Lakeview Cabin, developed by Roope Tamminen, seems to have solved a decades-old mystery: how do you successfully translate the “slasher” genre to a videogame medium? We’ve seen plenty of failures, as is evident with titles like the NES adaptation of Friday the 13th, which didn’t really live up to the spirit of the movie it was based on. We’ve played great horror games over the years, but the slasher genre is arguably in a class of its own. Many games that try to emulate the slasher formula end up feeling like action titles, or shift into another genre entirely. Slasher movies had a certain look, feel, and even humor to them. Lakeview Cabin holds the rare distinction for being one of the few games in recent memory that gets this formula right. By setting each chapter in a sandbox-style scenario, and having multiple characters at your disposal, Lakeview Cabin feels the closest to a true slasher experience that I’ve ever seen. Despite some odd controls, Lakeview Cabin is definitely worth a look if you’ve been dying (excuse the pun) to play a truly faithful slasher game.
The game starts in a dark alley outside of a movie theater which serves as the game’s main hub. Right off the bat, there’s an awful lot to experiment with here. Every item can be picked up and used, including other characters. It’s completely possible to get lost in this hub area for a while before even touching upon the main chapters of the game. Once you’re done exploring, you can access one of four scenarios that come in the form of movie sequels. Namely: Lakeview Cabin III-VI. In case you are wondering where Lakeview Cabin I-II are, the first installment was actually a Flash game developed by Roope Tamminen in 2013 before he decided to create a larger game. The second? Well, that’s a bit of a mystery, and I won’t spoil it here. Let’s just say that not everything is as it seems in some areas of this game.
Each scenario is wildly different, and depending on individual tastes, you may prefer one scenario over another. Players will find inspiration drawn from a number of classic horror films here. Throughout my playtime I noticed homages to Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien, and John Carpenter’s The Thing. The entire game is a giant love letter to ‘70s and ‘80s horror and it shows in every pixel. I can’t count how many times I smiled when I spotted an Easter egg that only a diehard horror fan would notice. For instance, in Lakeview Cabin V, there is a jersey in a bedroom that is a dead ringer for Johnny Depp’s in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Another example lies in Lakeview Cabin VI where your starting character bears a more than passing resemblance to Ellen Ripley. It’s small touches like these that deepen the experience, and really tapped into my nostalgia.
This entire game is a retro junkies dream. Every scenario oozes personality, and has its own visual flair, while also carrying over distinct elements to give the whole package a very cohesive feel. The pixel graphics are a nice touch for a slasher game, it turns out. There is something very fitting about the graphical style emulating an older look, as we are playing a game set in a very dated world. The game is colorful, and the environments are beautifully drawn. Each character is designed to evoke feelings of slasher stereotypes, or perhaps even famous movie characters. The killers themselves all have a unique look to them that draw inspiration from classic monsters, but also manage to develop an identity of their own. Honestly, I would love to see a movie based around the monster in episode V. It was really intriguing.
Beneath the charming visuals, this can be a very challenging game. I honestly lost count of how many deaths I’ve accrued in this game so far. How many poor souls lost their lives because I forgot to hide them, or get that crucial item set in the right place at just the right moment? It can be argued that these scenarios are a bit too hard, or at least not explained well enough. However, I argue that is part of the game’s allure. Players are dropped in an impossible scenario, not unlike the poor, unsuspecting victims. I felt just as in the dark as the characters I was controlling, scouring the environment for every item that might give me an edge, and paying the price when I made the wrong decision. Lakeview Cabin rewards tenacious players that will return to right their wrongs, and realize the full potential of what they have at their disposal. Each scenario poses a sizeable threat, and it takes every character working together to overcome it. Some scenarios have solutions that come in the form of coordination, and brute strength. Others require some surprisingly complex puzzle solving.
Despite the charming cast of characters, this game is not intended for kids. Lakeview Cabin does not hold back on copious amounts of gore, and characters can play entire scenarios without clothes if that is what you wish. Characters can also engage in fairly graphic intercourse, which is actually required to gain certain (optional) items in the game. Needless to say, this is a game for adults, and only those who aren’t too squeamish. Honestly, as graphic as some of these elements are, they were a fundamental part of slasher movies decades ago. They fit here, and really create the proper atmosphere. When the killers finally emerge, it comes as no surprise given the antics our player characters were up to.
Lakeview Cabin would not work nearly so well if there wasn’t an incredible soundtrack to accompany it. From the moment the title boots up, eerie music plays in the background. It’s absolutely fantastic, and every chapter has its own unique score. This isn’t your average run-of- the-mill horror music. This is a beautiful recreation of the moody, and downright silly music of horror movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Even when the music isn’t scary, it still evoked memories of staying up too late, and watching a late-night horror movie as a child.
If I had any complaint about the game, it would be the awkward controls. When I first started the game, I immediately had to hop on Steam for some advice on how to work around the game’s default control scheme. It’s really unintuitive, and sadly, this may detract some people right away. The controls do become easier, but they never feel great. With that said, Lakeview Cabin is probably best played with a controller.
Lakeview Cabin was one of the most charming games I’ve played this year. Being a horror fan, this game gave me constant feelings of nostalgia. The entire package feels like a celebration of a unique genre that not many games get right. It’s hard to believe that a low budget indie would succeed where so many others have failed. By nailing its visuals, music, and gameplay, Lakeview Cabin may be the best slasher game ever made. Despite the occasionally jarring controls, I was constantly mesmerized by its surprisingly deep mechanics, and absolutely loved piecing together the quirky story. Halloween is almost here, and at only $10 on Steam, there really is no reason not to take a trip to Lakeview Cabin.