Making horror games based on Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s work is, as they say, both a gift and a curse. On the one hand, everything is already invented for you and before you, there are plots, characters, motives and a huge fan base of his works. On the other, it’s hard to resist the temptation to fill a game with screams, and, on the contrary, make a bet on intelligence and atmosphere in a typical Lovecraftian fashion — otherwise the fans would send you on a date with Cthulhu.
I’m very skeptical of video game adaptations of Lovecraft’s work, since plenty of them use the big name for hype. But to be fair, there’s all these cool games like Conarium, Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones, Dark Corners of the Earth or Moons of Madness. Good thing that Lovecraft left his heritage publicly available, enabling people to extend his universe and also provide a different perspective on his works from time to time.
I was intrigued by the idea of a Lovecraftian game with a sexual overtone. It is a bold and reckless thing but big chances are never small stakes. It would be difficult to find such distant things from one another, but this could bring an alternative glimpse of cosmic horror. Did Movie Games avoid slipping into complete hentai? Did they manage to be self-mocking? And exactly how many times would Lovecraft roll in his grave (if at all)? Well, let’s get it sorted out.
Lust From Beyond is available on Steam for your regional pricing.
Story — It Is Human to Love, and It Is Also Human to Forgive
The events take place in our present time. In the very beginning, in some sort of hell or very unpleasant parallel world named Lusstg’haa, you retrieve some semblance of a facehugger named Vorh’n, which is the source of Essence, and take it to home sweet home — an estate, which of course is somewhere out of the way, away from prying eyes. You are playing as Sabinian, who stands high in a cult. Seemingly the “facehugger” is needed for a ritual in order to localize a Seeing One, or in other words a person who can travel between worlds. The primary goal is to call on the God King of Lusstg’haa, the Land of Eternal Delight, and have him open the Gates of Ecstasy.
Special thanks to the developers for a true paradise for an art historian; right there in the mansion you have Rubens, a portrait of Lady Watkin Williams-Wynn, Botticelli, Bosch and even a painting depicting Moloch. Brief historical perspective — Moloch, aka Baal, is a deity mentioned in the Bible, who was worshipped with children’s sacrifices.
Teodor, a guy behind an impenetrable mask (how could he even breath?), seems to run things around here. It is precisely to him that trophies are brought from Lusstg’haa. By the way, in this cult everybody is wearing masks instead of classic robes and hubcaps. Furthermore, those masks look like they are from the closest store for 5$. Even worse, they seem to come straight from Fortnite. It doesn’t add up with an ancient and serious cult.
After the ritual is done, you are put in the shoes of Victor Holloway, an antiquarian, who inherited his store from his grandma. He leads a peaceful and quiet life with his fiancée Lilly. He decided to set up a romantic dinner, presumably to propose to her. However, the date rapidly developed into rough sex and Victor ends up in Lusst’ghaa. Without any special ritual. That’s actually possible? There is no limit for the “Chosen Ones”.
Victor starts to bounce between our world and the world of eternal “pleasures”, depending on where exactly his sexual organ is. After all, the main hero comes to believe that hearing voices and traveling in a world where you might be beaten by a dick (literally) or assaulted by a vagina headed succubus is not normal. Therefore he decides to find a doctor and goes to a town called Bleakmoor. Is this by any chance a reference to Blackmoor, a D&D fantasy role-playing game campaign?
Are you familiar with typical scenarios in B-category horror movies? There are two options: the events take place in a town, and then you get to the middle of nowhere, or vice versa. Bleakmoor ought to be a cool place, very much like Boston. However a bit shabby, faded and deserted. Don’t expect an open world; there are mainly impenetrable windows and doors, zero chances to observe the interiors. And you know what? There is a carnival going in the town. Not some random one, but to celebrate the sun solstice. Perfect cover for cultists. This is where the fun begins with the air of a cat-and-mouse game.
Unfortunately, the game does not shine through interesting plot turns or memorable moments. How did I make this point? Well, throughout the game I could only think about the ending, which was pretty good actually. I can tell that if you played a lot of good horror games, Lust From Beyond would seem generic to you. A Chosen One, an evil cult controlling a town, rebel cultists, rituals, another world — we’ve already seen such a combination. The idea was potentially interesting, but the story is banal. However, there was a way to handle this situation. For example, by doing a hilarious parody. A genre deconstruction, so to speak, like what Taika Waititi did with vampires in What We Do in the Shadows.
Gameplay — Boredom or apathy?
The gameplay is really specific, considering the “sensitive” nature of the game itself. Everybody tries to manipulate the main hero with sex, since it is his principal weakness. When it doesn’t work, they use physical force. Our Victor is a “Chosen One”, so every other thing chases him (or his seed?). A real fanbase, huh? All over town, everywhere Victor goes—in a hotel, in the streets, simply everywhere—cultists are dropping like flies. Both women and men. I can feel the pheromones burning.
Lovecraftian games have always placed great emphasis on the plot, or on the puzzles. Or on both. Regrettably, we have here a problem that cannot be evaded. The quests are reduced to finding certain items and putting them in the right place. In one location I spent an enormous amount of time in search of 11 clown figurines. It doesn’t upgrade your logic, quick thinking or something. Simply testing patience. However, those items are often extremely well designed but that doesn’t take away from how they don’t look much like a full-fledged puzzle.
There was another “memorable” moment where I was supposed to do laps around a theatrical scene in the style of P.E. lessons in school. You are told to run, then just run all the 9 circles of hell and please don’t argue or ask for reasons. And it never stops. This game is packed with monotonous and debilitating quests the whole time. And each time, my hope for proper action languished.
Sometimes the “parkour” mode is activated, so you jump across the roofs and flee away from enemies. It reminds me of Dark Corners of the Earth, which is a good thing for sure. But during those races I encountered a bug, which is unforgivable for a released game. When you are running from enemies as hard as you can, you can notice that the forward key throws you back; the right key — to the left, and so on. Should I mention how many times I died by the grace of the developers? Yes, I read Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, I totally get it, but this is completely out of order. However, if that’s a feature by any chance, I apologize.
In the Land of Eternal Delight, everything is both one and the horrible same. You need to place spheres in order to work your way up, just like in Moons of Madness. There are platforms for health recovery. You can only run away from enemies if you are completely naked! For better or worse, the enemies are pretty dumb. You can be immediately adjacent to them and they wouldn’t even glance at you. Just crouch and that’s it. However if they do catch up with you, they will kill you in no time. But somewhere around the middle of the game you will be granted with a knife. The reward for all the efforts.
In addition to the standard HP bar, there is also a mental health bar. Just like in Amnesia: The Dark Descent you need to take special pills. Handle this carefully as there aren’t many and you’re going to need them constantly. Victor may be a cream puff, but the bar is strange. At the sight of drops of blood or dismembered body parts, the main hero flips out. Faced with bloodthirsty enemies, he doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. Fairly twisted logic.
Graphics — World of climax
The visual design is pretty similar to Agony or Scorn with all of the pulsating flesh surfaces, weird flora and passages sown in bones. They are meticulously realized, down to the smallest detail. You just want to examine every inch of the town or Lusstg’haa and have to fight the strong urge to touch everything. The developers made the most out of the Unity engine.
The Land of Eternal Delight reminds me of one of the Dante’s hell circles — a whole chunk of living skin. One of the events was in a hotel, in which decoration was very much like Twin Peaks or The Shining. There are even some Soviet Union vibes. Well, I appreciated the easter eggs and the size of the cultural background analyzed by the developers.
Unfortunately, however, the world of carnal pleasures didn’t produce a desired wow effect. There’s nothing around but ruins, mucus, dull vagina depictions and lifeless statues embodying different Kamasutra poses. This is certainly not a world of hot marathon sex, which should beckon and frighten you simultaneously. The wandering succubi are lame and worn-out, as if they are working day and night shifts without any rest. The setting is disappointing; instead of cosmic horror you are witnessing a failure to impress with perversity. While it was gross in Agony, in Lust from Beyond you want to simply die of boredom.
Lust from Beyond was reviewed on PC. A review copy was provided by Movie Games.