July 24, 2015 6:00 AM | Joel Couture
The initial chapter of the Lakeview Cabin Collection, Lakeview Cabin III, involved defending yourself from a relentless killer, but Lakeview Cabin IV: Curse of the Lake is much more aggressive. Instead of hunkering down to stay safe, you have to set up a full blown assault on an old plantation house filled with members of an extremely dangerous, unhinged family. Many, many members. You may have better tools to fight them with and they might be easier to put downthan the last chapter, but the randomized traps and locations, as well as their sheer numbers, turn this ill-advised attack on their home into a bloodbath. While still silly in its own twisted way, expect to see a whole lot of dead teenagers if you intend to reach the end of Lakeview Cabin IV.
The focus on offense in Lakeview Cabin IV really changes the feel of the game. The single villain with high defense in the first chapter practically demanded that you play defensively, as it could mow your whole team down in seconds. You had to spend a lot of time planning and positioning your team if you wanted them to take the killer down. Lakeview Cabin IV's enemies have much less health, and while they still require a little planning to take out, sometimes whatever bludgeoning tool you happen to have on-hand just works. There's less of an emphasis on having an intricate plan or using the right tools, feeling like it left me with more combat options if a plan fell apart. Being able to down a handful of easier-to-kill enemies also made me feel like I was making progress when I often didn't feel like I was getting anywhere with the enemy in the first game.
More of the items seem to work as weapons as well. One of my best runs involved throwing chickens at the killers, as they did enough damage that they could beat one of them in three or four hits and worked at range. This didn't seem as viable in the last chapter, so I really appreciated having more combat options available to me. It was pretty funny to kill someone with a chicken, enhancing the weird mixture of humor and revulsion the game excels at. I also found that fewer items were all put in the same place, which made it easier to grab what I needed in difficult situations, which was something that bugged me about the last chapter. It can be hard to tell which item you'll pick up when a bunch of them are all laid out on the floor, so having fewer items that all had combat applications made fighting much easier.
I'm not saying this chapter lacks challenge, though. There's still a lot of people roaming the mansion, and all of them are quick to kill you. There are around a dozen different killers here, and although most don't pay much attention to you at first, they'll kill you quick when they see you. They have also set up an alarm system that cuts off your various routes and puts the other family members on high alert, so getting noticed has big repercussions beyond the room you're standing in. If one killer sees you and you try to flee, odds are good you're going to run right into another one in a different room. There is also a single, ridiculously strong killer that patrols the whole house in case you missed the fun of taking out that horrible baby man from the first chapter. Things can still go bad very quickly, even if it is easier to permanently get rid of a killer.
You also can't form a single, complex plan for how you want to attack the mansion as some aspects are randomized. Weapons and items shuffle around on each run, as do the various traps the killers have set to protect themselves. You might run through a hallway that was safe on one run and then fall through a trapdoor under a carpet or step on a shotgun trigger that wasn't there on the next run. You could rush into a room with a crowbar one time, but find it empty the next. Even some doors will lead to different places on various runs. There is more of an emphasis on planning and reacting on the fly in this chapter, and it creates an uncertainty and fear while you play. You never get to feel like you fully know the level inside out, and must instead react to the tools and paths the game hands you.
The visuals found new ways to be screwed up, too. If one of the four playable friends manages to take out a killer in a particularly gruesome way, the game world starts to distort, coloring in with red as the screen tilts and shifts. Weird things will show up, shrieking at you as you try to navigate this new, blood-stained house. It's a great effect that shows your character's mental state, and also encourages changing characters often since the other members won't be suffering from the same strange visual scheme. The game's still just as easy to play with the effects on and the skewed visuals give the violence a powerful impact, but it's still nice to be able to shift to someone who's seeing things with a clear head.
As violent as Lakeview Cabin IV is, it's still maintained its sick sense of humor. It's still kinda funny to be fighting a naked old man with a bag of chicken feed, and the creativity you can use in combat had me smiling while screaming. With less of an emphasis on one super-difficult enemy, I felt like I could have more fun with the game's mechanics and experiment more with various tools and routes, making my repeated failures a little easier to take. It's a blast to try to get these poor teenagers out of this situation alive - the kind of experience that's fun to share with your actual friends as you pass the controller around and try new plans. Between these two campaigns (and the hidden one in the chapter selection screen that I didn't even know about), you're getting a lot more fun for your dollar with the Lakeview Cabin Collection. If you've ever laughed at a slasher movie, now is the time to drop some cash on this game.
The Lakeview Cabin Collection is available for $9.99 on Itch.io, the Humble Store, and Steam. For more information on the game and Hypnohustler Games, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on YouTube and Twitter.