Horror and VR seem like perfect bedfellows. A creature jumping out of the screen and waving a knife just inches from your face is an effective scare, certainly, but Here They Lie rarely relies on these cheap tricks. Rather than fill the game with gore and monsters, Tangentlemen have built a game that echos the twisted and terrifying work of David Cronenberg
Like all good horror movies, the game starts in a relatively normal setting, a train station, before leading you on a fairly lengthy journey through a city that slowly degrades and warps into a twisted nightmareof tubes and chimneys. The use of colour or the lack of it, adds to the tension with much of the game played in monochrome. After a number of hours spent in simple black and white, having the colour slowly bleeds back into the world makes it feel hot, almost sticky, which is rather appropriate at that particular moment.
The game has two simple control methods, neither of which gave me any motion sickness. You walk forwards by simply pushing the left stick forward, but if you look slightly to the left of right you will slowly walk in a curve in that direction. Pushing the right stick to the side will flick the view around 45 degrees, quickly fading in an out, and whilst a little disorientating, this is mostly used when something that has been birthed from the pits of hell is scampering after you intent on ripping out your lungs and wearing them as a fetching hat.
There is a plot, which may or may not involve chasing after a rather lovely young woman who may or may have not been your girlfriend. To be honest, I’m not sure what the story is as you are also chased by a huge flaming man with a briefcase who seems to have cremated half the city. Charred bodies litter the landscape, hands raised in terror in an unsuccessful attempt to shield themselves, while other scuttling humanoid creatures in masks with huge antlers scream from the shadows and hunt your down.
You play the first hour or so of the game alone before any creatures are introduced, but you later meet a friendlier version of the antler beast and the inhabitants of the city, all of which wear huge animal head masks. They don’t speak, but they do grunt, cheer and laugh. They also provide some of the most disturbing images in the game.
Let’s not beat around the bush, this game is seriously messed up. Just one example from many, you walk out on stage in front of a crowd and there is a jaunty tune being played on a piano as people drop from the ceiling and are hanged. The crowd cheer, the music plays and you can run and try and save them, but it soon become clear that there is and endless supply of victims, so you leave by the back door. Outside you witness a woman (in a boar mask) clapping gleefully as she is handed a rope and it becomes clear that she wants to go inside and be hanged, as does the huge line of people you find waiting round the corner.
There is very little gore, but that makes the occasional violence even more shocking and it usually occurs when you least expect it, flipping a seemingly tender and caring moment on its head in an instant. Like the best horror movies, there are also moments of wonder and I was utterly gobsmacked by some of the things I saw in the last quarter of the game. The final few minutes are stunning and would only work in VR.
Whilst edging towards the so-called Walking Simulator genre, the game does include stealth sections. They are not very difficult but they can be scary, and there notes to pick up – which will probably confuse you even more – and plenty of doors to open and secrets to explore. It took me around five hours to play the game through to the end and I’m actually chomping at the bit to dive back in and enjoy a second journey and uncover as much as I can.
The death sequence must also get a mention, as if you do manage to die (and you can, quite horribly) then you end up in a new, seemingly empty space. Pushing forward begins a sequence in which planks of wood and plain timber fly around you before assembling into a corridor with a door at the end. Go through that door and you emerge a from a door in the game that you have would have walked past a few moments ago. It is very simple but hugely effective, and makes a sort of twisted sense in the game world.
It’s a shame we weren’t able to review the game prior to launch, because Here They Lie is by far the best game I have played on the system. It’s definitely not for everyone and the weirdness may put a lot of people off, but I loved every moment and couldn’t wait to see what the game was going to throw at me next. Screaming creatures, cities on fire, underground stations that warp and shudder like an intestine, and a humanoid pig giving an antelope a high-five as they tag team a CRT television. What’s not to love?
Version tested: PSVR