Ross is a writer, educator, and performer who lives and works in NYC. When he's not doing any of the aforementioned activities, he's playing video games.
As a genre, horror’s been done to death, its tropes rehashed to the brink of cliche. But now it’s finding new life in an unexpected place: 16-bit indies. Not too long ago, I reported on Viviette — an unnerving, pixel art possession narrative, and since then, I’ve been on the lookout for similar titles. Recently, I discovered another entry in this niche, called Lamentum, and though it’s still in the early stages of development, the game appears as if it will appeal to horror buffs and fans of retro survival games alike. To find out more, I reached out to the team behind Lamentum — Fran Iglesias and Nicolás Sánchez, aka Obscure Tales.
“Lamentum is a dark and adult-themed survival horror game set in the Victorian era,” says Fran. “We set the game in the 19th century, because we think it is a very captivating and dark time period. Oppression and puritanism coexisted with the resurgence of ghost stories and mysticism.” As a period piece, Lamentum takes on the superstitious spirit of its age, setting the stage for creatures from the darkest corners of the uninformed imagination.
While Lamentum’s themes are, for the most part, derived from the time period in which it is set, the game borrows from more modern examples of horror as well. “We always liked classic survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill,” says Fran, “and we wanted to add our own grain of sand to the world of video games by creating something that fused the two styles.”
“We love everything related to the Cthulhu Mythos literature, too,” says Nicolás. “Other games that left their mark on us are older ones like Alone in the Dark and more recent titles like Count Lucanor and Yuppie Psycho. As for movies, we love The Thing and the Hellraiser series.”
In Lamentum, you play as Victor, a young aristocrat from a wealthy family. “Victor’s life collapses when someone very close to him gets a strange disease,” says Nicolás. “He is willing to do anything to find a cure, and his despair is the trigger of the adventure.” Once Lamentum begins, you guide Victor through the dark and gruesome world of the game, using a wide assortment of rudimentary weapons like fire irons and flintlock pistols to fend off hordes of the undead.
The grotesque monstrosities and abject scenes that you will encounter are a major part of what makes the game look so scary for being pixel art. Imagine sinewy abominations impaled by metal rods, festering meat golems with multiple limbs, men gouging out their own eyes, and more, all in gory 16-bit glory. With instances like these, Lamentum shows signs of being the sort of game that illustrates how fear isn’t necessarily dependent on sleek graphics and frame rate.
“We believe that terror does not depend only on the chosen aesthetic. There are many factors that can cause tension, fright, or concern,” says Nicolás. “We want to take care of the details to make sure that the players have a good time.”
To complete his quest, Victor not only has to face a legion of monsters but also confronts the bosses of Lamentum, the Custodians. “It is complicated to say much about the Custodians without spoiling too much,” says Fran. “But we can say this: each Custodian is unique and has its own lore. As their name implies, they are ultimately guardians. Their duty is to protect. So the question becomes…should you fear someone who protects what you’re after?”
“Two of our favorites are The Red Queen and The Lord of the Maggots,” says Nicolás. “They are very linked to each other in the game even though they are arch enemies. The story that unites them is very special, and we think that the players would enjoy it very much.”
Intriguing, right? But we might not get to experience this macabre drama unfold if horror fans don’t support Obscure Tales’ endeavor. “Right now we are close to 43% to our goal on Kickstarter, and we have 17 days left. We believe that Lamentum is special for lovers of survival horror who want a game with a complex story and an adult theme,” says Fran. “It’s a project made with passion and dedication, and we hope lovers of survival horror games help us drag them into the nightmarish world we’re creating for them.”
If they hit their benchmark, Obscure Tales expects release Lamentum on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One sometime next year, so make sure to keep up with the game’s progress and check out the trailer below to get an idea of just how scary a pixel art game can be. If you like what you see, back its Kickstarter to help make this hair-raising, 16-bit horror story happen.