Title : Emerald Lake
Developer: Peace/ Jack Twin
Genre: Horror Adventure
Emerald Lake is a first person horror adventure game where you search for keys and escape a deranged serial killer. On the surface it seems like standard fare for indie horror games but there is more to it than is immediately obvious.
First of all, this game has been made in FPSCreator and does a damn fine job in sidestepping and working around FPSCreators numerous and dire short comings. While it does not manage to avoid these entirely, it is seriously the best effort I have seen so far in dealing with them.
You play as a young man looking for his missing brother and uncovering a deranged killer stalking an abandoned summer camp alongside some feral former occupants of said camp.
Where the game shines is this: First of all, the presentation is stellar. The plot, while simple, is delivered in a clear fashion and its visually out-fucking-standing for an FPSC game. In fact, this is the best looking FPSC game I have played to date. Peace/Jack Twin can certainly do a lot more in terms of shaders and dynamic environments than I can do. The environments use FPSC’s shader effects without any of them having this off putting shiny/plastic look to them, there are dynamic rain, water and lighting effects as well as little dynamic touches that really create a foreboding atmosphere. Be it little things like a beer bottle rolling away, being able to rotate inventory items on screen or seeing a folder being opened before reading the text or large scale things such as fully animated characters stalking the grounds and interacting with their environment. The game is chock full of elements that are simply not common in FPSC games.
Now I understand that the bar of quality for FPSC games is generally perceived as low but this game manages to feel like something developed in a far more modern engine most of the time.
FPSCreator has a long history of ambitious defs and desastrous failures and sadly, that DNA is still in Emerald Lake, even though very well hidden. The big one is the memory cap. While peace tried his best to keep the player occupied in very small, detailed levels (slow moving speed, hidden key and keypad puzzles, backtracking and so on) its still very clear how small the environments really are. Sadly there will also be loading screens every couple of minutes. This can not be avoided if the game is to look like it does. The other memory related issue is that the game will crash eventually. This makes dying twice as frustrating as you know that the game might not load your safe. If it does crash, all you can do is start it again and continue where you left off. This is tolerable for other FPSC fans but likely very off putting for a general audience.
Another thing I need to talk about is that this game understood gameplay. Lets face it, looking for keys isn’t a fun mechanic. Never was, never will be, but peace managed to mix it up with keycodes, fuseboxes, safes and chilling encounters to keep the player interested.
Thankfully there is also combat towards the end of the game, making it more tense. It works quite well and the enemies are a welcome change from these atrocious indie games where they take away any kind of combat mechanic…but also don’t provide anything interesting in its stead.
Now I will list a few things that I noticed to be exceptional in this game and have simply not seen this well put together in any other FPSC game.
Something I noticed to be a bit off was the sanity mechanic. It doesn’t need to be there… I have a feeling that its only there because well, most modern horror adventure games have some kinda dumb sanity mechanic. Here its really just sorta there. The player remarks early in the game how “he needs to take a stress pill” and then proceeds to swallow random pills he finds scattered through the map. Whatever these are, I am sure that by the third pill he wouldn’t be able to function and must have certainly overdosed by the end of the game. There is no real merit to them as well as you find them all across the map. Add to the ridiculous randomness to just taking pills you find lying around that part of the plot is how anti psychotic drugs turned camp residents into feral monsters and you have a really weird mechanic that just shouldn’t be there.
* Small animated details like being able to open cupboard and furniture doors, animated locks and books. None of them stood out and they all integrated into the game world seemlessly.
* Animated encounters with characters and enemies that must be the best in FPSC to date.
* You actually find your brother and escape alongside him. It would have been so much easier to just find his static corpse and continue from there, but no, the game actually manages to have an animated char (altough he got stuck on a door in my first playthrough 😉 ) be part of the plot line without it seeming out of place.
* There is an enemy breaking through a wall that was just cool.
* the game over screen is animated, which is something I have not seen before in these games.
* the ending cut scene is quite nice and wraps the short but fun romp up very well.
If you want to give this game a whirl yourself and support the developer: Here is a link: