Lost in Vivo Review – Fear Itself
I whistle, the sound echoing down the sewer pipe. The water drips for a minute, then to my right, I hear my dog bark. Turning, I sprint to the sound. My poor dog, how could the storm have swept her away like that? I whistle again, following the barks each time. As I delve further into the sewers I come across signs of life. A bed, a minifridge, a smashed TV, someone has been here but I don’t know if they are still here. The missing resident has left a note, the first of many. The details are vague but something doesn’t feel right. Something is following me, something evil. As I continue forward I see my dog. I sprint towards her, but at the last second, she’s yanked away by some unseen entity.
This is some of the opening moments of Lost in Vivo, a horror game from the mad minds at KIRA, the dev of Spooky’s Jumpscare Mansion (formally known as Spooky’s House of Jumpscares). The game is very reminiscent of the original Silent Hill, from the atmosphere down to the visual design. The game screams late 90’s PSX title with the low poly count, reduced draw distance, and texture pop-in. While some may scoff at the retro visuals, given how it is a major trend for indie devs, the visuals provide a sense of unease that I’ve rarely felt in other titles. The game mostly takes place in confined areas, such as a sewer, decrepit train station, or underground lab. These environments shouldn’t be too surprising if one has played SJM, as they were present in that title as well. But this parallel doesn’t hurt the game, rather it feels as though KIRA have mastered these environments, making well-crafted hallways with distinct visual design. The world also feels disgusting, there’s grime, bugs, trash, and more lying around making the world feel decayed and lived in. The monster designs are perfect, they all have unique appearances and don’t overstay their welcome. The visual presentation of Lost in Vivo is perfection and ratchets the tension up to 11.
The game is played from a first-person view with the combat focusing on both melee and firearms. The arsenal isn’t massive, two firearms and two melee weapons, but the combat is tense, with the player waiting for danger around every corner. The first weapon the player receives is the sledgehammer, with a slow swing but decent damage. The firearms consist of a Luger pistol and a shotgun. Lastly, the final melee weapon is a knife, another nod to Silent Hill. Ammo is well rationed while being scarce there is enough that you can reasonably get by. On top of the combat, there is also the puzzle elements of the game. While not the most challenging puzzles they do make you think a bit or search the environment for the clues to progress. My favorite puzzles in the game have been ones that have messed with my perception, like one where crushing an object fractured my view on the screen. The gameplay is intense and immensely satisfying.
The story is the most subtle aspect of the game. There’s no voice acting, no cutscenes, no really heavy story beats. Rather the player goes into the sewer to look for their dog, a loveable little corgi, who was swept down a storm drain. You traverse from area to the next, reading cryptic notes along the way. These notes vary in style depending on the area you are in. For example, the notes at the train station are flowery prose, meanwhile, in the lab, the notes are lab reports and updates. So while the story is light the atmosphere is dripping.
Lost in Vivo is the Silent Hill that fans have been waiting for. With its twisted world, amazing atmosphere, and engaging gameplay the game scratches the itch that has bugged me for years. While it’s unlikely we’ll see a new Silent Hill project for a long time fans should not miss out on the amazing experience that KIRA has made. So hurry, your dog needs you.