222992 7

‘Here They Lie’ Review: Lost In Damnation

by Kevin Ohannessian • October 12th, 2016
Platform: PlayStation VR
Positives

- Creepy atmosphere
- Memorably disturbing moments

Negatives

- Uncomfortable first-person movement
- Clunky conclusion

I wander through empty city streets, flinching at the terrible sounds around me. I know something is going to jump out for me soon. I just know it. Maybe it is this corner? Okay. It wasn’t. Maybe this alleyway? Nope. Onto the next part of this maze. I guess they aren’t doing another jump scare so soon after — ahh!

Indie studio Tangentlemen have made a creepy game — in collaboration with Sony Santa Monica — of walking through mazes with Here They Lie. You are an unnamed protagonist experiencing terrible things, looking for a way out of them, looking for the beautiful woman Dana who has disappeared. It is a series of levels with different themes, different ways to unnerve you or shock you.

As you journey through all of this, how does the game actually play? You walk. You jog. You open doors. You take side paths in the maze-like city of tunnels to find boxes or cabinets to open with creepy little stories or photographs that bring spoken philosophical musings that are often much brighter and hopeful than the darkness around you. You find batteries for your flashlight. You see enemies and either wait for them to pass or run from them.

It is a game that consists entirely of travel and observation.

The locations of Here They Lie are rendered mostly in fuzzy black and white, like an old photograph. The use of color is rare: the luminescent yellow of Dana’s dress during visions or the bright red of blood splashes. This is a dreary world, the monotony of seemingly unending labyrinths. The graphics are lower resolution than most PlayStation VR games, intentionally adding to that fuzzy feeling of a fading memory.

here they lie 5

Like many first-person games in VR, this one puts you right in the middle of everything. You can easily look around at the dark world that surrounds you. You walk forward with the left analog on the Dual Shock controller, the angle changing as you move your head. You can also use the right analog for comfort turns, the screen blinking through rotations at 45-degree increments. Despite that comfort setting, the constant walking, and jogging if you hold a button, does get to you. Even an experienced VR-user may find their stomach unsettled from the simulated movement.

There is one moment in the game where Tangentlemen use this problem as a feature. Without spoiling specifics, there is a moment where you go on a hallucinogenic trip, your mind floating through the city. It is disorienting and actually makes you feel like you are tripping. So that crazy moment aside, Here They Lie uses VR is a standard way to immerse you in its creepy landscapes.

here they lie 7

Another quick note about the discomfort. When the game reaches the checkpoints between levels, not only does it save your progress in the game, it displays a title card with a similar design as those of silent films. This card suggests you take a break from the game: something I was forced to do a few times after I felt some simulation sickness from particular moments.

These checkpoints and recommended breaks from the game happen every 30 minutes or so of the 3-to-4 hour overall experience. Although, you may want to replay sections to see the small differences from the few moral choices you make.

Just as many other horror games before it, this one uses sound well to not only put you in the environment, but to unnerve you. The sudden sound effects add to jump scares, of course. But there is also the general atmospheric sounds that help you feel the desolation of the abandoned city or the wanton savagery of the slums. Most effective is the animalistic clicking of certain enemies, heightening the tension you feel as you try to avoid them.

The wild shriek that comes when they spot you instantly puts you on edge as you spring into a run without hesitation. There is the loud breathing sounds when the protagonist has run for his life or is horrified from a terrible situation. It all envelops you and helps put you there in the game.

here they lie 1

And Tangentlemen have created a truly disturbing world to put you in. There are empty streets that leave you uneasy, decrepit slums that make you feel filthy, hellish tunnels that fill you with dread over what is around the next corner. The rare hopeful and bright moments there simply to make everything else feel that much more loathsome. It is a journey through a multitude of underworlds.

Though it sometimes feels like it, the story isn’t about walking through hell, and is instead a different kind of journey. Frankly, the series of levels feels just like that: Disparate environments with different atmospheres that the plot never quite brings logic or coherence to. Which, admittedly would work a bit better if this were a game about insanity. But it isn’t. And, once again, without spoiling things, it doesn’t ultimately add up to a satisfying conclusion.

But despite a flawed finale, there are unique and worthwhile experiences along the way. Terrible sights and disturbing actions. There are dirty deeds you can commit, ugly situations you are thrusted into, and frantically frightening experiences. There are the aforementioned moral choices to be made, though they do not seem to make much of a difference in the long run. But ultimately, it is a walk through a dark maze searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.

here they lie 4

Final Score: 6/10 – Decent

Virtual reality is an experiential medium and Here They Lie has some memorable experiences. But it all feels fuzzy and thrown together. A game that features striking moments to serve a powerful story along with engrossing gameplay will be the masterpiece that defines this early medium. While this game touches on  some of those points here and there, it never fully realizes its potential. It leaves you wandering and wondering, even after the game is done, searching for more.

Here They Lie releases on October 13th for PlayStation VR on PS4 for $19.99.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.


Kevin is a freelance writer with work appearing in outlets such as Geek & Sundry, Kill Screen, and Fast Company. Follow him on Twitter: @khohannessian.

Tagged with: , , , ,

What's your reaction?
Like
Wow
0%
LOL
0%
Dislike
0%
  • James Friedman

    I was really excited about this one. It looks incredible. I believe I am still going to try it out.

    • A 6 isn’t a bad score, definitely go for it! It just may not really be worth playing for everyone is all.

  • elyse

    This game looks absolutely sick- in a good way! Might try it out once it goes on sale.

  • Chester Chesterton

    I’m a bit disappointed to find out this is really more of an “experience” than an actual game… was hoping for more than just a walking narrative. Not saying it won’t be a fantastic app worth picking up, but I’d be far more excited if there was more interactivity to it.

  • formerMo

    I mean you give it a 6 but then say this “A game that features striking moments to serve a powerful story along with engrossing gameplay will be the masterpiece that defines this early medium.”

    • Kevin Ohannessian

      It is the sentence after that one is key. This game doesn’t quite get there. There are moments where you may jump and where you may squirm, but the gameplay isn’t compelling enough and the story doesn’t quite come together. This is a step towards being masterpiece. Bound is even closer to being that VR masterpiece, but neither is the game with a score of 10 that will define VR.

  • Texazzpete

    Believe it or not, this is one of the most positive reviews out there for this game.

    6/10 at least is much better than the 1/10 from Jim Sterling.