Ah, The Land of Pain. Where to begin? Let’s start by giving a round of applause to Alessandro Guzzo, the sole developer of the game. Kudos to you sir for managing to create a Lovecraftian horror-survival adventure game single-handedly.
I picked up The Land of Pain on steam for less than $10 as it was on sale at the time of release. For an indie game that I ended up finishing in about 5 hours, that might actually be a bit overpriced. Granted, the experience was a (mostly) enjoyable one.
The game did crash on me several times, but the developer released a few patches that supposedly fixed the issue and it only crashed ONCE on me after that. So he is definitely improving the game which is nice because if this were a big budget title the crashes might be overlooked.
You start the game exploring a lovely countryside with splendorous views. You just want to reach your cabin for a nice, relaxing getaway. Everything starts out fine and then suddenly a doppelganger of the infamous “Chicago Bean” appears. Investigating it transports you to another world; but this world seems strangely similar to earth.
During the game you spend your time trying to find your way back home while simultaneously discovering a lovecraftian-inspired mystery. The many, many visages of Cthulhu are both cool and creepy at the same time. Especially when you turn down a hallway and all you see are red glowing eyes. For those that are familiar with the H.P. Lovecraft creation the statues, drawings, etc. feel familiar yet completely disheartening at the same time. They usually indicate that you are on the right path but you usually have to contend with a creature that perpetually hunts you at different intervals as well. For people who don’t know who Chthulu is (how?) the visuals are probably just great additions to the atmosphere of the game.
Speaking of atmosphere, both the music and sound design of the game are utterly fantastic. The overall creepiness is only intensified during those tense moments when you aren’t sure what is going to happen next. From the increased heartbeat after you receive a scare, to the mundane flushing of a nasty toilet, everything sounds as natural as it can be given the environment that you are in. I don’t want to delve into spoilers, but one particular moment in a tower at the railroad yard was particularly awesome sounding.
One of the few drawbacks to the game aside from crashes is the plethora of locked doors. As a pseudo-puzzle game, I understand that there are doors that are meant to be unlocked after you find a certain item or perform a particular action but this game has plenty of doors that are just plain old locked without a way to open them.
I know that the developer probably just needed to keep you focused on exploring the narrative instead of going inside of every damn door in the game, but that’s the purpose of the creature that is chasing you periodically.
Alessandro needs to read up on the concept of “Chekhov’s Gun” for the hopeful sequel. But who knows? Maybe all of those locked doors can be unlocked in future DLC or something.
The other drawback to the game is the aforementioned monster/creature. That damned thing isn’t too scary in and of itself but it’s ability to seemingly chase you endlessly for certain parts of the game is. During the swamp area in particular I wanted to do some serious exploring but was unable to shake the creature long enough to do any. This “game mechanic” was ultimately more annoying than anything else.
Every time I heard the audio cue that was when I immediately started running. I read somewhere that you are supposed to be able to hide from the creature/monster, but I found that I could only ever run and the fact that you have to manage your stamina while trying to outrun this godforsaken thing only adds to the annoyance.
Overall, The Land of Pain is greater than the sum of its parts. The positives do outweigh the negatives in this case. And while I feel that $10+ might be a little too much for what ends up being such a short experience, it is an experience that is worth playing. Once again kudos of the single developer for creating this game and hopefully with decent sales we will receive an even better, and longer, sequel.
[7.5 out of 10]