Loretta Review – How to Get Away With a Small Town Murder
Developer: Yakov Butuzoff
Release Date: February 16, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment
Creaking doors, thumping pipes, and rusty nails make this farmhouse game feel more like a set on an episode of Criminal Minds than a place you’d want to call home. Regardless, it’s the setting for the Yakov Butuzoff-developed adventure game Loretta, a choice-filled murder mystery with a touch of disturbing charm.
In Loretta, you play as Loretta Harris – a housewife and self-proclaimed ornithologist living on a farm in the 1940s. The game opens with Loretta being visited by a private investigator named Frank Chambers. He says he’s been sent from New York to look for your husband Walter, and what starts as a missing persons case quickly turns into a murder-mystery you won’t soon forget.
At the start of the game, you’re met with a few options. The PC version asked me which controller layout I was using (in my case, a PS5 Dualsense) and gives you the choice of two visual modes: Color Mode and Noir Mode. Color mode is the standard and recommended for a first playthrough, while Noir Mode gives the game a more well… noir feel. Choosing Noir Mode also increases the overall difficulty.
Autosaves in Loretta happen regularly, so I never felt like I’d lose a lot of time by taking a break. That said, gameplay involves a mix of walking and some interacting, as you’d find in a point-and-click adventure. However, there isn’t much action to be had in Loretta. The times you need to do more than make a choice are few and far between and are usually solved by repeatedly pressing a shoulder button. This makes dragging a body through a field or pulling a rusty nail out of your leg feel a bit more weighty, but it doesn’t add much to the overall gameplay.
Time spent in your house is divided into a few different areas, including the kitchen, bedrooms, and basement. There are multiple things to interact with, and they change throughout the story. For example, interacting with the moose head in the living room results in Loretta saying something different each time, though usually in disgust.
The story is played out in a series of flashbacks that eventually catch up to the beginning of the game—choices you make result in different outcomes and could lead to one of the game’s multiple endings. Feel like calling Margaret a homewrecker to her face? You’re well within your rights. Just remember… every action has consequences – so it’s essential to think ahead.
In one particular scene, I chose to pick up a harvesting scythe while talking to the sheriff. As you can probably guess, that didn’t end well. I got shot and was immediately teleported to a few days prior, where I had the option of choosing a different path.
Loretta’s story takes place in the late 1940s. In 1947, you and your husband Walter are forced to move from the busy city life in New York to a small town farm. Why you had to move isn’t explained at the beginning but does become more clear as the story progresses. Loretta is frequently haunted by grief from her past on top of her husband’s life of secrecy, and it gave me the feeling that she was starting to go a bit crazy.
Not far into the story, you learn what’s really happening. Loretta Lou Harris isn’t the happy housewife she pretends to be. The game focuses mainly on Loretta, but other characters are introduced. Unfortunately, most are easily forgettable or don’t stick around long enough to leave an impact. More could have been done to explore these relationships, and it felt at times like characters were added just to be added.
While choices matter to an extent, significant decisions are far less frequent and usually made for you. This gave Loretta the illusion of being a choose-your-own-adventure story when in reality, it felt much more linear. That’s not necessarily bad, though. The story was enjoyable, if not a bit predictable, and I think that was the developer’s goal.
Throughout your journey, you’ll encounter a few different types of puzzles. Most don’t involve much more than rearranging ripped portions of a photograph or clicking words before they reach the center of the screen. Still, the puzzles do give you a hint as to what will happen next.
As a result, there wasn’t much thinking involved in solving the game’s bigger mysteries. Only once did I have to stop and think, ‘if I used this here, then I can do this other thing here.’ I would have liked to see more of that, so it felt like what I did really had an impact instead of watching a crime drama unfold.
The playable scenes in Loretta are broken up into different zones, which you choose when prompted. Aside from a few moments, progression is linear, and the map screen serves more as a “here’s what happens next” feature than anything.
There isn’t much regarding inventory or menus. Pushing “Options” brings up a prompt asking if you’d like to quit the game. Pressing L1 or L2 opens your inventory, which rarely has more than a few items in it. The game forces you to use an item if it’s needed at a particular time, and it’s usually shortly after the item is picked up. This makes checking your bag feel much less important since it’s basically a reminder of where you’re at in the story.
The music in Loretta isn’t particularly memorable but does add a feeling of unease, particularly in the game’s darker moments. Sound effects are loud–and sometimes surprising–and do give the game more of a disturbing element.
Loretta is a fun (and sometimes disturbing) story of what happens when you try to bury the truth. Choices matter, and each comes with its own set of consequences. And while the puzzles and active gameplay are limited, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. Gritty locations, haunting sound effects, and a seriously messed up narrative make this an adventure I’d happily play again. And maybe next time, I won’t die quite as fast.
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