The history of the Path of Ecstasy hides many secrets.
Its ramifications sully all eternal ideas.
Whose scarlet hue has tainted the City of Dreams.
“Ever been to Lusst’ghaa
“No, never even heard of it. Should I have?”
“Well yeah, it’s only the
hottest scene around...”
“What’s so special about it?”
“That’s kind of hard to say, but basically it caters to everything.
“Hrm, okay. Sounds interesting, how do I get there?”
“Well, now here’s the thing -- take this mask...”
Movie Games Lunarium
’s Lust from Beyond
, a sequel to Lust for Darkness
, is a unique game that works to elevate our medium through mature storytelling, no fear of the flesh and a penchant to turn its “on the surface” hook against us. Out of the cosmic gate, Lust from Beyond celebrates sex and eroticism in an extreme that leaves any porn parallel expectations at the door. What exists here through heart on sleeve derivative world-building and art-direction, inspired by Zdzisław Beksiński
, H.R. Giger
and the alternate worlds of H.P. Lovecraft
, is something akin to a wet dream gone awry; orgasmic nightmares without escape.
"As sure as it is you’re about to have an orgy in the game’s opening sequence, it delivers in ponderous and raucous ways...”
As a game, it’s not without real-world restraint and fault in budgetary and technical aspects, but as a work of coalesced ideas that are as telegraphed as sure as it is you’re about to have an orgy in the game’s opening sequence, it delivers in ponderous and raucous ways, challenging concepts of sexuality, sex’s purpose and its mortal meaning on an endless plane of varying existence(s), both here, and beyond.
Going into Lust from Beyond, consider the game’s otherworldly base one of invocation and not one of sensuality, or blatant exhibitionism for the sake of it. The game’s ‘sexy’ nature is purposeful as crafting is in other games. This is Aleister Crowley
levels of occult and magick, painted in otherworldly skeletal patterns of Giger-inspired ridges, lines and tubes
. The game readily shifts you in an out of its disparate calling points, which could be seen as a clever design metaphor for its overall point, or for what it is: one of the first missteps in an otherwise ambitious project that fails to marry its core influences in a cohesive whole with a distinct Movie Games sheen. Instead what we get is a love letter to three crushes that feels written in sentence-fragment -- we know what’s being conveyed, but it feels disjointed and a little all over the (antique) shop. And we sometimes don’t know which crush a compliment is (or might be) directed at.
"This instance is one of the first ‘proper’ sexual encounters in the game, and it’s not pleasant...”
we were to accept the metaphor though, what we get here is a game that takes us on a journey as a few different characters (if you played the pre-release standalones, Prologue
), but centres most on Victor Holloway
-- a troubled Massachusettsan (or Bay Stater) bombarded with twisted imagery and an overcharged sex-drive that gets him in a spot of trouble with his partner. This instance is one of the first ‘proper’ sexual encounters in the game, and it’s not pleasant. Again, avoiding spoilers as best as possible, it sets the player on a course of self-discovery, unsettling truths and managing a sanity balancing act in precarious ways, be it in how well you handle the oddities the game throws at you, or how well you fight its at times clunky control setup (even with mouse and keyboard it feels unnecessarily sluggish).
As mentioned above, and befitting any homage to H.P. Lovecraft, Lust from Beyond challenges mortal perception through horror and notional ‘taboo’ concepts on planes of existence difficult to understand, yet tangibly baited through understood abstraction. In this case, lust. And it draws on art and perceived history to paint a comfortable appreciation of the importance of sex, eroticism, masochism and devotion where lust over the ages, and within myriad cultures, is concerned. It’s also how we, as mere mortals, can reach places like Lusst’ghaa and encounter otherworldly creatures, because we all share the same desires. It also helps that Victor is a so-called “Seeing” which gives him powers and makes him something of a beacon among otherwise inconsequential humanity, as far as trans-cosmic entities and their interests go.
"While conceptually refreshing and challenging, as far as delivery of narrative and mature concepts in videogames goes, Lust from Beyond suffers...”
16 chapters will take you on a wild ride with some spectacular writing woven throughout. Some dialogue, however, can be as cheesy as you please and often detracts from the grander concepts being presented to the player (Victor’s voice actor in particular isn’t that great). This sits uneasily alongside the disparate world-design mentioned earlier (specifically in visuals), as well as the pacing issue that plagues the whole affair. While conceptually refreshing and challenging, as far as delivery of narrative and mature concepts in videogames goes, Lust from Beyond suffers in not always knowing what it wants to be, or wants to allow the player to do. Exploration is a standout, but the game’s environments gate heavily and are filled with arbitrary POIs. Some of these discoverables help flesh out the game-world, and others feel like they took funds away from areas of the game that maybe needed it more.
Additionally, progression of discovery is as gated as the environments themselves, where events and cut-scenes often need to be triggered in order to make something accessible or usable. It’s not always bad, but it hiccups the flow of the game, and has you second-guessing exploration, which is a bit of shame given that is largely the only part of the game with agency for the player.
"Some might question why Lust from Beyond, or indeed any of the Lust titles from Movie Games, even exists, but there’s value here in taking in something new and unique...”
There’s combat also, though Movie Games suggests from the outset that you avoid it at all costs -- another Lovecraft game design trope. With this in mind, expect to play a lot of hide and seek, while the game’s puzzles vary from “place item here” to “find more of these items in the world there”. It’s not on par with other horror outings like Resident Evil, but contextually they still work and so never feel superfluous, they just sit in an easier basket than I’d have liked as a fan of the genre and of what puzzle-solving in high-stress and anxiety-inducing environments can really bring to the fore.
Gratuitous and measured, with rarely any punches pulled, the erotic component of the game then leaves itself as perhaps its biggest drawcard, but as mentioned throughout, it’s not done in a way that belittles its point in the game. Some might question why Lust from Beyond, or indeed any of the Lust titles from Movie Games, even exists, but there’s value here in taking in something new and unique from an interactive perspective. The lore constructed is excellent as well for fans of Lovecraft alone, and honestly that makes it worth the price of admission. Just be ready for a knock to the senses, to have your gameplay mettle tested in terms of how QTEs work when you’re doing the do
, and to be thrown around a bit due to a lack of overall cohesion.
But looking past those things, and into the vale reveals a game bucking trends and showcasing what's truly capable in our medium. A bigger budget, more player-agency and a more expansive world are all that's holding this back from being groundbreaking. And a lot of learnings will be taken from this latest outing.