I wasn't really sure how to classify Here They Lie after my time with it. At times, it pulls off some genuinely good horror, pitting me against monsters in fantastically creepy and atmospheric environments. At other times, I turn a corner only to see a man in a hyena mask vigorously humping a TV with a note nearby advising me to "jerk it like a chicken farmer." At that point, I knew I would have a strange experience ahead of me.
It's really tough to get a handle on Here They Lie's story. You play as a man who I assume is named Buddy, thanks to the fact that he's constantly receiving phone calls from a man who calls him that. Buddy arrives in some sort of surreal world while chasing after his ex-girlfriend Dana and trying to avoid the horrors after him. Figuring out what's going on in the game is basically impossible, as Here They Lie's story goes out of its way to be as incoherent as possible. I couldn't tell you what the deal with the world or its inhabitants is, what Buddy's relationship with Dana really is, why people are going crazy while wearing animal masks, or if any of the game is supposed to symbolize anything important. The whole thing ends with an unsatisfactory non-ending that felt more like the developers just went "yeah, good enough" and called it a night.
At its heart, Here They Lie is a walking simulator-styled game. Your goal is to simply get from the start to the end, walking or running the whole way. To do this you have to get used to Here They Lie's controls. You move with the left stick, but to turn your character you have to look in the direction you want to go. Want to turn right? Then you have to look right while walking, causing your character to ever so slowly turn right. You can use the right stick, but instead of turning you sort of teleport. It works well enough if you're mostly moving forward with small turns to the right or left, and the game is indeed mostly designed around that, but trying to do a complete 180 turn is nearly impossible without utilizing that right stick. There's an alternative movement option that entirely relies on the two sticks, but while you're turning the game uses a strange fish-eye lens to limit your view. I'm sure this has something to do with preventing motion sickness, but all it really did was bug me and in the end, I stuck with the head movement.
You'll be exploring various environments ranging from simple subway tunnels to strange cities filled with people wearing animal masks. Your only companions on this trip are a flashlight and occasional phone calls from a mysterious man who tries to help you out. The flashlight is rather weak, not really providing the light I needed while constantly dying. By exploring the environments you can find batteries for your flashlight, but I didn't see anywhere in-game that showed how many flashlight batteries I had or how much power my flashlight had left. In the end, it never mattered, as I never once ran out of batteries before the credits rolled.
Unlike many games in the genre, there are actually enemies that can kill you in Here They Lie, but there's not much you have to do to avoid them. Enemies won't notice you unless they are looking right after you, even if you shine your flashlight on them or run in circles behind their back. Stealth feels less like actual stealth and more like alternating between finding the path that doesn't have enemies wandering around or waiting until they wander far enough away from your way forward. Even if you get caught, you can just sprint away from most enemies without a problem. Getting killed is even beneficial in some cases, as you go through a strange respawn sequence every time you die that often places you either in front of where the enemies were or despawns them entirely.
As you explore and dodge enemies, you can find hand written notes and photographs. The notes are supposed to help piece together the story, but I honestly found them more humorous than anything else. One particular note, that kept referring to my "shitty little shit baby" had me and my friend in stitches over how silly it was. The pictures, when picked up, would play these strange audio interviews with other people. They included clips about missing glow worms, how to have the best sex, and the meaning of life. While the notes were unintentionally funny, the audio clips were just nonsensical, feeling like they had absolutely nothing to do with the game. They were also all narrated in a strange style, almost as if they just went on the streets and interviewed the first person they came across and had them awkwardly stumble through their lines.
At the very least, Here They Lie was sure interesting to look at, and several of its scenes will stick with me for a while. The game's opening puts you in an impossible city, its strange architecture spiraling off in weird ways. Explore enough and you come to its populated center, full of people wearing animal masks performing strange and horrible acts in public. One corner revealed a hyena and a ram horizontally refreshing eachother on a mattress in the street while rats and zebras did drugs and danced around the copulating couple. A red light district is highlighted by the games "black, white, and the rare color" pallet, making an already strange section just that much more weird. Later on, I was trapped between a locked door and a painting, a blob in the painting slowly coming closer before some horrible burning monster stepped out of the painting. This was accompanied by a strange and distorted soundtrack that added to the scene, something that worked really well for the game even if it's not the kind of thing you'd want to listen to outside of the game.
The game also requires the use of the PlayStation VR headset, but I can't really point to any reason it needs it. In a way, it does help build atmosphere, and I can understand that the act of physically turning around when you hear a creepy noise behind you does far more than just pushing on the right stick, but I'm not entirely convinced the game absolutely needed VR. In fact, I almost wish it didn't have it at times as I feel like the extra graphical power of not having to be tied to VR could have helped the game. There are times when Here They Lie looks downright ugly, with muddy textures and lumpy character models taking me out of the moment that the art style has been working so hard to put me in.
There's always been a joke that people try to make art confusing on purpose so that it seems deep. Here They Lie certainly feels like it fits into that category, with many of its story elements and scenes feeling like random nonsense rather than anything deep. While it has some really neat scenes that will stick with me, and a few scares as well, ultimately there's not much in this three to four-hour experience that I can recommend to players.
Here They Lie was reviewed on PlayStation VR using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
Here They Lie has some scary moments, and some totally bizarre ones, that will stick with me for a while. Sadly, I'm more likely to remember the game making no sense, ultimately being rather boring, ugly, unintentionally funny, and requiring VR without actually making use of the system.
- Interesting Art Style
- Some Scary Moments
- Nonsensical Story
- Stealth is Barely There
- Ugly Graphics
- Doesn't Really Need VR