It’s 1999, a new century calls, but the shadows of a troubled past, both personal and political, loom large in Last Days of Lazarusa disturbing tale that examines the impact religion and politics have wrought on a country coming to terms with its past.
Stuck at work and unable to attend the funeral of his devout Orthodox Christian mother, Lazarus returns to his family home, a small soviet era apartment in Romania, to support his sister. But when he arrives, she is nowhere to be found.
While Lazarus searches the apartment, looking for clues to locate his sibling, troubling childhood memories stir within his mind, revealing disturbing home truths as the apartment descends into a literal hell around him.
Last Days of Lazarus suffers from what I like to call Fahrehiet syndrome (also known as Indigo fever in the US), or a horrible case of the Cages. It’s a game that tackles heavy themes that opens well, but stacks the landing by taking a trip to crazy town just after the halfway mark.
Not afraid to take its narrative to all kinds of unexpected places, Last Days of Lazarus can leave you as bewildered as its protagonist at times. Thankfully, all its disparate plot threads weave together in the end, and it’s worth playing through at least once to see its head-scratcher of an ending.
That’s if you don’t mind the presentation being rough around the edges. The visuals look like something that would have been top-tier in 2010 but now seems a little dated, while the voice acting is somewhat inconsistent, swinging from the sublime to the ridiculous as some scenes left me in fits of laughter when they really shouldn’ you don’t have.
Likewise, the characterization feels off at times. Lazarus seems unphased by some seriously-disturbing scenes and then flies into a rage over a Christmas present. While another member of the game’s small cast transforms from neutral good to cartoonishly evil, seemingly on a dime.
Split into eight increasingly weird chapters, Lazarus spends most of his time looking for clues to his sister’s whereabouts at the family apartment and searching the Romanian countryside for his estranged father, who abandoned his family to become a monk.
A disturbing first-person adventure game with horror elements, The Last Days of Lazarus has no fight. Instead, in each location, you will find plenty of puzzles to solve. Although some of these can be a little obtuse at times, none are that difficult, and many are as simple as finding a key for a locked gate. However, finding that key can be tricky as it’s often hidden under other items or just hard to spot. Likewise, the parts of the environment you can interact with aren’t always easy to target.
Although most of the puzzles are item-based and there is an inventory, you don’t have to worry about combining items or putting them in the right place, just finding them. There are also collectibles to gather, and most of them require you to complete item-based puzzles before you can grab them. These asides are fun and add to the story, but it can be annoying when you’ve spent 20 minutes finding a solution to a problem to find that it doesn’t progress the game at all.
If you manage not to spend an hour looking for that one key that turns up under the walkie-talkie by the dead soldier next to the Hind, you will probably be able to Breeze through the Last Days of Lazarus in a few hours. However, with only one ending, there’s not much replay value unless you’re the kind of person that needs to find every document and collectible.
On paper, The Last Days of Lazarus is a tough sell; it’s short and simplistic, with some strange story choices. But my gut says you should play this game. Yes, it’s rough around the edges and weird. But it’s also honest, endearing, and the kind of mid-tier game with a singular creative vision that gaming desperately needs more of.
TechRaptor reviewed The Last Days of Lazarus on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.