Albino Lullaby: Episode 1 Review
Albino Lullaby: Episode 1 Review
Creative and disturbing, it gives the player a truly wild ride to an unsettling conclusion
Posted: 11/02/15 | Category: Review | Developer: Ape Law | Publisher: Ape Law | Platform: Windows

Genre: First Person Escape/ Survival
Release date: September 15, 2015

“There are things known and things unknown.  In between, lie the doors of perception”  - Aldous Huxley.

Albino Lullaby is the first release of Boston-based independent game studio Ape Law.  Founded by Justin Pappas, its stated objective is “to explore and experiment with games as the next great storytelling medium by delivering deep narratives to dynamically twisted environments.”  While I might argue that the narrative in this title is not necessarily “deep,” Ape Law has certainly achieved its goal in terms of creating a unique adventure with an environment that is both dynamic and twisted.

Welcome Home Child
 

I’m not sure I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing a game that created such a sense of dread. Albino Lullaby begins innocuously enough in a room with a door. When I opened the door I was transported into a truly spooky world of whispers, floating eyes, mechanical rumblings, and festive music. I was reminded of a carnival fun-house where doors open, rooms tilt, and objects appear out of nowhere.

As you begin to explore this world you reach a dead-end with a button labeled  "Do Not Press" which, (of course), you press. This is your entry point into a macabre environment that reeks of cruelty. You find notes left by a previous visitor that give you the sense that you’re in a place where terrible things occur. As you proceed, you find a series of keys, doors, elevators, and buttons which lead you to a seemingly empty Victorian-era house.  

As you explore the house, you become aware that it is occupied, as evidenced by voices heard through the walls.  You also find a series of buttons located throughout the house which become a key part of the story. Those lit green are active and can be pushed. Those lit red are inactive. Every button creates a change somewhere in the house, although it may not be readily apparent. Walls move, passageways open, doors are sealed, and other buttons activate.

Albino Lullaby doesn’t have puzzles. Instead, the challenge is to figure out where to go, what to do, and which buttons to push. The backstory is revealed one piece at a time through notes written in a childish scrawl. Although these provide snippets of history and add to your discomfort, they do little to assist you. The game does alert you to your next task or destination and provides an occasional survival tip. If you are killed, you get helpful hints such as “Try Harder” or “Pay Attention to Your Surroundings.” 

To Grandmother’s House We Go
  

After an initial period of solo exploration that gives you the false sense that Albino Lullaby will be an easy game, you have your first encounter with the local residents. The house and surrounding area are inhabited by "The Grandchildren," who are white lumps of flesh with grotesque faces. Without arms or legs, they glide around, muttering and leaving a trail of green ooze. Although they are, at times, slow and unobservant, they’re persistent and all too often successful in their determination to eliminate you, the intruder.

As you listen to their conversations, you become aware that the house is actually under the control of "Grandmother" who is described as more menacing than anything you’ve encountered thus far. The Grandchildren speak of her with fear and reverence, and you overhear them planning to turn you over to her when you’re captured. The reality of Grandmother is not revealed until later in the game, but the idea of her is always present to convince you that the worst is yet to come.

As the game progresses, there are sections that would give Lara Croft pause. Like a giant Transformer, the house comes alive and floors drop, rooms rise, ceilings collapse, and your speed and agility become critical. The Grandchildren are omnipresent and they become more aggressive the longer you remain in the house. Strategy is essential as you learn to lure them in one direction and then cut and run in another. And, of course, timing is everything. Midway through the game, you locate a weapon that helps even the odds. However, it’s only effective at close range, has to be recharged after every use and provides only temporary relief since replacement Grandchildren tend to show up quickly.

The Sum of all Parts
  

Built with the Unreal Engine, Albino Lullaby is played from a first-person perspective. You move using a combination of the mouse for turning and a handful of keys for walking, jumping, running, crouching, and interacting. There is no save function, rather the game is divided into segments and auto-saved at the end of each. Ape Law’s decision not to include an explicit save option made this a tough game for me. Even the most proficient gamer is likely to need a few tries to get the lay of the land, to determine where the Grandchildren are congregated, and to understand the nature of the hazards to be faced.  When you’re killed the game restarts at the last auto-save point. Depending on where you’re killed and how much you’ve accomplished since that point, this may mean a lot of replay. If you’re killed multiple times in the same area, you may find yourself repeating the same actions over and over and over.

Albino Lullaby can be best described as a challenging and chaotic experience that is filled with contrast. The artwork is colorful and detailed, with scenery ranging from beautifully furnished living quarters to desolate areas that remind one of a concentration camp for children. The soundtrack features powerful original music composed by Ryan Patrick Buckley that creates a wide spectrum of moods and feelings. Using music in tandem with the voices of The Grandchildren and the noises of the house itself, Albino Lullaby creates a completely immersive experience that cries out for high quality headphones. As I moved through Albino Lullaby I was, at times, reminded of a carnival, and at other times, felt as if I were on the Haunted House ride at Disney World. This illusion of fun and cheer is in stark contrast to the horror elements of the story that unfolds before you. 

The Bottom Line
  

I admit that action gaming has never been my strong suit. I tend to lose focus and make mistakes when running for my life. For me, the Albino Lullaby experience felt, at times, like a Sisyphean task. Instead of rolling a boulder up a hill for eternity, my punishment was to repeat game segments ad infinitum. However, at the end of it all, I'm still a fan of the title.

For those who thrive under pressure, view action sequences as a challenge and don’t mind some restarts, Albino Lullaby should definitely be in your library. It is creative, disturbing, and gives the player a truly wild ride to an unsettling conclusion. Those who enjoy this game will be encouraged to hear that Ape Law is planning to release a second episode in 2016.

 
Immersive sound track with an wonderful original musical score
Contrast of fun and horror is truly unique
Never a dull moment – game action is dynamic, discordant, and frenetic
 
Auto-save points mean that mistakes can be costly in terms of time
Those looking for a thoughtful adventure may want to avoid this title
 
 Logo
 
 
Trailer:
 
System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC
OS: Windows 7 or Later
Processor: 2.0+ GHz processor
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: SM3-compatible video card
DirectX: Version 10
Hard Drive: 6 GB available space
 
Specials from Digital Download
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