Usually, the scariest thing people see on their phones is a text about how their mother-in-law is coming for a visit…and she’s staying for two weeks! But in talking to Human Head Studio’s Chris Rhinehart, the project director on the scary mobile game Lost Within (iOS, Amazon), it’s clear they looked well beyond their phones when designing this fright-fest.
I always like to start at the beginning: What is Lost Within, and how do you play it?
Lost Within is a psychological thriller survival horror game for mobile devices. It has a deep, compelling narrative that goes beyond the traditional clichés of these genres. Lost Within was designed from the start to both look and play well on touch interfaces. Visually, it looks amazing, the controls are very intuitive, and we’ve gone beyond conventional survival horror games to include more gameplay choices for players and how they deal with enemies.
What other games do you think Lost Within is similar to, and what makes it different?
The game will appeal to survival horror fans and fans of such games as Amnesia or Outlast. But we’ve developed systems to allow players more choice than in traditional horror games. How you deal with threats is up to you: Do you want to hide, like many other games? Or use weapons to attack your enemies? Or use tools to distract or detect enemies? Fight, flight, or stealth; it’s your choice.
While horror fans will love the game, the narrative is deep and full of interesting twists. I think non-horror game players, who enjoy an interesting setting and story, will find the game fun and compelling.
Lost Within is set in an insane asylum. In deciding how the asylum would look and be set-up, did you look at real psychiatric hospitals for inspiration, or did you instead consult works of fiction?
We looked at both fictional and real-life hospitals, even going as far as visiting some to look at references and gather ideas about layout, visuals, and living conditions. There’s a wealth of information online, especially from urban explorers who enter and visually document abandoned hospitals. The history of these ancient, hulking buildings is incredible and sometimes terrible and tragic.
What about the horror elements of Lost Within, what works of fiction inspired the way the supernatural parts of the game would look and act?
We watched a lot of horror movies, so it’s tough to say that we were influenced only by that one movie or book. Having the game set in an abandoned asylum gave us a lot of fertile ground to start. Early on, we also knew that we wanted to tell some of the narrative by having the player jump back to the past and directly see and interact with events in the asylum from twenty years in the past.
In terms of Inhabitant design, if you look at the trailer you’ll see a few of the asylum Inhabitants in the game. One of them, the Follower, was inspired in part by the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who; it only moves when you aren’t looking at it. It has some other abilities, but I don’t want to spoil them.
So did you hire a real horror writer to work on the story of Lost Within?
Ted Halsted, our Lead Narrative Designer, set and steered the story direction and development. Though we also hired some additional external writers, including Adam Kline, who wrote the book Escape From Hat; Joe Fielder, who worked as a writer on BioShock Infinite; and Charles Soule, who has had great success in the field of comic books, most recently with The Death Of Wolverine.
The game is coming to iOS devices as well as Amazon Fire tablets and phones. Is there any difference between these versions?
No, there are no feature differences between the iOS and Amazon Fire tablet versions. Though the Fire phone makes use of the phone’s dynamic perspective technology to track the player’s face to allow them to look around corners. On other devices, the player can tilt the device to look around corners.
Lost Within is, of course, not the first game Human Head has made. If someone liked Lost Within, which of your other games would you suggest they play next and why?
If players are fans of dark, unsettling worlds filled with action and puzzles, they can check out Prey, which is an older game but still holds-up visually. Though for a more modern game, check out Minimum on Steam. It’s a fast-paced third-person multiplayer shooter with an extremely unique art style and a wide variety of weapons, armor, and gadgets to use to destroy your foes.