Review: Albino Lullaby
Is this psychological horror good enough to scare you?
There’s going to be quite a few videogames for owners of the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD) to get their hands on as the Oculus Store arrives today. Some sit happily in the genre they’re designed for, while others seek to push the boundaries of what is expected from virtual reality (VR) experiences. Then there’s Albino Lullaby by developer Ape Law, a twisted, warped title that wants to scare you without nasty monsters jumping out from nowhere or massive amounts of gore.
Albino Lullaby is billed as a psychological horror experience. And what a crazy mind-warped outing it is. You’re involved in a car crash on a dark night time road, waking up to find yourself in a nightmarish building, strange sounds echo around the vivid but menacing room you’ve now found yourself in. As you wander out, the surreal world of Albino Lullaby is only just starting to reveal itself.
Ape Law’s creation is as beautiful as it is creepy. The art style works so well for the kind of experience the studio has created. The hand drawn artwork sets a scene where you know bad things are going to happen – or about to happen – but at the same time invite you to explore as you admire the atmosphere of this deeply rich environment. It resembles styling from animated movie Coraline or Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, mixing horror with humour.
As you work your way through you’ll eventually come in contact with the ‘Grandchildren’, strange constructs that look like a cross between a thumb and a giant marshmallow. Only they have weird faces with brown toothy grins and dead eyes. These creatures chatter away, discussing their unseen matriarch ‘Grandmother’ among other things. It’s their voices along with the other ambient sounds you hear in the massive mansion you find yourself in that highlight the detailed audio effects found throughout the videogame. The combination of the art style and sound effects really set Albino Lullaby apart from other Oculus Rift titles.
That being said, there is a ‘but’. For all this atmosphere Albino Lullaby isn’t without its flaws. While Ape Law has made the videogame compatible with VR its not been designed from the ground up for the technology; that’s where the cracks start to show. Oculus VR describe the comfort rating as ‘intense’, which is certainly apt. While you can move in the direction you’re looking to some degree, you’ll still need to use the right stick on the controller to move your viewpoint more often than not, and it’s this mechanic that can induce simulator sickness. As you explore the empty sections of the building it’s not too bad, but when you’re being chased by the ‘Grandchildren’ or dropping down ledges, that’s when it becomes apparent, potentially ruining everything else. While simulator sickness is subjective, it will likely put many players off exploring Albino Lullaby.
Then you have the issue with checkpoints being that bit to far apart. If you die from falling off a ledge or getting caught by the nasty thumb things you might have redo big sections over-and-over to get back to the same point; a manual save would’ve been good. And while Albino Lullaby is fairly linear in its progression, at points you’ll be searching for the path forward, which can at times lead you to get trapped and killed by those creatures.
Albino Lullaby is a videogame that’s two sides of the same coin. On the one its a fantastic title that brings original and creative elements to Oculus Rift, on the flipside there’s overriding issues that can really hamper and ruin the gameplay. It’s certainly worth a consideration, but only for the brave.