Adventure Gamers Awards
Although there is no direct interaction with anyone but your scripted dialog with Hybris, I really enjoyed reading through the crew bios, as they made me relate better to the characters and past events. The profiles are realistic and give you a sense of each member’s personality, as well as their stake in the success of the mission. There are hints of a darker past, particularly regarding rampant drug use that caused problems on the ship. While not needed to finish the game, EXONET (the Lazarus’s version of the internet) entries are also interesting to read, providing a fair bit of background on the spacecraft, its mission and the crew. However, the reason why the ship is now in trouble and what led to the current situation is never fully revealed, leaving players to speculate on what has happened.
The interface is standard first-person 3D fare with both keyboard and gamepad support. Keyboard configuration can be mapped to suit your preference, but by default you use the WASD keys for direction, left mouse button for interaction and the right to zoom in. Along with being able to rotate shapes in the appropriate puzzle, the middle mouse button can be used for various other tasks, most notably throwing objects. You can open most cupboards and doors, and pick up and manipulate many objects. Almost all of them are useless, but there are a few interesting items, such as a model of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. Another interesting cultural reference is a pinup of the Woman in Red from The Matrix. There is no inventory except for the items you need to collect for the Earth Connection Table, and even these are not accessible until after you have collected all of them.
There is an autosave system to record your progress, but I ran into a few problems with it. First I tried to reconfigure the keyboard controls mid-game, but when I resumed play I was kicked out and had to restart from the last save point. Second, one of the hallucination sequences disappeared after I quit the game in the middle of it and I could never access it again. I had to restart from the beginning to trigger this sequence. Otherwise the checkpoint system works fairly well, but there are instances where you may need to replay a fair chunk of the game (5 to 10 minutes’ worth) depending on where you decide to quit, so pay attention to the on-screen symbol indicating when your current progress is being saved.
Graphically I can give The Fall of Lazarus only a passing grade, as most of the environments, while clear, lack detailed textures and use a muted palette of grays and neutral tones. Many areas of the ship are dimly lit, and even though you have a flashlight, it has limited ability to illuminate the scene, and there is no ability to adjust brightness or contrast in the game settings. This makes it difficult to find certain objects needed for the Earth Connection table. It’s a fairly static experience as well, as there are no cut scenes and only a very few animations throughout.
Sound effects are well done, such as the draining of cyrofluid from your chamber at the beginning, the ship’s numerous doors opening and closing, mechanical malfunctions and so on. Voice acting is similarly solid but sometimes your character sounds as if the actress was just reading lines, while at other times it comes across as over-the-top melodrama. This is a bit surprising, because Katherine Kingsley has won several acting awards. Be aware that there is a fair bit of profanity, including the f-bomb and other expletives. There is very little music, but what there is proves to be quite atmospheric, providing non-looping synthesized tunes (dramatic drumming, for example) that add to the tension when appropriate. The bulk of the background noise is simply the hum of the ship’s engines and other equipment.
I spent about three hours playing The Fall of Lazarus, which is fairly short for an adventure of this type. This can be extended somewhat because along with the game itself, the main menu allows you to play “The First Passenger,” which is essentially the game’s pre-release demo. The demo starts out the same way as the main game, but only allows you to explore a very limited area of the Lazarus and includes a single standalone hallucination sequence. This must be played through in a single session (no saves), and while it varies considerably from the game proper (a much worse voice actor, somewhat abstract gameplay), it is worth your time, not only to familiarize yourself with the mechanics, but to better understand the plight of the protagonist at the full game’s conclusion.
According to the Gospel of John, Lazarus was the last miracle that Jesus performed, in which he resurrected Lazarus from the dead four days after his burial. While I’ll leave it to you to discover just how he purportedly did that for yourselves, at the game’s conclusion this knowledge is relevant and leaves a lasting impression as the credits roll.
The game’s small development team and budget are reflected most in the mediocre production values on display here, but The Fall of Lazarus does a good job of telling a difficult story in a compelling way, packing a lot of little touches into a relatively short play time. The puzzles aren’t nearly as interesting as the narrative unfolding, but if you can get past the game's shortcomings, you will be rewarded with a thought-provoking tale of guilt and remorse on a journey of self-discovery in space.