Lithium: Inmate 39, developed and published Canu Arts, is a third-person puzzle/horror game, with light platforming qualities, taking place in the ill and distraught mind of a psychiatric patient. The world is full of traps and horrific monsters that will cut you in half, rip you in pieces, crush you into soup, or splatter you across the walls and floors. It is a single player, story based experience offering over a dozen hours of gameplay and scares. There are plans for DLC that will include clothing options for the protagonist as well as a mini-game and a hidden female character, but you can buy the game on Steam or PlayStation Store for $9.99.
Upon getting out of bed, you turn to find a hole in the floor near the wall. The door is locked, so your only choice is to jump down below. You walk down the hall, and immediate tormenting occurrences begin. As you try to pass the first few obstacles, the game hands out the controls to you, one control at a time. You'll learn to sprint (the 'R1' button), jump (the 'x' button), duck (holding the circle button), and how to pull your lantern out as well as how to put it away (the 'R3' button). You're limited in your lantern usage and will need to fill it up with glowing and floating containers found throughout the hallways and environments, but the usage is for a long time, so you won't find really any issues or stress with it.
You can also pan the camera with the right analog stick. A quick note regarding the camera: the game was made with the idea to have camera angles in awkward positions so that you get killed extremely easily and most times as a surprise by a trap halfway on the screen and halfway hidden. You can change the camera to be in a following position but it's incredibly frustrating to deal with so I found it best to stay with the fixed camera angles.The traps come in a many different forms of placements and tricky situations, but ultimately you'll be able to see a pattern with the pieces. By pieces I mean that you'll often find the same style of swinging swords, electrified surfaces, or spike traps. The game throws them at you in different situations, sometimes they'll be around a corner, they'll be immediately after jumping across a gap; literally any way they can to slice and dice your character. It feels like a lot of cheap deaths, but the almost humorous killings never feel too incredibly frustrating.
Upon dying you'll reset just before the trap that killed you, if not the one that occurred before it, so you can give it another go quickly. Many puzzles and traps will become trial-and-error scenarios where you'll, in time, learn the little trick that will help you survive it and progress onward. There's a lot of horrifying monsters in the game made from the protagonist's damaged mind. As you travel through the 7 different chapters, each designed based on his perspective of the world, you'll come across grotesque and vile monsters who are set on crushing you, or ripping you into tiny pieces. The chapters hold genuine story weight; you'll get insights on Inmate 39's troubled mind and past, while still being vague enough that you as the gamer get to let your imagination run with it a little bit.
Sound and Graphics
The audio found within the game is more eerie and unsettling ambient noises (and static tones) than any kind of soundtrack. It sounds just about as creepy and dead as you can imagine a horrified psychiatric patient hears an empty world on a bad day. Moments of death are met with a strong jump-scare-inducing screech or pop, and moments of silence mean fear of what is to come next. Everything audio-related matched up really well with what was going on in the environments and to the protagonist. You can almost hear the depth of each scene and explorable area you're moving through.
Graphically it tries something a little different by keeping it all in grey and black colors with only very minor color pops for blood, fire, and some significant objects. It doesn't feel like a lazy development choice, and instead is really smart. By seeing the world in colorless images, the shadows play strong tricks on you, hiding traps and monsters (hence the importance of your lantern). What you do see close up is pretty good graphically but nothing spectacular. The shadowing and colorless visuals work in the title's favor in this aspect as well, as it hides any imperfections that would be otherwise noticeable (sometimes I kept getting killed by creatures that I couldn't explain how they looked if a million dollars were on the line).
Lithium: Inmate 39 is definitely horrifying in its own way. It capitalizes on the frequent jump scares and deaths that you will constantly walk right into while keeping each subsequent one a surprise. It's easy to get frustrated with the massive amounts of death you will most certainly experience, but if you are able to muscle through them or just simply find humor in them, there's a quality gaming experience and story to be found. The 7 chapters, each based on Inmate 39's mental perspectives and backstories, will last over a dozen hours (thank you traps), and get progressively more challenging as well as interesting. If you're into both puzzle and horror genre games, this one is a nice fit in the middle and well worth a playthrough, but having a distaste for one genre or the other may mean a slightly dull experience for you.
|+ Horrifying traps and creatures||– Camera is flakey|
|+ Creatively crafted story and world||– Potential frustration from repetitively dying|
|+ Well implemented audio effects||– Occasionally felt too dark|