These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.
When I first scrolled past Lost Within on the App Store, my reaction was something along the lines of: Oh, look…another survival horror game set in an abandoned insane asylum. (But I downloaded it anyway, despite the $7 price tag, because I not-so-secretly love survival horror games set in abandoned insane asylums.)
I’ll be straight with you: Lost Within, a new title developed by Human Head Studios and published by Amazon Game Studios, probably isn’t going to wow you with its novel take on horror. The game is what you’d expect it to be—a point-and-tap survival horror game set in an appropriately terrifying insane asylum. You play as Deputy Pearson, an officer tasked with making a quick pass through the abandoned Weatherby Asylum to round up junkies and random kids who might be hiding out before the place gets demolished in the morning.
Of course, about three seconds after you walk through the door, you hear the hollow, echo-y voice of a child telling you, “You can’t stay.” Being a rational officer of the law, you assume the child is a kid playing in the walls, not a creepy disembodied ghost voice, right? You go looking for the kid, fall through a decrepit floor, and spend the rest of your time trying to escape the haunted remnants of the asylum’s previous tenants…
Typical, right? Well, that’s why it’s worth a look—despite Lost Within’s conventional setting and storyline, I promise this game will still scare the pants off you. The game uses all the basic horror tropes and yet still manages to surprise you with how creepy it is. And if that’s not enough reason for you to play it, here are three more:
An intriguingly detailed environment: Human Head Studios has put all its effort into making Weatherby Asylum just as scary as something your imagination could come up with. The interior of the building is creepy in all the right ways—there are old gurneys and wheelchairs strewn about, eerie graffiti lines the walls, and everything is stained and rusted. The attention to detail is excellent: You can read the graffiti (although “important” graffiti is also read aloud to you), you can see the screws on the wheelchairs, and you can tell the difference between rust, dirt, and bloodstains on the floor. You can go up to anything and examine it, opening drawers and cabinets and crawling under desks and into sturdy old lockers.
As you progress through the asylum, you’ll start to interact with objects that give you flashbacks to the time when the asylum was in use. What’s cool about these flashbacks is that they’re also detailed—so detailed, in fact, that you can move through them while you’re in the flashback. The flashbacks take place in the same room you’re standing in, and while the flashback plays out you can walk around the room and look at objects, or even walk through doors into adjoining rooms and corridors.
Smooth touch controls: Lost Within is a pretty basic point-and-tap game—just tap where you want to go, and your character will walk that way. The controls are simple, but you can also double-tap to run (you can double-tap hiding places, such as lockers and desks, to run to those hiding places and then hide in them… this is a skill you’ll need, trust me), swipe to look around, and tab glowing objects such as doors, backpacks, and scraps of paper to interact with them.
Lost Within’s controls are simple, but movement is effortlessly smooth. Tapping and pointing takes no time to get used to, and you’ll feel like you’re completely free to explore the world. This is pretty important in a survival horror game—not only does it make everything all the more creepy (since it’s totally immersive), it also helps you stay alive. Gameplay is an excellent mix of storytelling and skill—you’ll feel challenged, but not frustrated you hide from monsters and try to escape the asylum.
A compelling storyline: Lost Within’s storyline may not be particularly unique, but that doesn’t mean it’s not compelling. I won’t spoil the plot for you, but it involves a power-hungry Doctor performing disturbing experiments on the asylum’s patients—surgically “integrating” them with “Devices” designed to subdue them.
The game also does a good job of telling the story—through the little boy’s directions, the flashbacks, and the scraps of pictures, letters, and documents scattered throughout the asylum. Piecing together the puzzle keeps you interested, while the monsters, random screams, and eerie atmosphere keeps you on your toes.