We Fthagned Like Wild Animals
HIGH The Therapist’s mad speech about lust.
LOW Guessing wrong and having to redo 20 minutes of exploration.
WTF Is that..? Yep, it’s a sex QTE.
A horror game based on lust seems like a questionable proposition. True, we associate nudity and intimacy with vulnerability – a keyword of survival horror design – but there is a difference between naked lust and emotional exposure. A further difficulty is that while fear has universal touchstones, lust tends to be quite specific. To successfully fuse these into an erotic-grotesque aesthetic that works for more than a few people is a tricky business, and it’s one that Lust From Beyond: Scarlet doesn’t pull off.
I feel compelled to place a trigger warning here, as the content of the game is truly disturbing thanks to incorporating acts of violence and acts of dubious or non-consent, and this is a good time to stop reading the review for those who find this kind of material distressing.
Scarlet is a free intro for the upcoming Lust From Beyond, meant to premiere some of the characters and concepts that will appear in the main game. It follows a reasonably familiar first-person horror template, in that its protagonist Alan needs to explore areas while gathering keys, tools and suchlike while unlocking more doors before getting to the truly scary bits.
Scarlet tried to convince me that things were frightening from the start. The sound design is overwrought, with eerie noises kicking in almost immediately and stingers that hit before the (supposedly) scary visual has even registered. A little more restraint would have gone a long way in preventing me from tuning out the soundtrack.
In truth, there’s little going on at first. Alan enters a putatively abandoned theater (that has all its lights on) to tryst with what is essentially a Tinder match. This portion of Scarlet was very much a walking simulator, except there was a weird insistence on using mouse gestures rather than simple clicking to do things like open doors or chests. As Scarlet lacks a full physics model, this feels like an affectation.
Of course, as this is a horror game, the Tinder-style hookup does not go well and Alan ends up in the clutches of a weird cult that wants to send him to a place called (groan) “Lusst’ghaa” by getting him high and then getting him laid. Yes, this involves QTE-driven sex scenes.
At this point, I couldn’t quite figure out what the devs were going for. One scene involves Alan penetrating a woman who has quite clearly been brutalized, with still-bleeding words carved into her back. The moment disgusted me in itself, and disgusted me with Alan specifically, who is obviously, inexplicably aroused during it. Was this meant to be erotic? If so it failed, but if it was meant to be horrifying, I was horrified at everyone involved, including the “hero”. Worse, the first-person perspective made me part of the scene.
In this moment and others, Scarlet‘s depiction and expression of lust is very limited and male-oriented. Whether the female companions are willing, compelled, or simply drugged up like Alan isn’t clear, but what’s obvious is that their faces (masked), bodies (ignored or brutalized) and experiences (never conveyed) are unimportant — the women are just holes.
The aesthetic of these lustful encounters fails, but the scheme succeeds. Alan ends up in Lusst’ghaa, a sort of generically Giger-esque hellscape that seems decidedly unsexy except perhaps to those who like tentacle hentai. Here Scarlet also introduces a rudimentary set of stealth mechanics that must be used to avoid monstrous enemies, none of which seems obviously connected to the “lust” theme. These mechanics are also at play in Alan’s attempts to escape the cult.
The story is too short to say more about it, except that its climax hinges on an absurd coincidence and it ends in an act of obvious stupidity. Scarlet’s real purpose, however, is not to tell a story of its own but to introduce the story of another, larger game.
In this sense, I suppose Lust from Beyond: Scarlet succeeds. The erotic-grotesque aesthetic it tries to employ (especially combined with the first-person perspective) repulsed me, while the horror components and mechanics seem workaday at best. All this tells me the main event is probably not for me, but if you’ve read this far, then perhaps it’s for you.
Disclosures: This game is developed by MovieGames Lunarium and published by MovieGames S.A. It is currently available on PC.This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on a home-built Windows X PC equipped with an AMD Ryzen 2700X processor, an ASRock X470 motherboard, 32 GB RAM, and a single GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card (driver version 451.48). Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: As of press time this game has not been rated by the ESRB. If they touched it, after a good long shower they would rate it AO for Blood and Gore, Language, Nudity, Strong Sexual Content, Sexual Violence, and Use of Drugs. At any rate, the answer is NOPE, your kids should not have this game.
Special Note: This game carries a seizure warning.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled (subtitles cannot be resized) but ambient noises are not. In certain areas the proximity of enemies that are not on camera is signaled primarily by sound cues. I expect some added difficulty for players with hearing issues.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are remappable. Lust from Beyond: Scarlet does not appear to respond to a controller. Controls follow standard first-person KB+M navigation layout, with a few added keys (E,I,1) allowing inventory and weapon access. The KB+M controls can be adjusted.
Currently Sparky works as a scientist in Rhode Island, and works gaming in between experiments and literature reviews. As a writer, he hopes to develop a critical voice that contributes to a more sophisticated and interesting culture of discourse about games. He is still waiting for a console port of Betrayal at Krondor.
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