Sometimes I have these weird dreams in summer siestas, like being stuck in a flooded city where the water is floating upwards, or being chased by a steampunk xenomorph in Victorian London (this happened once when I went to sleep after playing Dishonored 2). No matter how weird your dreams are, you won’t remember the details once you wake up and shirk it away as bad ones. But what if you get to experience such weirdness in real life especially in videogames, will you be able to shirk it away? WILL YOU?
This is exactly what I felt while playing this indie walking-simulator called Lost Brothers. Yeah I know, that’s the Stranger Things logo. Move on.
Story and Writing
It was summertime when you and your brother Sam had gone camping into the woods. Sam mysteriously goes missing. You follow his footsteps but are unable to find him anywhere. Fast forward to a decade when everyone had given up hope of finding Sam, you return to the campsite to relish the old memories and chill out on some beers. But suddenly you’re radioed by a woman named Samantha who is trapped under some rocks in a cave. You try to be hero and go save the damsel in distress…. before falling into a deep well and into a lake inside a cavern filled with glowing mushrooms straight out of Journey to the center of the Earth!
Then you pick yourself up and proceed further.
That’s it. That’s how Lost Brothers ends. No really. The screen just fades to black without warning while your character is speaking and you’re slingshot back to the main menu. End of the line, boy.
Gameplay and Mechanics
You use WASD to move and mouse click for action. There is also a button to open the map but this is by far the worst map I’ve ever encountered in any game. It doesn’t show your position, any landmark or feature, nothing! In fact a five-year-old’s scribbling has better meaning and details. You also get a compass on the map screen which would have been much more useful on the game screen.
Even if Lost Brothers directly rips off Firewatch without shame, there is no inventory and no lore pieces. Just like Firewatch, the game starts with a small text-based backstory describing how Sam got lost. But you know what? There is no prompt to press any button to make the next set of texts appear! No ‘Press Space/Enter’ nothing. I was basically starring at the screen for a straight five minutes before I realized that I needed to press something to move the story forward, and began fiddling with my keyboard. At least Firewatch had the story as a cutscene with proper music.
I’m just getting started. Look at what’s written – New Game, Loading…. LOADING?? I guess this was an early warning describing how terrible Lost Brother’s loading screen is. In fact you’ll feel as if your monitor display is glitching and in no time you’ll be seeing the BSOD (I won’t be surprised if I actually get BSOD while playing Lost Brothers).
This game is so rife with grammatical errors that even the essay you wrote in the last five minutes of your English exam will make your teacher blush. Even in the options menu, the graphical settings are labeled as Low, Medium, and Height! At this point, I should mention that Lost Brothers has enough game-breaking bugs to make the pest control go head over heels. In fact, the devs should rename it Glitch Brothers (written in the same plagiarized Stranger Things font as shown above). If you have played any game by enabling Godmode where you can phase through the environment, then take pleasure/disdain in the fact that Lost Brothers allows you to do the same without any cheat engine. Even Mass Effect Andromeda and Goat Simulator look polished compared to this game. But think of it this way, you could feel like a god flying over a virtual world (or fall endlessly depending on your luck). Besides, if you try to sprint (try because 80% of the time it doesn’t work), you’ll start gliding over the terrain you were standing on a while ago. No leg movement animation (at least you could see the legs which not many fps games do)
Graphics, Performance, and Sound.
You know what’s blasphemous? For a game this unpolished and having a framerate cap and stutters. I mean the environment is all low-poly assets with copy-pasted stuff littered at random and despite that, the frames juggle between 50-55 only and don’t go up. Relying more on vibrant colors to fill the immediate surrounding, like the orange autumnal trees, it kind of gives Lost Brothers a surrealistic appearance. The starry night sky and the subterranean forest that you stumble upon may look nice to some but the signs of amateurish designs are still blatant.
There are no audio dialogues. So you’ll have to rely on extremely broken English (which get cut off mid-sentence) and floating diary pages to know the half-baked narrative. Then there’s this issue of breathing. You see, the game has only one or two soundtracks and one of them is menu theme that ends abruptly and starts again (could have softly faded down but no!). Therefore the most prominent music/noise you’ll hear throughout the game is your breathing. The way your character breathes, like an asthmatic patient on a ventilator, even Darth Vader will roll in his grave. Also, there’s this annoying walking sound universal to any type of terrain you’re treading on, dirt, gravel, water, doesn’t matter. Even the little-little environment sounds like blustering winds, birds chirping or water dripping in caves are of no respite.
This is probably the first game the devs made but Lost Brothers is FUBAR, man! Unless they roll out some massive updates and bug fixes. The game is in Early Access right now, and honestly, that’s where it belongs in its current state. The price for something like this completely unjustified and for whatever it is currently, it should go free. There is a lot of work that needs to be done before the game can even think of charging money.