After cosy, woodsy, animal themed games took the pandemic years by storm; developer Massive Monster Games and publisher Devolver Digital bring an eerie twist to the wholesome gaming trend. The demo for Cult of the Lamb was the most wish-listed game on Steam during the June 2022 Steam Next Fest, and the hype has been building for the spookily adorable rogue-like game since the official Gamescom reveal trailer on 25 August 2021. With the promise of cute (but dark) cartoon violence, I added the title to my Steam library and set off.
What Cult of the Lamb is about
Cult of the Lamb , which feels like an adorable mesh between The Binding of Isaac, Stardew Valley, and Animal Crossing, releases on 11 August 2022. You, Lambert, are (un-metaphorically) a lamb sent to slaughter. Labelled as a heretic and a false prophet by the Bishops of the Old Faith, you are killed to prevent a prophecy from coming to fruition.
Thankfully, a deity known as The One Who Waits has chosen you for an extremely important mission: you need to build and nurture a cult following. You must head into the Dark Forest and beyond to find lost and scared potential victims of the followers of the Old Faith, save the souls of these lost creatures, and add them to your growing cult that has been established in a the crumbling ruins of an old temple. You and your willingly indoctrinated followers must collect resources and build up a colony worthy of freeing The One Who Waits again from the chains of the Bishops of the Old Faith.
The colours of Cult of the Lamb seemed to be chosen with thoughtful consideration about how it would affect the psyche of the player. The dominant colour during the slaughter and dungeon crawling scenes is purple in many shades, and it is associated with fantasy and dark imagery in video games. Purple has been seen as a symbol of witchcraft, and this colour choice drove home the creepy and spooky vibe that added to the overall gameplay.
The careful insertion of red makes anger, revenge, and blood come to mind. This colour grading created something that feels deep, dark, and awesome throughout my play-through of the demo. It is a gorgeously disturbing game overall.
I found the game kind of hard on the default difficulty setting. This did become easier after a couple of play-throughs, however. I could get through more randomised rooms and get further into the demo, with more lives to work with and less difficult combat after my second and third try.
The default key bindings while playing Cult of the Lamb on PC felt strange, and I found it tedious to remap-play-remap and repeat to find the key bindings that worked for my personal play style. This isn’t the end of the world by any means, but I think it is an annoyance worth mentioning if you choose to play this on PC with keyboard bindings. The gameplay became much easier after switching to a compatible controller, however.
My preference would be to purchase the game on console or use a controller, but ymmv. Beyond some awkward fumbling to find my preferred gameplay hardware, the combat dungeons and other rooms were super easy to navigate. The randomisation for each level really helps make a fun game out of a style that would fall prey to being quite boring. The maps within each level are easy to explore, and the randomly generated levels make replaying the demo quite fun.
The Cult of the Lamb soundtrack feels like a massive nostalgia trip. Listening to the background music coupled with the satisfying >THWACK< of my weapon while hunting heretics comes through as a modern, full-bodied take on the classic 8-bit arcade game. The accompanying soundtrack is perfectly present; it is always there to accompany what’s happening on screen, but it doesn’t come across as overwhelming. It also doesn’t detract from gameplay.
The gameplay demo for Cult of the Lamb is an immersion into an adorably disturbing world that goes against everything that feels appropriate about such cutely designed characters , bringing back Happy Tree Friends nostalgia that really makes me want to purchase the full game on release.
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Images courtesy of Massive Monster
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