Lorelei and the Laser Eyes review: A neo-noir puzzle box

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes goes heavy on puzzles and atmosphere for its sprawling mystery.

Annapurna Interactive

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes marks the second partnership between developer Simogo and publisher Annapurna Interactive. Keeping consistent with both parties’ previous projects, it’s a thoroughly unique adventure, this time revolving around a non-linear series of puzzles that players must solve on their way to uncovering a hidden truth.

What happened here?

An internal shot of a woman standing near three large glass panes, her eyes glowing red.

Source: Annapurna Interactive

Lorelei and the Laser Eyes drops you right into gameplay with no introduction or context. While I initially found this decision to be a bit jarring, I eventually realized the intention behind it. Playing as a woman named Signorina, you find yourself near the entrance to a large mansion, hoping to “learn the truth.” The truth about what, exactly, you’ll have to piece together yourself along the way.

As you explore the mansion grounds and the surrounding areas, there are various clues that’ll slowly provide context to the story and inform you of the events leading up to your arrival. As a result of the game’s non-linear design, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to piece together clues and construct a sort of timeline.

One of the best quality-of-life features in Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is Signora’s photogenic memory. It can be used to recall a letter, document, or image that she has previously seen, ditching the need to constantly retrace your steps and return to the familiar areas. It saved me a ton of time as I reread messages dozens of times over in search of hints.

I found the story to be a bit slow to start, but it picks up when the narrative dots connect. The game’s insistence on secrecy and making the player figure out everything themself means that it’s hard to engage with the opening segments of the game, but there’s a consistent increase of momentum that leads to a climax.

An eerie atmosphere

Signorina standing outside of the Hotel Letztes Jahr.

Source: Annapurna Interactive

The developer recommends that you play Lorelei and the Laser Eyes in a dark or dimly lit room, which I did for about 45 minutes before flicking the lights back on. Simogo absolutely nails creepy atmosphere and suspense without the use of jump scares or grotesque visuals. Instead, it finds horror in the mundane, such as bloody shoe prints in a courtyard as a cute dog cluelessly trots around the area, or the static on a monitor slowly fading away as a haunting picture comes into view. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes is filled with moments that made a chill go up my spine.

Equally unsettling is the ominous music that accompanies you on your journey to discover the truth. The use of pianos, echoed voices, and synths contribute to the feeling of unease as you enter new areas and uncover new clues. A couple of the songs felt like something you’d hear in an adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel.

There’s also a real charm to the black-and-white, pseudo-retro graphics that define the art style of Lorelei and the Laser Eyes. I admired the finer details, too, such as the dim, flickering lighting, or the fact that the stationary camera will gently sway when you stand still. It all adds to the peculiar feeling of being watched and observed.

Unsolved mysteries

A low-poly man pointing a gun at something off-camera.

Source: Annapurna Interactive

Where Lorelei and the Laser Eyes truly shines is in its various puzzles. It’s essentially like playing through one large escape room as virtually every door, container, instrument, etc. requires you to enter a code, remember a pattern, or enter a password. It’s rare that a modern game warrants the use of good old-fashioned pen and paper, but Lorelei and the Laser Eyes had me scribbling phrases, dates, and locations like a madman.

The game’s non-linear design relieves some of the stress that comes with any puzzle game. You’ll inevitably run up against a puzzle with seemingly no solution, but there are thankfully other areas to explore and other puzzles to tackle. In several cases, stepping away from a confusing puzzle and exploring other areas brought the insight I needed to solve whatever was stumping me. There’s nothing more rewarding than the sound of a padlock successfully unlocking after your tenth attempt at cracking the code.

Multiple images cut together of a woman in a room glowing pink and red.

Source: Annapurna Interactive

It’s also worth noting that while Lorelei and the Laser Eyes tracks your “truth recovered” in the pause menu, you don’t need to achieve 100% truth in order to roll credits on the game. Instead, the true completionists are incentivized to go through and overturn every last stone. It’s something I might have felt more motivated to do if it wasn’t for Signora’s slow walking speed, something that wore on me as time went on. It made certain sequences drag and felt frustrating when I wanted to go back and re-explore previous areas.

I was also puzzled by the controller layout for this game. When playing on Switch, every button that isn’t a directional button (analog sticks and d-pad) is an interaction button used to pick up an item or examine an object. However, if you’re not standing near something you can interact with, all of these buttons open the status menu. There were countless instances where I unintentionally opened the status menu while trying to interact with something or kept opening a letter in my inventory because I tried to use the B button to back out. Lorelei feels like a throwback to point-and-click adventure games, and I genuinely wonder if movement and menu navigation would feel better (even on a Switch) if that was actually the case.

The eyes of the cosmos

Official key art for Lorelei and the Laser Eyes.

Source: Annapurna Interactive

Lorelei and the Lasers Eyes delivers challenging puzzles alongside a mystifying narrative. It successfully trains your brain to overanalyze, experiment, and ask questions. All hallmarks of an excellent puzzle game. I was frustrated by some technical design decisions that slowed the pace and led to unintentional errors, but still had a thoroughly good time working my way through this otherworldly puzzle box.

This review is based on a Nintendo Switch code provided by the publisher. Lorelei and the Laser Eyes launches on May 16, 2024, for PC and Switch.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

  • Challenging puzzles
  • Non-linear design eases the stress of puzzle-solving
  • Creepy atmosphere
  • Rewards close attention to detail
  • Slow character movement
  • Awkward button layout
From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola