Albino Lullaby is a creepy, great-looking horror game from indie dev Ape Law
Albino Lullaby on PC
I mentioned in my review of SOMA that I’m not much of a horror game player. ‘Tis the season, though, so fresh off of that excellent Frictional Games outing, I find myself with Albino Lullaby by indie developer Ape Law. I could likely draw some parallels between the approach of each of these titles, with both being geared towards the psychological aspect rather than gore or jump scares. Other than this take on the genre, though, not much ties these two titles together.
Albino Lullaby is set in a twisted, confusing world that feels something like an orphanage-slash-sanitarium from the mind of Tim Burton. Among the winding halls and strangely-angled rooms, players will find puzzles, traps, and some pretty gross-looking creatures called ‘grandchildren’. Along the way, scattered note pages fill in some vague details about the setting. including sing-along song pages, lists of rules, and personal notes about the residents of the otherworldly home. Much of these read like fragments from a dozen half-sane journals, focused on recording daily events within the confusing buildings and halls around you.
There’s quite a few things that Albino Lullaby has going for it. The artistic style and the creepy atmosphere top this list, with a freaky hand-drawn style that’s gorgeous to look at. The twisted, shifting architecture and environments are beautiful, and it’s clear that a ton of time went into creating and detailing the world. While the game is often very dark, everything you can see is great to look at, and it creates a wonderful atmosphere, even if the path forward isn’t always a clear one.
Of course, it takes a lot more than a beautiful world to make a good game. Unfortunately, Albino Lullaby is a bit rough when it comes to the actual gameplay. While the freedom to explore is great, there’s some serious lack of direction going on. Add to this some pretty inconsistent stealth mechanics that leave players guessing whether or not they’ll be spotted rather than sure of how to proceed. Since the majority of the time you’ll be sneaking, sprinting, or otherwise trying to avoid the creepy and deadly grandchildren, this is pretty important. Throw in the confusing paths and lack of clear objectives, and even running for your life can actually be just as lethal as sitting and waiting for your demise.
Ultimately, Albino Lullaby’s first episode is an extremely good-looking game with some fundamental flaws. While I don’t typically have a problem with the free-roaming style, having some kind of pointer or hint towards the next goal, the next puzzle to solve, goes a long way. With poor narrative consistency, troublesome sneaking, and a lack of real coherence or objective, Albino Lullaby ends up falling well short of great despite the fantastic design and wonderful look to it all. Asking $9.99 for the first episode on Steam, or $24.76 for the three-episode pack with soundtrack toss-in, Ape Law may be reaching beyond what it’s really put together. Still, for the dedicated fan who’s looking for something with a great, creepy atmosphere, there’s something to be found here that’s far from a complete disappointment.
• Wonderful, hand-drawn art style.
• Wonderfully creepy atmosphere.
• Complete lack of direction or narrative focus.
• Inconsistent stealth mechanics.