Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul Review (PSVR)
Armed with a flashlight, you find yourself exploring what appears to be a quiet average looking home in a woodsy neighborhood. Before long, you discover you’re not alone as you unravel the mystery of what’s gone on in this house and struggle to survive the terror that begins to hunt you.
Paramount Pictures' hit horror franchise comes to life in virtual reality as you explore a house that is in the midst of a haunting. Get ready for that spooky Paranormal Activity noise and to see stuff go flying across rooms.
After a really odd tutorial and introduction to The Lost Soul’s interesting control scheme (more in a bit), you can start the game as you awake in a forest — there is a house in the distance and a flashlight in front of you. You, of course, grab the flashlight and walk towards the house as it is the only object and place you can go. Enter it to find it a creepy wreck with a bunch of locked doors and creepy banging noises behind them.
The story, set up, and execution of The Lost Soul reminds me a lot of the majority of indie horror games that spawned in the wake of horror let’s plays becoming popular on YouTube. You have no idea why you wake up in the forest, and no incentive to enter the house, outside of this being a video game and you as the player knowing you have to because you never really understand who your character is until the last moments of the game. It makes wandering around the house odd and confusing at times. Why did I even enter here? With a little setup, The Lost Soul could have told a far better story, and your motivations as the player would have made much more sense. An opening cinematic or montage of events playing out — what would be the first half of a Paranormal Activity film, if this was one — would have helped so much, and still allowed you to wake up in that forest and continue playing as the game is currently set up.
Exploring the house is creepy and every single jump scare got me. It’s a creepy atmosphere and when the Paranormal Activity static noise kicks in, if you’re a fan of the movies, you know something is going down and you probably don’t want to be a part of it. As you explore the house, you’ll trigger timed events and scares, but eventually there will be a monster in the house that can randomly show up and you will need to escape. The monster isn’t scary though, and getting ‘killed’ by it just warps you to a room in the house as you respawn, but there is actually no inclination that you just died. It wasn't until my third or fourth time I even considered I might have been dying to this monster.
Your goal in the house, although unclear at first, eventually becomes to gather up items in a book given to you by a little girl running around the house and, of course, to stay alive while doing your task. Gathering the items can become tedious, and a couple of the items are in easily missable spots, or locations I simply wouldn’t have ever looked. One of the items is hidden in such a stupid spot that I eventually gave up to search forums for its location.
The Lost Soul features an interest control scheme that is close to working in some parts but also makes some stupid decisions with its button layout. For a start, you have to play with PS Move controllers, and there is no option for a DualShock set up, which is obviously disappointing. On the right Move controller, you will be pressing two buttons to rotate your body at 90-degree angles, and on the other two buttons allow you to move forward or backwards. You can simply move around by looking in a direction, and doing this can work at times, but you’ll eventually need to press the rotation buttons to move around higher spots, or to do a full 180 turn. A combination of the two moving options is necessary to make your way around the house, but at times the house just seems designed to make your life hard. When running away from the monster, don’t go near the stairs that require you do a 180 turn to continue going up them, pulling this stop and turn motion while running is just going to do your head in, and I did nearly fall twice while playing standing up and running in the game away from the monster.
My biggest issue with the control scheme was constantly putting away my flashlight when I didn't mean to. The trigger button on the Move controller will put away the item in your hand you're currently holding, and the top face button on the controller will turn the item on, or off, and in this case, I'm talking my flashlight. A number of times I would bump the trigger button by accident, or get jumped scared and bumped it, or just try and scratch my arm and bump it was ridiculous. The biggest and easiest fix I could ask for this game would be to simply switch these buttons.
The character models look good, and some of the environments, music and sound effects can make for an atmospheric and creepy couple hours — if you can work through the cumbersome control scheme and tedious nature of the puzzles. There is a decent horror VR experience here, you just need to overcome some hurdles.
Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul often seems more like a budget random haunted house game than a true Paranormal Activity experience, and that’s unfortunate. For fans of the franchise, you will get a kick out of the connections, but it’s not the next thing to play after the films or something necessary to get more out of the films, or even to get a true Paranormal Activity experience in VR.