Screaming for the Wrong Reasons
Most games deserve a fair shake before giving criticism or reverence. At the end of the day, however, a game needs to be playable. Such is hardly the case with Z & K Games’ latest venture: The Lizard Man. A shoehorned story paired with a re-skinning of the developers’ previous titles results in a merely frustrating undertaking.
The Lizard Man forces players into “high-stakes” circumstances with lethal consequences, feigning suspense for the sake of false intensity. What results is a poor copy and pasted clone of popular offline, first-person suspense/puzzle series Hello Neighbor. In fact, the majority of Z & K’s other Play Store games are the exact same formula. Usually this is indicative of a studio attempting to capitalize on another game’s success by making their game similar in order to attract ad space. This is always a red flag that typically means the developers never intended to give the players an authentic experience. As a result, the player feels cheated and their time feels wasted.
The Bare Minimum
Your avatar, Clancy Brown (presumably after the voice actor of Mr. Krabs—no, really), starts off the story by being dared to go into a creepy, barren subway station with his cousin. The Lizard Man, looking exactly as one imagines, suddenly appears. He barfs acid on your cousin, which apparently hypnotizes her into going deeper into the subterranean tracks. Mechanically moving character models and voice lines that sound like they came out of a pre-recorded sound library layer on an already bizarre situation. Consequently, the game feels off, but it’s not for the “creepy” reasons the creators seemed to intend.
Broken from the Get-Go
The core gameplay of Lizard Man revolves around exploring the subway station and the titular Lizard Man’s lair. You receive nothing by way of tutorial, just a first-person perspective in the dingy tunnel. If you’ve played a title like Hello Neighbor before, the key strategy is clear: pick up random objects to solve environmental puzzles and get to the next level. Meanwhile, the Lizard Man is skulking about with the ever-present threat of barfing and kidnapping, resulting in a lost life. This could be suspenseful and interesting for at least a short period if done well. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Lizard Man Vs Machine
Our friend, the Lizard Man’s AI is terrible. If he sees you, don’t worry. You just need to run in the opposite direction for a few seconds and he’ll turn around. Generally, he doesn’t open doors unless he is already chasing you, so a solid third of the map is free of danger. Additionally, all suspense drops out when you overhear one of his five one-liners. “I ate my father! You don’t stand a chance!” He cries this out in a voice halfway between Marvin the Martian and Bugs Bunny. The HUD displays a heart rate monitor to indicate your proximity to the creature, but with doors being largely irrelevant, this is pretty useless.
The puzzles themselves are mostly illogical for the sake of feigning intricacy. There was one point where I had to unscrew an electrical panel to shut down some security cameras. Did I need the screwdriver item? Of course not! Obviously, you undo flathead screws with comically large coins. Apparently I need to go back to shop class. When the “puzzles” aren’t inconceivably ridiculous, they’re hardly riddles at all. Sometimes all a lock needs is a key. Sometimes that lock needs to be oiled first before being unlocked. The stacking of every convoluted element just piles on top of the rest to a mystifying degree.
This Lizard Can(not)
The Lizard Man gets it wrong on every front. Whether it be the forced “plot,” the dull enemy AI, or the beleaguered puzzle composition, this clone of a game falls short. The only real benefit I found to playing it was to discover what low-res .png files were pasted on the subway walls for set decoration. Even this got old quick. Alas, you can only see 2008 Obama campaign posters in 240p so many times before it isn’t funny anymore. Even without the clear grasp for ad-removing microtransactions peppered throughout, this game is still bad. Altogether, if you’re looking for a new Hello Neighbor, I recommend the real thing. Nowadays new entries in that series seem to come out every two months.
Is it Hardcore?
While it has potential to be a unique stealth experience, The Lizard Man plays it safe. With borrowed assets and stale gameplay that hardly makes sense, players are more likely to get flustered before enjoying any part of this game. This monster really should have stayed underground.