Albino Lullaby is a Horror Game

Albino Lullaby revels in its own weirdness. The episodic first-person puzzler, which launched last week, proudly claims to have no jump scares, gore, or blood. Instead, it relies on atmosphere and some truly awful creatures to get under your skin.

Its world is garish and beautiful, full of rooms that twist and rearrange as you explore them. Walls and floors mechanically slide around, revealing hidden areas or paths. Buttons prominently displayed on walls ask, “Are you sure?” with a metaphorical wink and nudge. Because of course you’re going to push the damn buttons. And what results is often a mix of the unsettling and the humorous.

“Duality is an important theme of our game,” said Justin Pappas, creative director of indie studio Ape Law. “We wanted it to look pretty and fun, but have this horror and terror undercurrent. And when those themes clash, I think that confuses the brain a little bit. It makes players feel kind of disoriented. And that all lends to that feeling of unease and the uncanny.”

The creatures that call this twisted haunted house home are ‘the Grandchildren,’ pale and tubular things with oddly-pitched voices and nightmarish eyes and mouths. They sprang from Pappas’ subconscious.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been drawing these, like, french fries with really scary, empty eyes and teeth,” he said. “When we first started building the game, our intention was actually to make them more humanoid. But we started with these tubes because it’s easy to test like that. We didn’t have animations yet … so we just put these tubes in. And I drew on one of the tubes, one of these french fries that I used to draw, and it turned out that any other sort of concept we tried to create for the Grandchildren just didn’t feel quite as right.”

The Grandchildren, Pappas explained, are a vague representative shape that people can project their own fears onto. Some might think they look like stretched marshmallows. Others might see thumbs, worms, or undead Easter Island heads. Maybe they look a little bit like actor Tim Curry. Maybe they look phallic. Either way, you’ll spend most of your time in Albino Lullaby trying to avoid these monstrosities by crouching and sneaking around them.

Or you can just sprint past them in a terrified panic. The Grandchildren are slow, but relentless. Only a loading spot or strange blue lights will make them give up the chase. And if they catch you, you die.

A game where you run away from evil french fries might sound more absurd than terrifying, but that’s kind of the point. Albino Lullaby walks a fine line between horror and comedy, creating an experience that is neither laugh-out-loud funny nor overtly frightening, but instead nightmarishly surreal. Pappas admits that it’s a hard balancing act to maintain.