my best to remain as spoiler light as possible, but suffice to say the game’s paranormal aspect goes from slightly plausible occult magic system to an off-the-rails-balls-to-the-wall-captain-wacky-pants trip to wonderland. I get the impression that the developers made it halfway through their project before deciding they wanted to instead make this much more surreal horror game that wouldn’t gel with the story they had so far but who cares they’ll still make it scary right? Right? One of the few points of consistency is that things never develop past that haunted house level of scariness I talked about. In fact there’s one segment where you literally board what looks like a spooky boat ride at an amusement park and just passively watch that for several minutes with little to no interaction. And then finally, we have our encounter with what I can only assume is the “main villain” who did bad things I guess for reasons never explained. But who gives a crap, he sounds menacing and is dressed like an actor at Six Flags Fright Night so clearly we’re supposed to fear and loath him. And again, I get the sense that the game’s creators were really trying for something memorable here. They wanted to try and hook the player into buying the next chapter with a “welcome to the family, son” style moment ripped from Resident Evil Biohazard. But here it just falls flat because the game doesn’t give us enough context to understand who this antagonist is, why he even wants the player here, and what his goals are.

Playing The Lazaretto is a llot like playing through a lot of different haunted house games mashed together. With more supporting details and tension built up around these individual concepts, the creators may have had something actually scary, but blended all together the game feels unfocused, as if they thought just adding in this particular thing here mixed with a few jump scares would make an instant horror game. Good horror thankfully, is not that simple. There’s always a chance that later chapters will resolve all these crazy unexplained plot elements down the line, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

4.00/10 4

Lazaretto (Reviewed on Mac)

Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.

Playing The Lazaretto is a llot like playing through a lot of different haunted house games mashed together. With more supporting details and tension built up around these individual concepts, the creators may have had something actually scary, but blended all together the game feels unfocused, as if they thought just adding in this particular thing here mixed with a few jump scares would make an instant horror game. Good horror thankfully, is not that simple. There’s always a chance that later chapters will resolve all these crazy unexplained plot elements down the line, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Walrider

Walrider

Staff Writer

Misspelled his favourite type of fish.

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