The race to design the next great indie horror video game is on. With the continued success of ‘Dead by Daylight,’ which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary and still boasts tens of thousands of concurrent players, plenty of indie developers are trying to catch lightning in a bottle. But what makes a multiplayer horror experience great? Scares? Laughs? Meme-factor? Maybe all of the above. ‘Devour,’ published by Straight Back Games, and ‘Lunch Lady’ by Manic Mice are two new examples of low budget independent horror video games looking to become the next big thing. Either that, or just cash in on dank memes.
‘Devour’ pits four cult members against their possessed cult leader in a mansion. In order to purge the demon from their leader, players must gather materials to set fire and sacrifice these kinda cute, kinda evil tiny goats roaming the map. You see, the cult leader has taken a liking to these demonic cuties and is pissed off when you throw them in a sacrificial pit, douse them in gasoline and light ‘em up. Sacrifice ten and you win. But the banshee baddie will chase you, demons will pour out of flaming pentagrams in the walls and all you have to fend off the forces of Satan is your UV flashlight that drains battery like it’s its job.
Unlike ‘Dead by Daylight,’ where a player takes on the role of killer, this time it’s all AI. The players must work together to find keys and unlock new rooms in the house, find goats (and also hay for the goats to eat and get distracted so you can nab them), find gasoline, find the sacrificial pit, place the goat in the pit, light the pit, and repeat the process nine more times. In other words, there’s a bit to do, and the best teams will work together to get the job done. The AI is kind of clunky, but the jump scares are plentiful and so are the laughs. ‘Devour’ recently released a second level in the form of an insane asylum which is basically a second mansion but I digress. There are multiple difficulties, a few achievements, and unlockables in the form of different player characters and outfits. It’s a bit short on content in other words because the gameplay loop is the same each time, but for less than five bucks how can I complain? This is a must buy for horror fans if you have a full team of four to play with, and an easy skip solo.
Now, what if instead of a crazed cult leader roaming a mansion you were pitted against a psychotic lunch lady roaming a school hall? That’s ‘Lunch Lady,’ by Manic Mice, in a nutshell. This time a team of four player-controlled students are raiding a school for test answers hidden amongst the classrooms. All the players sort of look like adults (who pooped their pants) and why the crazed lunch lady is still roaming the halls after hours is a small detail you’ll just need to accept. There’s a bit less to do here, too, because you’re simply looking for a component, instead of putting different components that interact with each other together. Is it fun or funny to have a gargantuan lunch lady screaming and throwing spatulas at you as you race down dark hallways? I mean, yeah. It’s pretty great. But the overall lack of substantial content even at a very low price point leaves me hesitating to recommend this one.
While neither one of these games will likely take down the titan that is ‘Dead by Daylight,’ maybe they’re not trying to. Is five dollars, or even twenty for a party of four, worth the price of admission for a no frills carnival ride for a couple hours? I’d say yes. It’s cheaper than going to the bar or the movies (but please, still go to the movies).