Lakeview Cabin Collection: You And Your Friends Are Dead
I remember a time when I would get out of school and go to the local movie rental place, “Many Movies”. The horror section had black shelves, in contrast to the white shelves for every other genre. It seemed spookier than the rest of the store. I would scan the VHS covers and imagine what the movies might have been about. That was some of my first exposure to horror in any medium. Finnish indie developer Roope Tamminen understands the feeling of a video store horror section. He understands the feel of scanning the local video place horror section for something new and strange. In 2015 Tamminen released the first episode of Lakeview Cabin Collection; an episodic 2D horror sandbox. Everything in Lakeview Cabin Collection oozes style and a love of horror.
Lakeview Cabin Collection opens in a grimy street behind a movie theater. This is the hub world, a place where you can access all the other episodes of Lakeview Cabin Collection. The rain patters down around your character; or should I say, one of your characters? In Lakeview Cabin Collection, you can switch characters on the fly with a button press. The street and movie theater play stage to a few different characters: A moviegoer, a homeless man, and a couple of theater employees. Switching between and managing characters is a huge part of every episode of Lakeview Cabin Collection. The visuals are a retro throwback to the NES and SNES, with crisp pixels, bright and bold colors, and a unique art style. The lighting effects deserve special praise, as they elevate the art without drowning it out.
You come across 4 theaters showing different movies, which serve as entrances to each episode. The hub world itself is stuffed with environmental storytelling, which plays a huge role in every part of the game. You can peek into a window, and see a man hanging with a blood scrawl that says, “The sewers scream at me”. Sewers are underlined in this message and wouldn’t you know it? There is a manhole cover near the beginning of the hub. I won’t spoil what the sewers contain, but the hub world isn’t just a hub, it’s entirely an episode on it’s own.
The first episode is actually the third canonically in the Lakeview Cabin universe. You open at an idyllic summer camp, just before the season is about to start. The Friday The 13th style is at the forefront. The counselors (you play as all of them) can be moved around to do all sorts of counselor things. Lakeview Cabin Collection is, at its heart, a sandbox. If you want to drink beers and crash a motorcycle go for it. The amount of objects you can interact with is at first intimidating. The game was developed with three interactions intended for each item: Obvious use, accidental use that harms the character, and use as a weapon. You can turn on a conveniently placed wood chipper and toss in whatever you want, just know that you may need it later. The goal of the episode is that of most summer camp slashers: Make sure you and your friends get out alive. When the killer shows up, the game becomes a bit like a horror-themed Rube Goldberg machine, where proper planning beforehand will help you win, while poor planning will have a less desirable effect. Getting killed is part of Lakeview Cabin Collection, and the game revels in this by giving you probably the darkest game over screen in history.
The gore on display is fantastic, with characters having proper damage models so that their injuries build up before they eventually die. As you control all the characters, it’s wise to move them to suit your plans. Nothing is gained by leaving a character standing in the open, where they can and will be killed by the enemies moving through the map, hunting for survivors. During one of my first attempts, I was running from the killer and ended up on the second-floor balcony of the main cabin, where I found a zip line. I immediately grabbed the line as the killer burst through the door, sliding safely into…the wood chipper I had turned on earlier. Oops.
After the controls and general gameplay loop have been established by episode one, the game completely flips it on you. Lakeview Cabin Collection actually does this in every episode. Whatever method you used to beat episode one won’t work in episode two. There is no singular, lurking killer in episode two. Instead, the game throws you right into the dingy, washed-out, very brown map reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You’re tasked with getting enough gas to fill up your broken-down van while the residents of a dilapidated mansion try to viciously murder you. Of course, you can defend yourself, but as you pass between the different floors of the mansion, that becomes trickier. Not to mention that at some point, you’ll have to enter the abandoned slaughterhouse next door.
Episodes 3 and 4 see you entering a mix of Hellraiser and Halloween throwbacks for episode 3 and some positively perfect “in space” action in episode 4 (all horror movie franchises have to move to space at some point). Aside from Lakeview Cabin Collection, 2019 brought us Lakeview Valley, which threw out the previous game’s concept to bring players a sprawling and deep adventure experience. Featuring a player-created character, Lakeview Valley is best described by this quote, from me, on the game’s store page. “Lakeview Valley is Animal Crossing, but the whole town hates you and Satan lives there… In this example you are Satan.” In 2020, Tamminen started releasing episodes of Lakeview Cabin Collection 2, a return to the 2D murder sandbox. Currently consisting of a hub world and one episode, it’s already shaping up to be a tight, well-received horror experience.
All in all, Lakeview Cabin Collection is a huge nostalgia boost for horror fans. No matter if you love slashers, sci-fi, or even ghost stories. There is something for everyone. The amount of interaction in each map is mind-boggling. One episode requires you to actually kill off your characters, so that they can be controlled in the afterlife to collect items or set off triggers that affect…wait for it…the first episode. That’s right, Lakeview Cabin Collection‘s overarching story will have you making changes in later episodes that affect earlier episodes, unlocking new story beats as you move forward. The level of care and detail Tamminen has put into this game is second to none. I’ve mentioned a few different movie franchises, and while the game evokes these films, it does not just lift from them wholesale. Tamminen takes what he obviously loved about horror, and instead of imitating them, he built on them, creating something truly unique that as a horror fan, you really can’t ignore. So let’s stop Lakeview gabbin’, and get to Lakeview Cabin.