You may have heard of Lakeview Cabin Collection already, a few notable Youtubers have showcased it on their channels, meaning you may be familiar with its premise before reading the rest of this review. For fans of 70s/80s horror films, Lakeview Cabin Collection offers several scenarios based on famous slashers, with you taking control of four characters in each. These four characters must work together to survive the terrifyingly brutal threats they face.
The problems begin with these four characters, as they have absolutely no intelligence of their own, meaning that they are completely still whenever you’re controlling someone else. So, if the killer emerges while you’re off searching for a key or a weapon, the other three characters are left totally vulnerable. Switching characters on the fly is clumsy too, as you either tap Y (I played using a wired 360 controller) to change in a specific order or hold Y and select the exact character you wish to control with the left stick, but when things get hectic it just takes too long and people often die as a result. Considering how few buttons are used for the game, would it have killed the developers to assign buttons to select each character individually?
Luckily, the controls to move each character and interact with the environments are nice and simple to pick up. X attacks or activates various buttons and switches, the A button picks up/drops items and B lets you move through doors (holding B also allows you to peek through doors, which is useful when the killer is on the loose). As a side-scrolling affair, moving around is a simple combination of left/right movement, with the vertical axis only really coming into play with ladders – but do beware of high ledges, as a long drop can severely injure someone, leaving them hobbling for the rest of the level. Because their leg fell off.
Opening outside a cinema, the game signals its style from the very beginning. Peeking through the door of a nearby home sees a grisly scene that points to something dangerous in the area, but passing it by lets you wander into the movie theatre in blissful ignorance. Greeting you in the complex is a series of screen entrances that serve as the main menu of the game, with each of the four screens taking you into one of the horror movie scenarios that make up the gameplay experience. The fifth scenario is in the menu level itself, but more on that later.
The first scenario is the most famous, as it’s the one seen in the majority of Youtube videos before Lakeview Cabin Collection was fully finished. It sees a bunch of 70s-looking people staying at, you guessed it, a cabin beside a lake, although it’s actually part of a small series of cabins that used to be the site of a summer camp. Sound familiar?
The camp is littered with beer (drinking too much will cause the camera to lurch violently) and various tools and weapons, the purpose of which may become clear as night approaches. Curiously, there are also trunks and closets that allow your character to take off their clothes and parade around naked, probably paying homage to the exploitative era of the films the game apes. Find a bed and enter it with two naked people to, erm, you know…
The sheer silliness of the ensuing romp shows off the humour of Lakeview Cabin Collection, as bed springs squeak comically as the two pixelated nudists bounce around like fleshy jackhammers. This humour is even present in the most gruesome scenes, with characters being flung around like Weebles. The sound, however, paints a less amusing picture. Wet thuds accompany the merging of blade and flesh, blood spraying all around, but it still ends up less-than-serious when the characters can survive an axe to the face, leaving them running around with half their skull on show or with a hole in their chest. I suspect this is another nod to the films of that 70s/80s era, in which teenagers would survive almost anything – up until the script determined their eventual death scene.
When the killer does eventually show up, that’s when things get really messy. As in the likes of Friday the 13th and Halloween, the murderer just refuses to stay down. Hacked them down with a machete? Set them on fire? Shot them point-blank with a shotgun? None of these things worked in the films, so naturally none of them work here, either. This is where things start to fall apart in the game, as its total lack of signposting means that only trial and error will help you reach the end credits. And when things are as obscure as they are in almost every scenario (the Texas Chainsaw Massacre level is a particular disaster) you just end up trying whatever you can to take down the enemy, just hoping that it keeps it down for good. Succeeding will probably only come through the use of a guide. That’s how obscure some scenarios are.
This radiates throughout the whole game, with even the fourth scenario (based loosely on Alien, complete with Ellen Ripley and team) offering no clue as to the nature of the win condition until after you actually think you’ve won, when it suddenly turns it around on you and says, “surprise, you made a mess of the whole thing!”
The fifth scenario is just as obscure, but it does find itself neatly tied into the main menu of the game. As mentioned earlier, peeking into the door of a locked house outside the cinema sees a poor man hanged in his living room, with a message scrawled on the wall alluding to something in the sewers. Why not venture into the sewers? What could possibly go wrong down there?
It’s a nice little twist in a game that could have done with more of this gentle nudging, pointing you in the general direction of what to do in order to progress. As it stands, Lakeview Cabin Collection works as a wonderful homage to what some consider to be the ‘golden age’ of horror films, but as a game it finds itself struggling to find its way. Sure, its pixel art visuals look great and it has some fun puzzle-like elements, but without direction it feels like one of the supporting cast, doomed to die a horrible death because he/she made the wrong choices. With a couple of different decisions, in this case a bit of signposting or even a bit of basic AI for the three characters you aren’t currently controlling, Lakeview Cabin Collection could have survived the ending.
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