Website: Lakeview Cabin Collection
Steam Link: Lakeview Cabin Collection
Normally I would start off a review like this with listing a bunch of 80's movies that I grew up watching. Making some quips and jokes about how stupid the teenagers were and how great/cheesy the special effects were, however I don't feel that does this game justice. Yes, Lakeview Cabin does capture the soul and essence of Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, The Shining, and more.(See what I did there?) More then that though, it lets you craft your own cheesy horror movie in ridiculous fun ways. Throw your friends into wood-chippers, kill them with an axe, light them on fire. There are numerous ways to kill the stupid residents of Lakeview Cabin.
Lakeview follows the same basic set up of any horror movie you may have seen. Four unsuspecting individuals head out into the woods and unforeseen horrors await them. Except the key difference is that this is a game, you can win. Controlling the four victims, you can scour the island for all sorts of hidden weapons, collectibles, and tricks to turn the tide of darkness back from whence it came. Trust me when I say though, that this is far from easy or convenient. As you can imagine, bouncing control over four characters is not easy and the cabins are rather expansive. Experimentation is key, also dying a heck of lot.
This is the beauty and slight annoyance of Lakeview. When you start the game up, not much is really explained to you beyond the simple keyboard controls. You undoubtedly will lose your first playthrough, simply cause you have no idea whats going on or why. Losing isn't really a big deal, as Lakeview's replayability is its key feature, seeing all sorts of outcomes and coming up with different ways to take out the big bads. Speaking of the big bads, there are quite a few of them, ranging from some dude hiding behind a tree, a demon baby, a sewer monsters and that's just what I discovered. The nightmarish monsters are faster, stronger, and most of the time don't die easily. You think they will be dead and suddenly bounce back up to their feet in true horror movie fashion.
This is what I loved about Lakeview, its faithfulness to the source material. You feel like you're in a horror movie and it does this all with pixel graphics! Now there are obviously some things that games cannot replicate, your characters don't really react to much of anything, other than death. You must guide the four characters painstakingly as they simply just stand there and let themselves die. The AI of the monsters is kind of predictable, once you get the hang of things. Matter of fact, most things become predictable eventually, you know where things are and what to do to get them. The familiarity with the cabins makes replay great but also inevitability kills it. A great idea would've been to perhaps randomize the items, but I can see where that could've made more of the scripted events harder to pull off. I realize that may sound contradictory to what I said earlier, but that is how the game simply works. You have great replay but eventually the tricks/jokes just run out.
On the other hand, the game is designed beautifully. The first stage has a spooky theater that feels authentic and weird. While this is just the introductory level, upon closer inspection you will find that this level too, has some secrets to discover. Then we have the cabins, each one feels like somebody actually lives err...lived in it. From boxes of beer to simple things like lighters, all these useless items may just save your life. The details may just be pixel graphics but they are done with care and focus. Hey there has got to be some bonus points for pixel wang right?
Now music/sound is where Lakeview is flawless, anybody who has seen a horror movie knows that sound is integral to creating ambiance. From the sudden piano slams to the screeches as a monster hacks away at you, Lakeview delivers on the creeps and gave me goosebumps the first couple of times I played it. Of course the fear and tension faded as I played over and over again trying to find a way to survive.
Surviving itself is quite the challenge, and it can be an unfair one at times. The game feels like it is purposefully trying to screw you over with the time it gives you. Some have called the game unfair, this isn't totally untrue. At the same time, the game is about quick replays and trying things in new ways. What Lakeview boils down to is a puzzle game, you must find the right tools and put them in the right order to survive, in the right amount of time. However, this is if all you aim to do is win at the game. If you want to enjoy the game, simply explore. Winning isn't everything.
From a personal stand point, I enjoyed Lakeview. I didn't really accomplish much of anything other then watching four people die over and over. I still liked it. There really isn't many games like this one out there. It has an experimentation themed gameplay but also a focused puzzle aspect to it.
Lakeview is a game for patient people, aiming to win, or somebody just looking to screw off, and have a few laughs. That margin is hard to capture in one game.
It should also be mentioned that this is the first part of the Lakeview Cabin Collection, with subsequent "sequels/episodes" to be released as completely free expansions to the game. If you already own the game, you will get these as they are developed, this really adds bang for your buck. With the next expansion due to release sometime in July, you can expect probably more of the same amount of blood filled chaos, terrifying monsters, loads of secrets, and plenty of pixel nudity!
So go ahead, give a shot, what do you have to lose? Other than your life.
To wrap up this up, a quote from H.P. Lovecraft "Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places."