lumber.jpgLumber Island, from one-man studio DeanForge, has been causing a bit of a stir since images began appearing earlier this year. Screenshots promised a terrifying horror-adventure with high-quality 3-D graphics on the order of Amnesia. Now the first chapter of Lumber Island has been released, and Let's Plays are already cropping up on YouTube. Honestly, the game has some issues, many of which will hopefully be addressed in updates, but Lumber Island is so good-looking and so effective at being creepy that I have no choice but to recommend it--just with minor reservations.

Lumber Island is a first person game, and the controls are simple enough: WASD to move and mouse to look. There are items to pick up and use, but you will do so automatically--no need to click or press any other keys. This comes in extremely handy, because a large portion of your time on Lumber Island may be spent wandering around wondering what to do. This lack of direction fits the story, but can prove to be frustrating for the player.

The island has some out-of-game history, but all you need to know is that people used to get lumber there, but then oil was discovered, which was bad news for anyone who lived there. You wake up in a small boat, marooned on an island. You grab a flashlight, get up and start stumbling around, knowing nothing. You see a campfire, approach, find a teddy bear. You realize that you have picked up the teddy bear, and there's an empty chair right there by the fire, so you sit him down in it. Turning around, you see that a scrawled message has appeared on the boulder behind you. Is teddy confessing to something? And who is it that's going to be so angry?

That ought to get you started. There are objects to find (and figure out how to use), story tidbits to read, obscure hints to decipher, a ruined shack to unlock, ghosts to see, and someone--or something--else on the island to contend with. And it has an axe.

The graphics and lighting effects in Lumber Island are absolutely gorgeous, but demand a powerful computer to display at a decent frame rate. The sounds are good and scary and the music is exceptional; it changes to complement the mood of the moment, whether it be high-tension or undertone of ineffable dread. A couple of bugs are still present, such as the fact that the screen doesn't always capture the mouse cursor, but there's nothing that can't be fixed. All in all, Lumber Island is an exceptional horror experience, and an excellent first chapter in what is sure to be a much-discussed new episodic game.

The first chapter of Lumber Island is available as a free download for Windows on GameJolt and on Desura. I'm already looking forward to the next creepy installment!