The work of H.P. Lovecraft has gathered a legion of fans throughout the years. By the tales of Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, the Great Old Ones and other cosmic beings described in his work, the cosmic horror, literary philosophy developed by him, has inspired many authors, musicians and, of course, game developers! And now the Russian studio Blini Games brings to Xbox Lovecraft’s Untold Stories, a new adventure in this fantasy world.
Published by BadLand Publishing, Lovecraft’s Untold Stories (in short, LUS) is a rogue-lite action game with RPG elements that places you in randomly generated levels to face all sort of cultists and bizarre creatures from Lovecraft’s world. Fight enemies, solve puzzles and challenges while gathering information to defeat the Great Old Ones – before they drive you insane! To be prepared to face all the abominations from the mythos, check our review for this unexpected little jewel!
- Pixeled visuals: Blini Games opted for pixel art graphics in this adventure and they couldn’t have chosen it better! The beautiful and very detailed pixel graphics are perfect to illustrate de sinister atmosphere of old manors, cemeteries, laboratories and other creepy places you will explore. The visual violence and gore may not be suited for everyone, but those who enjoy a good horror movie or game will have a lot to appreciate here! Although scenarios are a little too dark, sometimes making it difficult to identify traps and dangers in each room, to see remains of conflicts and shells scattered on the floor shows how much love and dedication developers have put on it. And it’s fantastic! The visual effects and animations for characters and enemies are very fluid and delightfully designed (it’s disgusting but at the same time awesome when you cut an aberration in half with a well-placed shotgun shot).
- Audio: Another aspect from the game Blini Games nailed it! The dark and sinister levels just get even more melancholic thanks to the great music (or its absence in certain moments). And the music used in the game is spot-on: the sad and slow-paced tones used in each song perfectly fit its world, a world taken by sadness and sorrow (I know, I know: it sounds too depressive, but that’s the atmosphere of the game and most of the Lovecraft-based medias). The sound effects are very good, too: weapons and explosions have that punch we all love, while doors and gates do a loud creak when opened. Although I missed some voice acting here (screeches, groins and all the lines for the few characters of the game), the work from the audio team paid off!
- Characters: You start your adventure playing as a private detective and will run into other characters during your adventure, being necessary to solve some sort of puzzle to unlock them. They are the professor, the witch, the thief and the ghoul, each one with its own play style, weapons and characteristics. But wait, there’s more: each character has his own story, granting huge longevity to the game.
- Gameplay: At its core, LUS is a twin-stick shooter in which you will explore each level and fight enemies while solving simple puzzles that give your access to new areas and levels. Each level is procedurally generated and large, with plenty of enemies willing to kill you at first sight: when you enter a room, if there are enemies on it, you will be locked in this room until you eliminate them all (or they eliminate you, whatever happens first). Rooms usually have more than one way in, so you better keep track of your exploration using the level map, which gets unveiled as you explore the level. In your incursion, you will find loot (actually, lots of it, making it hard to keep all the things you want – or need – in your limited inventory) that can be used by your character like equipment (more on that later) or consumables like health replenishers. Items can be sold in one of the stores, converting them in money or information that can be used to acquire new items. You will also find information about the Great Old Ones so you won’t fall victim to the madness and despair they arouse in people when facing them.
- Equipping your character: Your character can equip some gear to make your adventure easier (or, at least, to survive a little longer, depending on what difficulty level you’re playing at). This gear can be found while exploring the levels or acquired at the shops. I strongly suggest you to always pay attention to what kind of hazards you’re facing in a level and adapt your equipment accordingly.
- Dealing with bad status: During the gameplay, your character is due to some psychological and physical afflictions that interfere with your gameplay. Most of them deal damage (like poisoned and bleeding), while others can render you unable to mode (and I discovered it right at the beginning of the game by accidentally shooting an explosive barrel while I was to close to it, having my leg broken and becoming an easy target for the cultists). Some can get you killed after some time (like when you are infested by parasites). There are also curses that can reduce your resistance to specific elements like fire damage. So yes, my little friend, there is a lot of different statuses for you to worry about, giving an interesting depth to the gameplay. And I saved the most important to a specific topic.
- (In)Sanity: Fear and despair play a major role in your adventure. Every now and then, your character will run into something, be it a document, a painting on the wall, a strange doll and many other items that you can interact with. To interact or not with this object is totally up to you, but sometimes it’s worth the risk to some currency or item. The problem is when you select the wrong way to interact with it like, let’s say, eating something you shouldn’t. Your character gets some won’t take damage, but will suffer some level of trauma, reducing his sanity (or increasing his insanity, if you prefer this way). While in low levels, there’s little to worry about. But as his insanity increases, he will start to hear things and see things to the point he ends up terminating his own life! You better always have a chocolate bar to relieve some stress from your character.
- Throwable weapons: Yourthrowable weapons (grenades, Molotov cocktails, etc.) are very helpful and must be used wisely. Problem is: as a classic twin-stick shooter, you can use your guns in one of 8 directions (horizontal, vertical and diagonals). But I don’t know why, we can only throw weapons in 4 directions (horizontal and vertical), making it a big disadvantage during combat. I can’t tell why they opted for this restriction, but boy it does make a big difference during combat.
- Save system and checkpoints: It took me a while to understand that, but you only save your game or make a checkpoint when you use your item stash. And as they aren’t always available in every level, you are under the risk of having to fully restart a level if you die or need to stop playing. Please remember to keep that in mind. And Blini, what about implementing a save system in the game?
- Bugs: My experience in LUD has been almost flawless. Almost. One of the main issues I run into is when the screen is full of enemies and the frame rate goes down the sink. Nothing that bad or a game breaking bug, but it the for first times I had this problem, I got a little upset. But after some time playing, I forgot about it.
- New game/continue: When I unlocked my first additional character, I went straight to the start a second game with him. But for my surprise, he wasn’t available through the New Game option. “Ok. Maybe I must finish my first run with the detective so he will be available to pick”, I thought. And I was wrong. I couldn’t continue my previous game after selecting New Game because the title doesn’t keep track of different save games. And I had to start it all over again. A little bit more pissed than in the previous run.
- Where’s my story video? The PC/Steam version of the game released in January has an initial animation that, for no reason at all, wasn’t included in the Xbox. C’mon, guys. Why? Just… why??
I love when a game surprises me. When I receive a code to review a game developed from a studio I’ve never heard of and all the love and dedication they’ve put in this game can be perceived in every detail of the product. And Lovecraft’s Untold Stories is a good example of it. The studio responsible for the game dove really deep in the stories from H. P. Lovecraft and forged in its Eldritch flames a game that’s challenging, fun and beautiful. If you are a fan of Lovecraft’s work or just enjoy a good rogue-lite adventure, dive in while I take off my hat for the team of Blini Games. Congrats, guys! You just delivered a hellish fun game!
Developer: Blini Games Publisher: BadLand Publishing
Played on: Xbox One X Also available on: PC, PS4, Switch
Time to beat: Guessing around 30 hours to finish the story for all characters
Achievement difficulty for 1000 Gamerscore: Painful. Struggling to finish my first run and you have to do them all in the highest difficulty setting
Perfect for: rogue-lite lovers, H.P. Lovecraft fans or those who enjoy beautiful pixel art
Xbox Game Store link: Click here
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.