Lobotomy Corporation is a brutal, violent, subversive, cartoonish, bloody, eldritch mess.
How you feel about that mess is going to depend largely on how you feel about games like #FalloutShelter, films like Cabin in the Woods and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It starts simply enough; you’re introduced to your new job as site supervisor for a company called (ominously) Lobotomy Corporation by a friendly if boastful AI named Angela.
Angela lays the scene: in the world of Lobotomy Corporation, energy demands have far exceeded supply, so utility companies have had to look to alternative sources. In this case, those alternative sources seem chiefly to be nameless extra-dimensional horrors that feed on flesh and insanity in equal amounts, and that desire nothing other than the subjugation and eternal torment of their human captors.
Dream job, right? Your task, then, is to either please or subdue these monstrous entities through a combination of activities, things like feeding them, cleaning them or their cells, or the unambiguously named “violence work” which generally involves massive red needles and egregious physical harm. Sadly, it’s far more often your employees that are the receiving end of the aforementioned violence despite their best intentions.
Inevitably, everything falls apart
As you might expect, Angela seems not to be the pleasant, subservient intelligence she first presents as, and gets considerably more elusive and mysterious as days pass and you continue to successfully harvest energy from the creatures you’ve penned in the subterranean levels of your facility. The creatures themselves tend to devolve along similar paths, becoming progressively more dangerous and unpredictable.
Unfortunately, this tendency also begins to infect your employees after prolonged exposure to the unspeakable horrors under their care. In the end, the entire wicked undertaking seems doomed to failure, but every restart offers new play options, new ways to interact with Angela, and new demented monstrosities to (attempt to) wrangle.
Ugly, beautiful and everything in between
If, like me, you’re way into the idea of the banality and mundanity of modern global corporations concealing a creeping, insidious horror, and using inhuman elder gods from the black bowels of the earth as metaphors for the way modern commerce alienates workers from their labor, Lobotomy Corporation strikes a bunch of the right chords.
That said, it’s a bit of an ugly duckling in a number of ways (not all of them of the intentional, grisly abomination variety). The UI is very spare, sometimes bordering on amateurish. The game originates in Korea, and the localization into English is pretty rough in spots, though sometimes the bizarre cadence of Angela’s speech actually serves her character, making her seem otherworldly and deranged.
I found in my time with Lobotomy Corporation that the longer I played, the more I understood its systems, and the further I could take my makeshift corporations before everything imploded. That said, the game doesn’t do a tremendous job of explaining itself upfront.
On one hand, this is a bit frustrating in the early going, as you’re not sure how to best interact the creatures in your care, or safeguard your employees. But this uncertainty also lends itself to the vague sense of unease that Lobotomy Corporation inspires in its best moments. The less you fully grasp the game’s systems, the less control you have; the less control you have, the more likely things are to melt down, and the more terrifying it is when it happens
Surrender to the madness
That point of chaos when everything begins to spin out of control is actually when the game shines brightest. Yes, it’s a bit disappointing to watch your work dissolve and your carefully groomed employees (who often get promoted for their work at the end of a day’s harvest) get devoured. But watching them degenerate into gibbering flesh puppets with emptied, bloody eye sockets and mouths stitched shut is also kind of glorious in a darkly satisfying way.
The gloaming right before things start to spin completely into panic and disaster is generally nerve-wracking, but when it’s clear the entire enterprise is about to collapse directly into hell it’s a great deal of fun to sit back and see just how badly things can go before the end.
It reminds me in a way of watching a game of DefCon where the AI inevitably nukes itself and the planet back into prehistory, and it’s similarly gratifying. Or maybe I’m just a monster. That’s a distinct possibility too.
Genre: Simulation, Management
Release date: Currently in Early Access
Developer: Moon Project