This game concludes a trilogy that started with Downfall and continued with The Cat Lady. Is Lorelai a worthy successor?
Written by: Karla Munger on June 5, 2019
Developed by: Harvester Games/Rem Michalski
Published by: Screen 7
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Genre: Horror Adventure
Platform: Windows with Xbox Controller Support
From Harvester: This game contains scenes of a disturbing nature and fear throughout, occasional strong violence and gore, strong bad language, some sexual innuendo and adult themes including alcohol addiction, domestic abuse, depression and suicide. Therefore, we caution players with a sensitive disposition and must stress it is recommended only for adults aged 18+.
When I heard that one-man developer Rem Michalski (Harvester Games) was planning a follow-up to The Cat Lady — which I consider a masterpiece — I immediately put my claim in to review Lorelai, even though its release was still years away.
I learned that Lorelai would be the final game in a trilogy known as Devil Came Through Here. I had played the original Downfall years ago and enjoyed it. But The Cat Lady blew me away. Completely. I’ve played it many, many times.
Unfortunately, I find Lorelai to be a disappointment. It sure hurts to say that. This will be one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever written.
Let’s examine the pitch: “Lorelai will never forget that day. The little she had, it was taken away. Her whole world disintegrated. She never really had a chance, but Lorelai refused to give up. She will fight. And not even death will stop her from getting it all back.”
Maybe I’m just dense, but which day was that day? What was taken away from Lorelai? When did her world disintegrate, and what was it like before it did? When did she not have a chance? What did she fight to get back? I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it (no pun intended).
Lorelai is billed as a coming-of-age story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel that way to me at all.
The game starts out by showing us Lorelai’s messed-up, dysfunctional home life. It’s basically straightforward. There is nothing scary, surreal or supernatural about it.
We meet Lorelai’s mother, who’s an emotional weakling and lives a life of abuse with Lorelai’s stepfather, John — a consistently nasty person with no discernible redeeming value. We also meet their infant daughter, Bethany, who is very much neglected.
Shortly thereafter, weird things start happening to Lorelai. She finds herself in increasingly unsettling situations that can take place in the present, the past or in a dream. She’s whisked away to weird environments filled with garish colors. She has strange experiences.
Lorelai doesn’t question any of this. You’d think she’d at least wonder where she is, why she’s there and/or how she got there. She doesn’t. It’s as if these kinds of things happen every day.
Lorelai frequently leaves these environments abruptly and goes back to real life. Sometimes, this will occur when she awakens from a nightmare. Other times she’ll go through a door and start talking to NPCs as if nothing had happened.
At the very beginning of the game, Lorelai briefly tells her mother about her first day at a new job. We haven’t seen Lorelai working and shortly discover that she hasn’t yet started the job. She does this later. Way to muddle up a narrative.
And who is Lorelai, anyway? We’re given no backstory. To me, she’s a girl with a crappy home life to whom freaky things happen. And why do freaky things happen to her? I don’t know.
What is she? Alive? Dead? (She dies a lot.) A ghost? I felt no connection with her at all. In fact, none of the characters in this game has much depth. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t much care what happened to Lorelai (or just about anyone else).
I think one of the problems is that in The Cat Lady, protagonist Susan Ashworth struggles to come to terms with clinical depression, which is part of her. From the beginning, we’re shown how messed up she is. The first thing she does is try to commit suicide. I felt empathy with her from the start.
Lorelai, on the other hand, steps off a bus and enters the flat where she lives with her mother, step-father and baby sister. Here, and throughout the game, she’s confronted with and reacts to things outside herself.
In TCL, a lot of Susan’s emotional pain is the result of her depression. Lorelai’s emotional pain, such as it is, is in reaction to others. There’s a big difference.
Lorelai is an attractive girl. No matter what she goes through, she doesn’t look disheveled. Her makeup remains flawless; her hair — in which she wears two bright red flowers — is perfectly coiffed, and her clothes are always clean. She seems rather plastic to me. TBH, I grew tired of looking at her. A couple of times, I felt like punching her in the face.
Compare this with TCL‘s Susan, who never looks all that good. Yes, Susan is older than Lorelai, but still… Her face is haggard and has been etched by a difficult life (which players get glimpses of via flashbacks). Her clothes get dirty. She’s splattered with blood. Terrible things happen to her physically.
TCL kept me riveted throughout. While playing Lorelai, my attention kept wandering.
I also think this game is a little too colorful. It detracts from the atmosphere of “horror” the game is trying to convey. (I’ve enclosed horror in quotes as I don’t feel this is really a horror game at all.) Some of the colors are bright and intense — similar to a photo that’s been overexposed — making it hard to see what’s happening. Sometimes, things are seen through dirty lenses and heavy rainfall, making it difficult to discern what’s being shown. The screen can also be so dark it’s almost impossible to see what’s occurring.
I encountered some annoying bugs in Lorelai. Sometimes, the game would stop responding right off the bat, requiring an exit via Task Manager. An attempt to re-enter the game would often cause it to crash. At times, the game stopped responding but if I waited long enough it would start responding again. Puzzles would freeze up and leave me to exit via Task Manager once again.
It’s possible these bugs are the result of a change in game engine from AGS to Unity. It’s possible they’ll be worked out. I hope so, as they sure claimed a lot of my time.
Yes, the Queen of Maggots makes a return appearance in Lorelai. I’m happy she is once again voiced by Margaret Cowen, although I’m not sure what to make of her this time around. To me, she’s not as nuanced as she was in TCL. I am sure that she tells Lorelai to do something I consider immoral, unconscionable and downright vile. This caught me off-guard and left me reeling.
About halfway through the game, a new character appears out of nowhere. For some reason, Lorelai trusts him even though she knows nothing about him. (May I please punch her?)
He tells her he has something to show her. She goes with him without question. He also tells her she must do a certain thing, which she agrees to do.
Who is this guy? He says he’s sleeping back in the real world (I guess Lorelai is dead at this point?), and what Lorelai is seeing is his ghost. We still don’t know what the deal is with him, and we’re never told.
The game’s voiceovers are done well. I just wish they’d had better material. The music in Lorelai, by micAmic and assorted others, is great. I consider it the best part of the game.
While playing Lorelai, it’s possible to be the recipient of Karma Points. These are not explained. If there’s a use for them, it’s not readily apparent. But why put them in the game if they serve no purpose? Don’t ask me…
If the game has a point I’ve missed it, unless it’s that Lorelai believes she deserves a better life. Well, what’s stopping her from pursuing one? To me, that’s not much of a point at all. And it pales in comparison with having to deal with a lifetime of clinical depression.
I realize that when one does something spectacular — in this case, creates The Cat Lady — topping it can be very difficult. Still, I was hoping that Lorelai would at least be as good as TCL. But all it’s done is leave me with a feeling of profound sadness. I so wish I could have liked it.
I understand there are several possible endings to Lorelai. It pains me to say this, but I’m not interested in discovering them. I have no desire to play Lorelai again — and that’s an awful feeling.
+ Voiceovers are done well
+ The soundtrack is great
– Muddled narrative
– Characters are rather shallow
– Garish colors
– Lots of technical problems
OS: Windows 7, 8, 10 (64-bit OS)
Processor: Quad-core Intel or AMD CPU
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA or AMD ATI video card with 2GB of VRAM (Nvidia GeForce GT 705 or higher/AMD Radeon HD 8450G or higher)
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 11 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX compatible sound card
Additional Notes: Keyboard. Specification is for low resolution/quality settings