Review: Lust for Darkness
One of the worst things a horror game can do is become a parody of itself. This tends to happen when a game takes on a subject out of the developer’s depth and fails to treat it with the appropriate gravity. Simply describing Lust for Darkness to someone will probably put them directly into that mindset, because erotic horror is not a target that is easily hit. And to say that this game misses that mark is, if anything, a massive understatement. The real tragedy here is that the parts of the game that aren’t trying to sex the place up are decent at times, but end up dragged down by the absolutely juvenile eroticism.
Jonathan Moon receives a letter from his wife, who went missing nearly a year ago. She implores him to come to the remote Yelverton Mansion to aid her, a request he can hardly ignore. Upon arrival he finds a cult preparing for the biggest night of their lives, the opening of a portal to Lusst’ghaa, the pleasure dimension. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Lusst’ghaa is less the Brazzers version of pleasure and more the Hellraiser kind. In the midst of these erotic misadventures, Jonathan works to uncover the fate of his wife and her connection to the bizarre cult. But what he learns along the way may be too much for him to handle.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front. Lust itself can be a terrifying concept, exploring uncontrolled urges, overwhelming pleasure, and twisted fantasies. What it means in this game is that half the cabinets in the game contain exotic dildoes. You’ll find statues depicting unnatural congress, a steam-powered vibrator, and Giger-esque penis monuments as you explore both the mansion and Lusst’ghaa, sights that are surely going to inspire anything except terror. There’s an orgy scene early in the game that’s one of the tamest depictions of sex I’ve ever seen, leaving me puzzling at what it’s supposed to accomplish at all. Your protagonist suffers obnoxious sanity effects while he watches the cultists slow-grind like geriatrics, apparently oblivious to the countless depraved sex acts he could pull up on his phone in seconds.
It doesn’t work, is what I’m saying. Lust for Darkness tries to depict an entire plane of existence twisted by perverse pleasures, and a cult willing to sacrifice everything to join with the beings there, and fails at depicting either as anything frightful. The cult gets some interesting texture, if only in the members that get cold feet and argue the wisdom of opening unsecured dimensional portals. Lusst’ghaa on the other hand is just another version of hell with a purple color scheme and dicks everywhere. None of it means anything, none of it explores the dark sides of lust, and all of it is almost immediately laughable at first glance. The monsters that chase you at points don’t even have sexual elements, which might be a blessing considering the general lack of maturity these themes are treated with here. Speaking of which, there’s another ugly elephant in the room that can’t go unmentioned. Like so many games that toy with sex as a plot point, Lust for Darkness can’t help but include rape in the equation, in what I consider to be a particularly thoughtless way.
So what DOES work about this game? The environments are pretty okay, I suppose. Amidst the litany of dildoes you can find lore items that unlock side stories which flesh out (heh) the backstory of the game. There are some good environmental puzzles, and coupled with the overall design of Lusst’ghaa, it makes me think this team could have made a decent game about exploring un-sexy alien dimensions. I do wonder about the scares, though, because this game is utterly bereft of them except for the infrequent chases, which is something that I tend to be nervous about in even the worst games. Still, there are hints of a good game here, just buried under an absolute mountain of juvenile themes and imagery.
Lust for Darkness isn’t a good horror game, a good adventure game, or really a good game in general. I hesitate to place the blame for all of this solely at the feet of the sexual themes, but they’re easily the weakest element from just about any angle. Sex toys and vagina doors don’t horrify anyone over the age of 14, and basic chase scenes and jumpscares aren’t going to make up the difference. There’s some creativity present in the alien landscapes and, again, non-sexual elements of the story, but there’s no reason to snicker through all the try-hard scenes to see them. I wish I could look forward to these developers striking out in a different direction but they’re working on a direct sequel, and unless they’ve found ways to wring actual horror from these themes I don’t have high hopes.