Review: Albino Lullaby Episode 1

Albino Lullaby is a hard game to describe without listing a bunch of potential artistic influencers. But that’s not to say that the game is unoriginal. Terry Gilliam deserves a namedrop as well as Tim Burton during his better years of filmmaking, for example. The work of these two were no doubt a catalyst to the madness that Ape Law adopted when they crafted the first episode to their new horror series, Albino Lullaby. What can you expect when playing this game? Nothing, I suppose. It’s bananas.

Who is Grandmother? That’s what you’ll ask yourself once you awake in the world of Albino Lullaby, a world populated by limbless creatures with contorted faces and shrill voices. The Grandchildren as they’re called are the stars of the show, rambling amongst themselves about servicing the will of Grandmother and dealing with misbehaving “worms”, new inductees to their society. You are one such misbehaving worm, an escapee of a twisted orphanage founded in Grandmother’s name and managed by her grandchildren. Your sole objective is to escape your confines, and over the course of that journey, you’ll discover just how surreal Albino Lullaby’s world can get.

The art style employed by Ape Law is heavy on the color, and as mentioned earlier, quite reminiscent of Tim Burton’s earlier work, namely Beetlejuice. The visuals may not impress at first, but what the game lacks in fidelity it makes up with style. Albino Lullaby – a name I’m still unsure of how it relates to the contents of the game itself – does not make use of jump scares or gore to unsettle its players. The team behind it marketed the game this way, and it’s true. Albino Lullaby relies on an eccentric story, art style, and scenarios to “scare” players. While you won’t get your dose of boo scares from this game, you’ll be pleasantly bewildered by its peculiarities.

The game itself incorporates some simple puzzle solving and stealth mechanics to get you through the orphanage and its surrounding areas. Sneaking around the Grandchildren is a requirement as once you’re spotted the only way to survive is by leaving the area. Once swarmed by these clusters of contorted finger-people, the screen goes black and you’re once again captured, set back to your last checkpoint. The Grandchildren’s pursuit can be thwarted by lighting blue lamps that create a barrier they’re unable to pass. But later into the game, these lamps only last for a short time and going unseen becomes increasingly important.

Albino Lullaby is more of a narrative driven experience than a puzzle solver or stealth game, though. Moving from area to area may be hindered by the occasional obstacle needing solving, but the game is very much about soaking in the world around you. Later parts of the game require some intense escape and chase sequences, breaking up the pace and leaving you to react quickly. When large environments start to change around you, the game can become especially distressing. These moments are appreciated as the game has a few spots where the pacing feels a little slow and it’s easy to go off track.

Describing the plot of Albino Lullaby: Episode 1 proves difficult. Not only will I spoil the game’s absolutely unpredictable weirdness, but I’m still not sure what’s happening! Episode 1 introduces players to Grandmother’s world. Who (or what) she is and the origins of this place are only hinted at through in-game notes found in the latter part of the episode. Prior to that, background information written by the Grandchildren themselves provides a lot of humor and confusion. And I have to give it to Ape Law; I’m hooked. Episode 1 only scratches the surface of the fascinating world they’ve created.

At present, one may mistake Albino Lullaby: Episode 1 as an Early Access title due to a few technical misgivings. Nothing egregious, mostly some poor performance in the game’s more frantic levels where larges pieces of the environment shift and move around the player. On-screen text can look a bit incomplete as well as a few menus, and later into the game when the player obtains a weapon of sorts, its placement on screen looks awkward and distracting. It’s my hope that overtime improvements are brought to not just the series impending episodes, but the first episode as well for a consistently polished experience.

Albino Lullaby is off to a good start barring some technical hiccups. Ape Law has introduced us to a whimsical madhouse steeped in unsettling themes and twisted characters, all while avoiding the more repetitive aspects of the horror genre, providing us with a breath of fresh air. Thank Grandmother for that!

(7.5 / 10)

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