Battle Mutants and Fight for Your Sanity in Lone Survivor

A good video game keeps you on the edge of your seat while you play. A great video game does that and more, with a powerful story and immersive gameplay environment sticking with you far past the time that you set your controller down. It’s games like these that cause nightmares, forcing you to carefully look behind doors and peer into dark corners for fear of the approaching enemy, even in real life.

Lone Survivor is a great Mac game which fits solidly into the second category. It’s a psychological thriller set in a chilling, virtual environment. While the length of each play through the game lasts only a few hours, Lone Survivor definitely continues to stick with you. It definitely caused me at least one nightmare! Read on to learn more about the story, the game and what I thought of it.

The Story

When you choose to play Lone Survivor, you play as the nameless title character. Your character is (supposedly) the last known survivor following the outbreak of a deadly disease. After a quick and frightening opening sequence, you wake to find yourself in someone else’s apartment. You must work to figure things out and defend yourself from the disease-ridden mutants filling the world around you.

A screenshot from the creepy opening sequence.

While the apparent focus of the game is on surviving the disease and monster attacks, the underlying battle is really the fight for the retention of your sanity. Every decision that you make throughout the game impacts your sanity. Whether you choose to swallow a pill, have a conversation with a stuffed animal or interact with the other “people,” all of these decisions (and more) have a decided impact upon your sanity and thus your survival skills.

Talking to the man who wears a box … is he real or not? Only my sanity can tell …


As I mentioned earlier, you begin the game in someone else’s apartment, number 206. While you do, of course, go out and explore the world around you, the apartment is your base throughout the game. It’s where you sleep, pick up clues, save the game and teleport to other locations.

My bed – the save spot in 206.

Controls for gameplay are simple. You can access a full list of controls from the closet in apartment 206. Essentially, however you use the arrow keys to move and just a few other keys to interact with objects, shoot weapons and more. It is worth noting that there are some hotkeys which allow you to accomplish actions like placing rotting meat with just one button, rather than dealing with the hassle of grabbing the item from your inventory.

The controls for the game. These are all of the basics.

Once you master the controls, it’s important to understand what the game entails. Throughout the game, you are given various tasks which you must complete. Some are required, involving moving, fighting and more. There are also secondary tasks, which tend to be more puzzle oriented, involving finding and combining the correct items to do things like making a stove useable again. These tasks are optional, but will do wonders for your sanity.

Of course, you must move out and about in order to accomplish the tasks at hand. You can walk freely, distracting and killing mutants as you go. There is a map provided, to help with navigation. The map shows locked and unlocked doors, blocked passages, marks locations for tasks and shows the location of mirrors.

Mirrors are utilized to teleport from location to location. All mirrors outside of 206 can only transport you back to 206. The mirror in 206 will, unfortunately, only transport you to the last location you teleported from. While the mirror limitations are frustrating, it is definitely better than nothing at all.

Teleporting via a mirror.

Lastly, let’s discuss item usage and the mutants. When you start the game you have a flashlight and are able to pick up some rotting meat from your apartment. For the first bit this is all that you have to protect yourself. To escape the mutants you must shut off the flashlight, drop rotting meat to distract them and hide in one of the limited number of spots until you can sneak past. Once you have played for a bit you do get a gun, but between limited ammo and the difficulty of the weapon control mode, the gun is used quite infrequently.

A Great Environment With Lousy High-Speed Action

Lone Survivor is a fantastic game, no doubt. I want to start by breaking down the game into some of the aspects that truly make it great. The immersive environment is really what does it, and that begins with the graphics. Rather than opting for realistic visuals, the makers of Lone Survivor chose a 2D, 8 bit design, and it works incredibly well. The graphics are dark and creepy, lending themselves well to the story.

The sound design is another noteworthy aspect. The music is chosen well and reflects the mood at any given time. The sound effects are chilling, keeping you on edge for the duration of the game.

The creepiness of the graphics throughout the game – you’ll have to try it to hear the great sound design.

The storyline is also worth another look. You are immediately drawn in by a title sequence and story that you definitely want to sit through. You become genuinely concerned about your character’s health and sanity. The storyline offers multiple paths and endings, ensuring that even if you play through the game multiple times you will still find it new and exciting. All in all, the pervasive creepiness and compelling environment/story is really what makes Lone Survivor great.

As wonderful as I think the game is, there are two annoyances that really stand out and sometimes kill the game a bit. The first is the map and navigation situation. The game itself is all done in a 2D, side scroller style of gameplay. The map, however, uses a top-down setup based upon a more 3D type of environment. This leads to a great deal of confusion while trying to navigate properly, made even worse if you are trying to quickly escape a mutant. The frustrations caused by the map can make you want to tear your hair out at times – luckily the map is at its worst only during high-speed moments, which are few and far between.

The top-down map view. It’s the worst!

The other major annoyance is the chase sequences, which comprise the only high-speed action in the game. Lone Survivor’s strength lies in the design touches and tasks that do not involve fast-paced action. Chase sequences, though few and far between are incredibly difficult to make it through alive. The controls are difficult to use quickly, spaces to hide are hard to find and neither the rotting meat or the handgun are good options for fighting the mutants. I wish the chase scenes were eliminated, as chase scenes combined with the terrible map system made for a few short but mind-blowingly frustrating moments (and deaths).

We Survived!

A few minor annoyances aside, Lone Survivor is well worth playing. Even with the decision to stick to a 2D environment, Lone Survivor is easily one of the most immersive, stick with you games that I have gotten to play. The story draws you in and the battle for your sanity keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time that you play.

I definitely recommend Lone Survivor, but I’m curious to hear from you. Do you play Lone Survivor? What did you think? Are you planning to try it out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


A battle against mutants and a battle for your sanity ensues in Lone Survivor, a psychological thriller game available for the Mac.