Even in the busiest of seasons, smaller games deserve some attention. In that spirit, welcome to Month of Coverage Club. Come back each day in November for a full-length impressions piece based on a hidden gem you've probably never heard of.
If I had to quickly sum up what Lust for Darkness is about, I’d say it’s basically Eyes Wide Shut meets Call of Cthulhu. Take some weird sex cults and sprinkle a little Lovecraftian horror and you’ll get a nice batch of Lust for Darkness. Writing the game off as being a simple and uninspired amalgamation of these two stories is doing it a slight disservice, however. It certainly takes clear and unashamed inspirations from them, but it ends up being a somewhat more unique and unsettling experience that’s more than the sum of its parts.
You start Lust for Darkness as Amanda, an unsuspecting and pregnant woman. Without spoiling the fairly effective opening moments, she gets tangled up in some pretty nasty business and winds up missing. A year passes and you are now in control of her boyfriend/husband, Jonathan. They imply that he might be a cop or something, but they don’t go into it and it doesn’t really matter. After a year of searching, he gets a couple of creepy phone calls followed by a letter slid under the front door. It’s supposedly from Amanda. She’s summoning him to a mysterious mansion.
After going to this mansion, he discovers that things don’t exactly seem right (big surprise, I know). Cue the creepy sex cult and you-probably-shouldn’t-be-doing-this rituals. Lust for Darkness only really has two main cards to play. There's frequent nudity and graphic sexual imagery, and then there's brutal body horror. If these things sound like your thing, then this game is probably for you. To say that it frequently shoves these elements in the player’s face would be an understatement.
Almost everything you see is in service of either showing you more nudity/genitalia or grossing you out with excessive blood and violent imagery. Despite some of the sexual imagery sometimes being of… questionable taste, it’s certainly effective at building an unsettling atmosphere and the persistent feeling that these people are weird and very horny.
Although the sex stuff is presented as the main thing, the Lovecraftian elements of Lust for Darkness end up being the more fleshed out and engaging. As you explore the mansion and the intentions of the cult, you quickly discover that there’s much more going on than just an especially dedicated swingers club. It doesn’t take long before you’re witnessing disturbing rituals and entering portals that remind me of the original Prey. This part of the game feels much more cohesive and effective.
The visual designs in the weird portal world are more striking and unique. I was beginning to lose interest in this game until I reached these weird hell portal areas. They’re actually a refreshing change of pace from wandering around a weird sex mansion and give the cult a much darker, more insidious backdrop. The gore and displays of violence feel more genuinely disturbing and earned, whilst the puzzles get more complex and interesting.
The puzzles in these sections may get more complex, but they never get too difficult. Most of the puzzles you’ll come across in the mansion are relatively simple. The coolest one I came across simply had me playing notes on a piano in the correct order to unlock a secret passage. It may sound cliche, but it was extremely gothic and I have to admit it was pretty cool. Meanwhile, the rest of the gameplay consists of exploring the spooky mansion, listening in on the cultist weird conversations, picking up stuff, and the occasional stealth sequence.
These sequences don’t happen too often. That’s probably for the best since they aren’t particularly robust. They aren’t bad, per se. There’s certainly an exciting tension as your character breathes unevenly, trying to evade the notice of a nasty Cthulhu demon. The AI are pretty stupid, so avoiding them isn’t too difficult if you’re patient. Sometimes they can be a little unpredictable, though, suddenly hearing you and coming after you for no apparent reason. You also move extremely slowly while crouched, which adds a little to the frustration.
From top to bottom, Lust for Darkness is a little rough around the edges. Firstly, it has some pretty poor optimization. I had it running quite inconsistently on my fairly capable PC and had to run it on fairly low settings. This made the whole thing look not so great. Furthermore, while some of the voice acting is bad, it’s mostly fine. Amanda does a solid job and Jonathan sounds alright, even if he does sound weirdly like Duke Nukem at times. It’s just some of the side characters you’ll come across. They sound like the developers got their friends to put on a silly voice. Some of the recording quality is a little spotty, too, making it sound like maybe it could’ve used another take.
Ultimately, however, Lust for Darkness is a dark and unsettling experience that wears its influences proudly and respects them well enough. It’s hardly amazing, but there’s a solid sense of atmosphere and an effective score. The mystery that the game sets up is engaging enough to propel you through the narrative. Furthermore, there’s some interesting visual design to keep things disturbing and interesting. If you like a quick horror thrill ride, then Lust for Darkness is worth checking out.
TechRaptor covered Lust for Darkness on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.