Developer/Publisher Ape Law LLC
Genre Horror Mystery
Thrown into an unknown world for an unknown reason, attempting to determine who or what is after you and why by piecing together dialogue overheard sporadically and scribbled notes laying on the ground. For better or worse, that is an overview of the introductory episode of Albino Lullaby.
Albino Lullaby takes place in what can best be described as a Victorian-era Purgatory where a being known as “Grandmother” rules all, and her “grandchildren” are purified creatures resembling severed fingers. In this instance, being purified requires being tortured and having your eyes removed, leaving only glowing white sockets where eyeballs once resided. The first time these creatures are revealed, it raises many questions but also instills fear simply because they are so grotesque. The ability to create a tense and stressful environment is easily the biggest strength of Albino Lullaby, using dim environments, architecture from an era which is inherently creepy, and the lack of knowledge or direction to leave the player disoriented, helpless, and alone. Albino Lullaby to excels at finding new ways to put the player on edge and making them uneasy throughout the entirety of the episode, even as the grandchildren lose their initial edge. In addition to the eery phalanx-esque grandchildren pursuing players through the episode, Grandmother herself and an NPC named Piotr are far more disturbing. Hearing references to Grandmother and Piotr consistently before seeing either one of them allows the player’s mind to wander, but the reality, particularly in regards to Piotr, is much worse than can be expected.
Cutscenes do not exist in the game, with all pertinent information being conveyed through events witnessed during gameplay. There are several times when the game intentionally keeps the player in a very confined spot with nothing to do except watch as these events unfold, but this is a relatively rare occurrence. This design choices works well for Albino Lullaby as it keeps the player immersed in the world and presents the choice of sticking around to hear the entirety of a speech but the risk of doing so is the increased possibility of being noticed and consequently chased by hordes of grandchildren. Unfortunately, dialogue and scattered notes are the primary form in which the plot is explained, although even through those mediums, it is still very vague. It is suggested that the player is dead and the grandchildren wish to “purify” them prior to accepting them, but the promise of torture and being blinded is not a terribly appealing one, so escaping from this place is priority number one. Sadly, due to the lack of concrete plot being presented, it is very possible that a player can miss most of the clues in piecing things together and simply play through this episode with no real idea of what is going on.
The most glaring issue found in Albino Lullaby is the inconsistent changes of gameplay style. The title begins with a heavy focus on exploration due to the lack of plot thrust upon the player, but awkwardly shifts back and forth between this and stealth. The stealth sections would not be too bad if the grandchildren did not seem to have such varying abilities to detect the player. Sometimes one of the enemies will walk past without noticing but another time in the exact same scenario they will detect the player. This variance takes what could be an enjoyable stealth portion of the title and turns it into an irritating segment based entirely on luck. In particular, the largest stealth sequence of the episode asks you to retrace your steps, but obstructs some of the passages used to reach the goal. Unless you happen to recall the precise layout of the building, as there are no maps, the end result is sneaking through the house headed in random directions, generally being seen, and then being swarmed by enemies from every corner of the area even if they were not close enough to learn of your detection. That final detail is particularly frustrating as this particular scenario involves running through several narrow doorways, and the second you are detected, those passages will be blocked and filled with enemies you cannot touch, forcing you to accept death.
Towards the end of the episode, the game once again shifts its focus, turning the title into an action game as you locate a weapon to use against the grandchildren. There is still some slight tension as the ammunition is limited, but this is a complete deviation from everything that had been experienced up until that point. The enemies are no longer immortal or unstoppable and instead the player has taken up that role. Such a dramatic shift makes it feel as if the game lost its focus. Switching between stealth and open exploration previously still seemed odd at times, but the large action-oriented portion of the episode sticks out like a sore thumb and effectively undoes all of the work the title had done up until that point in building a spooky environment. By the time grandmother has been found, you should be terrified of what you are encountering, but with your weapon in hand, any sense of dread is completely removed and you are left with the singular feeling of indifferent disgust.
Throughout the entire episode, there is very little direction, forcing the player to wander around searching for items they may not be aware they need. This is the risk Albino Lullaby runs by telling the story in the method which has been chosen, as players may not discover each note strewn about the game. While some inform the player of crucial details in cryptic fashion, many are pointless diary entries. Even when the objective is made clear, there is a great deal of stumbling around in dark environments attempting to figure out which obscure path is the correct one. Sadly, the paths taken are just previously locked trails leading you back to previous locations in the episode. The amount of backtracking involved in Albino Lullaby is staggering, and for reasons which do not seem terribly valid save simply extending the length of gameplay.
There is one aspect which Albino Lullaby nails down in the horror genre, which is creating an unsettling environment and making the player feel helpless. When examining the concept of blind finger creatures chasing someone, it is not something intrinsically scary, but Ape Law does a fantastic job evolving it into just that. Unfortunately this hard work is completely undone the minute the player obtains a weapon and thus, a way to fight back. All horror is removed, leaving a game which seems to have implemented too many genres in such a short period of time. The stealth sections suffer from inconsistent detection and backtracking repeatedly rears its ugly head, neither of which aid in recovering from the fumble of genre. Albino Lullaby shows a significant amount of promise, particularly early on, but gets overly ambitious in the first episode. There is no way to know what the next episode holds in store for players, but a renewed focus on making the player feel completely helpless and uneasy would lay the foundation for a more impressive second outing.
- Victorian era structures are the perfect design choice to create uneasiness
- Player truly feels helpless for first half of the episode
- Sudden shifts in gameplay style
- Important plot points may be overlooked or missed
- Stealth segments frustratingly inconsistent
- Frequently required to backtrack through previous sections
The Score: 5.9
Eric is an Xbox editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.