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Lithium: Inmate 39 Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . The most frustrating part of Lithium: Inmate 39 is that you can occasionally see a good game lurking in the shadows. I could see this being a reasonably fun horror-fueled adventure if only they reworked the camera and tightened up the control. But the game I played seemed determined to make every wrong gameplay decision, creating a vacuum of fun that overstays its welcome. If there is any justice in this world, Lithium will be the game that kills the jump scare trope once and for all. Rating: 20%
Lithium: Inmate 39
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  • Review Score:

  • D
Jump scares. It's the horror trope that simply won't die. When a director isn't good at setting tone and using atmosphere to generate legitimate scares, they turn to a loud sound or unexpected face to make you jump. But this isn't scary, it's just startling. And it's worse than that, because it's cheap and annoying. Especially in Lithium: Inmate 39, the new horror game from Canu Arts. This is a puzzler with so many unexpected jump scares that the whole experience became almost comical.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, because this is supposed to be a story about an inmate's adventure escaping a metal institution. For reasons the story attempts to explain, our hero is played by a hunchback creature that looks like a cross between Gollum and a hairless cat. He slowly meanders through the hospital solving puzzles and dodging the many, many obstacles littering the path.


This is going to be a negative review, so perhaps it's best to start with some of the things I like about Lithium: Inmate 39. For starters, the graphics are genuinely creepy and the setting is immediately compelling. I also think the odd character design works, even if I found the hero to be a bit on the ugly side. Between the voice overs and small touches made to the level designs, you can see the traces of a good game hiding in the darkness.

But don't be fooled by what at first appears to be a thick layer of dread, because practically every element of this train wreck is conspiring against the good of the game. This is an adventure for people who wish Resident Evil had more clumsy platforming sections and no real scares. It's a game for people who like cheap deaths from enemies and traps you won't see coming. A game for people who prefer their voice acting to performed by somebody who just mumbles all their lines.

For what purports to be a puzzle game, Lithium: Inmate 39 has very little variety to speak of. Your goal is basically the same from one section to the next -- find a key and open the door. Occasionally you'll need to wind up a large clock, unleashing a giant demon who can punch his way through the legion of bad guys and clear the way for the inmate. This is the game's loop, forever sending you searching for keys and winding up clocks.

Lithium: Inmate 39 (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

This wouldn't be so bad if the controls and camera weren't always working against you. Like a lot of horror games from the 1990s, Lithium employs fixed camera angles for a more dramatic look. The problem is that these angles stink, often pointing away from where you're trying to go. They also make it nearly impossible to see land mines and other traps scattered around, killing our hero without any notice.

The camera issue is especially bad when running away from the game's many enemies. Because the game is constantly switching angles, it's hard to keep track which way you're going. I would think I'm running one way and then get completely turned around because the camera switched three times in only a few seconds. It's the very definition of disorienting.

And if that wasn't bad enough, much of this game hinges on pinpoint accurate jumps. Even if you could get the camera to cooperate, you would still be left with sluggish controls that are woefully unprepared for the platforming challenges. Simple things like jumping over a spike trap becomes a frustrating affair because of the way the character stumbles about. There's also a noticeable lag between the button press and action, reminding me of those old rotoscope adventure games like Flashback and Out of this World.

Lithium: Inmate 39 (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Between the crummy camera and the unacceptably bad gameplay, I had a seriously difficult time navigating the stages. No matter how careful I was, it always felt like I was a second away from a hand reaching out of the wall, a landmine to detonate or one of the grotesque enemies ripping me apart. Very few of these deaths felt justified, and most can be explained away by the awful controls and simply not being able to see my surroundings. And if you're expecting the game to suddenly improve when the clock giant shows up, then be prepared for a crushing disappointment. No part of this game is fun to play.

But even if you were somehow able to overlook the gameplay issues, the constant cheap deaths, the repetitive puzzles, the untenable camera controls, and yes, even the monotone voice acting, you would still be left with a horribly buggy game where a crash or required restart is around every corner. I ran into a number of situations where my hero would float in the air, almost as if he was indefinitely running in place. There were other times when the game refused to advance the puzzles, allowing me to literally walk through enemies. And then there are the crashes, which happened a lot more after the most recent patch.

The most frustrating part of Lithium: Inmate 39 is that you can occasionally see a good game lurking in the shadows. I could see this being a reasonably fun horror-fueled adventure if only they reworked the camera and tightened up the control. But the game I played seemed determined to make every wrong gameplay decision, creating a vacuum of fun that overstays its welcome. If there is any justice in this world, Lithium will be the game that kills the jump scare trope once and for all.
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