Lorelei and the Laser Eyes Will Have You Grooving With Riddles

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes Preview

In the vast puzzle genre, a particularly welcome sub-genre is the spooky mansion. I suppose you could technically call it an evil residence, but I am not talking about games with zombies and guns. I am talking about games that are half ambiance, and half devious brain-twisters. These games are sometimes gorgeous to get lost in; sometimes they are low-fi and pixelated. The sure thing is that it will try to drop you into a totally immersive world. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is a strange experience that may have all the makings of a new cult classic.

Hunting For Clues

Immersive puzzle games are usually peaceful. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s been tradition going back as far as Myst, and carried forward into games like The Witness or The Tartarus Key. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes follows in this tradition and sticks you in a big spooky mysterious mansion. The surreal mystery is key to the tone in LatLE. You are meant to feel as if you are exploring a liminal space, like the island in Lost. Even the game’s own description feeds into the mystery, describing the setting as “an old baroque manor, perhaps a hotel or a museum, somewhere in central Europe.” Somewhere. Sure.

The big mansion is naturally full of locked doors. A lot of puzzles reward you with keys, or lead you to the other side of a barred door. Classic stuff. There are also funky retro sci-fi devices scattered about, which contain puzzles. I found the puzzles to be pretty tricky, but my controller was never under threat of a rage-smash. They are fairly solvable.

“Functional” clears the minimum standard. Are the puzzles actually good? Do solutions make you feel like a genius? Not really. A lot of the game is navigational, about finding ways to open the next blocked door (or finding a new secret one). A surprising number of riddles were mathematical in nature, which isn’t usually my idea of a good time, but I was never totally out of my basic-algebra depth. I suppose that could skew either way depending on your enthusiasm for word problems.

Somewhere, Somewhen

Atmosphere is so important to these sorts of games, and Lorelei and the Laser Eyes has that by the bucketful. The funky house you are exploring is occasionally timeless, sometimes anachronistic. The groovy décor weirdly reminded me of Deathloop, not because LatLE has such 70s vibes (which it does at times). Both games do a great job at making their worlds feel other. This is a familiar time, but not as you know it. That sort of surreal tone is perfect for building a sense of mystery.

More fundamentally, Lorelei and the Laser Eyes understands graphical design. Once indie games started embracing limitations and moving away from photographic fidelity, graphics became so much more interesting. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes accomplishes lots with color, and the lack of color. Red is important, and when something is out of place, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Other times you rely on the visual clues in the level design that propel you forward. The color motifs give a great justification to that annoying mechanic where your path is marked in yellow paint. Things aren’t just glowing because the game designers want you to see them, there is something deeper at play here.

On the Case

If there’s one area I struggled with Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, it was the controls. At first this was my fault: I had left a controller plugged in, which was making the keyboard controls weird. Once I got that sorted, I was constantly finding myself popping in and out of random menus. As I got more used to the controls, I realized that the movement and clipping felt a bit off to me. It’s a gameplay element I hope gets improved but in the meantime, it does evoke the clunky tank controls from classic Resident Evil. Plus, the game is still in development, and I anticipate the controls feel a bit better by time of release.

Your opinion on Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is mainly going to be determined by two things: the puzzles and the atmosphere. Some puzzle games totally blow my mind; this one didn’t rewrite the rules, but I certainly felt engaged. And if you love spooky trippy mysteries, I am sure you will like to immerse yourself in this strange world. Just remember to bring paper, pencil, and a calculator.

***PC code provided by the publisher for preview***