Much like its predecessor, Lust for Darkness, Lust From Beyond explores subjects that most titles wouldn’t dare to broach. The concept of a cult that worships a god through sexual pleasure adds a great deal of bite to what is otherwise a fairly standard horror experience. Lust From Beyond is unfortunately hampered by a number of technical issues and flaws with the presentation. That being said, the unnerving atmosphere and the core gameplay are executed effectively enough that it is still worth playing through in spite of it all.
A good horror game mechanically disempowers the player without making the gameplay a chore to experience, and Lust For Beyond mostly succeeds in achieving this delicate balance. For many of the game’s combat situations, the player character is equipped with little more than a knife or gun, which usually makes sneaking past foes the most viable option. The player is given no extra tools, such as vision cones, to aid them in observing enemy placements and fields of vision, so the player has to rely entirely on environmental observation and intuition. This lack of mechanical guidance makes the stealth feel remarkably true to life, as the player has to contend with the limitations of human vision and hearing if they want to survive. The player does have the option to kill whatever enemies they come across, however, and it’s here where the game really goes out of its way to limit the player’s capabilities. Three separate buttons have to be used just to attack: one to draw the weapon, one to ready the knife swing or aim the gun, and one to perform the attack. It leads to the combat feeling incredibly clunky, but it works in this context, as it serves to further disempower the player and leave them scrambling to deal with intense situations.
The only area where the imposed limitations feel excessive is in the mental health system. The mental health meter decreases when the player character experiences traumatic events, and when the meter runs out, the visuals become warped and the controls randomly reverse themselves. It’s an interesting idea, but constantly having to figure out what button moves the character forward every few seconds quickly becomes tiresome rather than terrifying. Thankfully, this problem starts to become less frequent as the player learns how to maintain their mental health meter, and the other aspects of the gameplay do an admirable job at allowing for player choice while still making the player feel vulnerable.
Environmental exploration is also handled surprisingly well. Every area is rich with detail, and many environments contain a wealth of objects to find and interact with. Dragging the mouse to open a drawer or door is a small touch, but it adds a tactile feel to exploration that is more than welcome. Most key items are highlighted with a white flash, which drastically reduces player confusion about how to progress. The campaign also includes some fairly solid puzzle design, with just enough environmental clues to lead the player on the right track without giving the solution away. Environmental navigation strikes a healthy balance between being cryptic and forgiving, and it’s easily the most polished aspect of the campaign.
And, of course, there is the graphic sexual content, which not everyone will be able to stomach. Much of the sexual imagery and subject matter on display is surprisingly disturbing, and it succeeds in ratcheting up tension without coming across as tasteless. There is, however, a censored mode that blurs out the more graphic content, which is a nice gesture toward those who may be turned off by it.
While the overall presentation is solid, there are some notable problems that hold it back. The audio balancing, for instance, feels weirdly uneven. Most of the sound design is spot on, with realistic footsteps and grotesque creature sounds adding a great sense of believability to the atmosphere. But oftentimes, when a character speaks, it sounds like it’s talking in a recording studio, with very few filters that make it feel like a part of the world. In addition, the lines and delivery of the voice acting fluctuate between competent and noncommittal. These sound like minor problems, but they really take away from the atmosphere, and the player character’s voice is, unfortunately, one of the worst offenders. There were too many instances where I was feeling uneasy about roaming through a desolate environment only to be distracted by the player character’s unnaturally loud, disinterested quips. The character models look unnaturally doll-like, which isn’t helped by their fidgety, poorly-looping idle animations. The game also resorts to a few cheap jump scares to frighten the player, which feels unnecessary since the environment and sound design do more than enough to create a sense of discomfort. The story also relies a little too heavily on exposition dumps and bizarre gobbledygook in its last third, which takes away from the emotional core of the narrative.
In terms of gameplay, the distinction between objects that can and cannot be interacted with can feel rather arbitrary. There were many objects of interest that seemed examinable but were simply background decoration, and it makes the process of scouring the environment for puzzle solutions feel less player-driven. At the time of this writing, the game is also plagued with horrifically long loading times. What makes this issue even worse is that the player is forced to sit through one of these loading screens every time they die, which can make the process of learning how certain segments work a real drag. The developers have confirmed that they are working on a patch to resolve this issue, so hopefully, reattempting difficult segments will be nowhere near as tedious going forward.
Despite these problems, Lust From Beyond is an impressive title that demonstrates a real understanding of what makes horror so compelling. It may not leave the player in eternal ecstasy, but it’s worth experiencing as long as the player is able to stomach some truly graphic content.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows 10 PC