the lancaster leak

The Lancaster Leak Weaves Layers of Terror Into its Found Footage Horrors

The Lancaster Leak – O’Brien State Park is a found footage horror game. In it, you’ll follow Bradley Kaufman through a national park. More specifically, you’ll be going through some recovered tapes from his time in the woods. These grainy, jittery videos indicate something horrible happened to Bradley, but there’s far more to it. These tapes are framed as evidence/documentation in an investigation. One you’re not supposed to be privy to. In framing the game in this way, it adds several layers to the fear it weaves, creating something complex and intriguing.

On a basic level, you’re dealing with Bradley’s trip through the woods. I’m not sure what possesses someone to go camping all on their own. Being all alone in a dark forest just isn’t appealing to me. Bradley has decided to take himself out all by himself, though. You’re likely to be wondering why as soon as you start seeing the footage, too. The forest is pitch black save for a tiny bit of light. There’s a walking path, but something about it feels narrow. Crushing. There’s moonlight above, but it somehow doesn’t penetrate your walking path. This gives the game an eerie, unnatural feel.

There’s not much sound to accompany you in The Lancaster Leak – O’Brien State Park. Crickets. The crunch of your footsteps on the walking path. It’s the sort of sounds that should be peaceful, but they just make you feel more alone. It also serves to make it painfully clear when there’s some new sound that shouldn’t be there. A simple car alarm or errant noise is enough to make you leap up. And it makes it all the more frightening when you start to hear something completely unnatural all around you.

Now, this stuff is enough to make a scary game about walking through the woods. Walk around in the quiet, then run from scary sounds. It’s a solid base. However, this game continues to build upon this base with the found footage framework. This adds visual noise to mimic an old video recording. You get a bit of fuzziness and static moving through the ‘footage’. This makes it hard to make out clear details. With that lack of clarity comes space for the imagination to work. When it’s a bit hard to see or make things out, shadows and images seem to mean more. They hint at something hiding, even if it’s just your imagination.

A bigger question is why the recordings exist at all, too. The Lancaster Leak – O’Brien State Park is effective enough as a walk in a creepy forest, but because it’s found footage, you start to ask questions. Why did someone start filming their silent walk through the park? What possessed them to make a video of the walk to the campground shower and back? When Bradley runs into some weirdo, why do they shut the camera off? What makes them turn it back on in the frightening final moments? Suddenly, there seems to be this hidden, monstrous meaning behind the events. A creepy puzzle about why this footage exists at all.

This might not seem like anything special. Most horror games take players to some strange, scary place. You’re often plopped into these locations for unknown reasons. With this game, though, you feel like there’s an answer. You’re just not privy to it. Bradley clearly knows something about this place. He won’t share that information with you, but there’s some reason he’s recording a video. Despite knowing what’s going on, he’s still plunging himself into danger, too. It adds this unsettling depth to it all as you wonder why someone would willingly walk into this place.

the lancaster leak

Many horror games feel like you’re seeking that answer, but in The Lancaster Leak – O’Brien State Park, you feel like you’re specifically denied it. That maybe even knowing the answer could be dangerous. Why else would someone come out here and start filming some empty campground after dark? Nothing weird happens for the first several minutes. Bradley’s just off to take a shower. He shuts off the camera at some odd times. It feels like he knows something, but dies anyway. What will happen to you if you find out what he knew?

This fear is compounded by the game’s final layer: the FBI report. This video has been annotated by the FBI, with notes appearing to give context to the recordings. These tell you about the park itself. They tell you that Bradley was showing no signs of mental illness when he took his lethal camping trip. You get informed about some of the actions he took, as well as the time between the recordings. They give you further context, but they also hint that some greater thing is happening. They even warn you that you shouldn’t be looking at the tapes at all. You’re in danger of being prosecuted just for watching them.

The Lancaster Leak – O’Brien State Park uses this layer to make us feel like we’ve definitely found something we shouldn’t have. Moreso, that we 100% do not want to know what happened. However, it seems like we will need to get answers. A further layer right at the start of the game hints at a missing FBI intern who leaked the tapes for some reason. That she has likely gone missing due to the leak. So, not only is the knowledge of these creatures dangerous for that reason, but there is further danger beyond that. And we, in our curiosity, have watched something that mires us in that danger.

The game continually adds new layers, seamlessly creating new things to fear and new questions to ask. Each question promises an answer we don’t want to know, though. Bradley seemed to willingly die to chase his answers. Die horribly, too. What did he know that put him on this path? What did the FBI intern learn in these tapes that she had to leak despite risks to herself? Why does the FBI want to keep this all from us? Are we taking a risk by involving ourselves in this business at all?

Through use of filters, annotations, and overarching story, The Lancaster Leak – O’Brien State Park creates several layers of frightening, compelling story. It’s far more than a creepy walk in the woods, and has me desperate to know more. Even if I’m worried about what will happen when I find the answers.