For whatever reason, the game industry seems to have a difficult time consistently creating really good horror games. Yes, games that have horror elements seem to do okay, but dedicated horror titles often go off the rails a bit too much. Some examples of titles that didn’t quite hit the horror mark perfectly include Pineview Drive, Apsulov: End of Gods, and Agony. Most of those titles were good, but not quite great because of a variety of factors, not the least of which is the fact that’s it’s difficult to scare a player or make them feel really creeped out in a video game. It can be done, but it’s not an easy thing.
There have also been some bright spots, so it’s not a total loss for horror games. Black Book was a really good title and showed off Slavic horror, which we don’t get to see too often. DARQ also did an amazing job of combining adventure with horror elements. And titles like Little Nightmares are also great at doing that. But in terms of purely horror titles, there is not too much to pick from, which can be sad for people during October when they want to play something with a little Halloween-like flavor.
So, I was happy to try out Burnhouse Lane, that’s available on the Nintendo Switch (which was used for this review) and also on Steam, where it sells for around $15. It’s an indie game made by Harvester Games, the makers of some really good titles including Downfall and Lorelai, all made by a single developer named Rem Michalski.
Burnhouse Lane tells a story of Angie Weather, and it’s pretty dark, right from the introduction where you find out your character’s husband has recently died of cancer. Angie is sitting on a bed and the color palette really adds to the melancholy. To drive the point home, Burnhouse Lane has players make a noose for Angie to attempt suicide. Once tried, the beam breaks and the game actually starts.
She must complete five tasks in order to get back to the living world. To do so, she will need to solve puzzles, hide from enemies, and also fight for her, well, un-life. And in terms of combat, as in titles like Silent Hill, ammo is difficult to find and enemies are deadly, all of which adds to the tension without being unfairly punishing, which again, is kind of an anomaly these days for horror gaming.
Burnhouse Lane has a gameplay loop of hiding and solving puzzles, not unlike the Japanese folklore title Ikai, although Burnhouse does it a lot better. Where Ikai was played in first person, Burnhouse Lane is a 2D adventure which serves to help promote the story. In fact, I would put Burnhouse Lane at the same level of quality as DARQ. It is a very good, high intensity puzzle adventure.
The only thing that I would say for pure horror fans out there is that Burnhouse Lane is a little light in terms of the horror. That is a good thing for those who enjoy adventures with a lot of horror elements, but don’t like going deep into the purely horror genre. That’s also how you know that Burnhouse Lane is a great game because I am nitpicking the genre and not the gameplay, which is really polished.
Burnhouse Lane also avoids many of the pitfalls of horror titles. For one, it’s not boring like Pineview Drive was, or full of pointless jump scares like Ikai. Instead, it does everything just about right, which is great news for gamers going into the spookiest season.
Burnhouse Lane earns 4.5 out of 5 GiN Gems. Give it a try and have a Happy Halloween!