Loretta – PS5 Review

I took one look at the trailer for Loretta and thought it would be my bag. Hand me a good story and I’ll be happy. Coming from Yakov Batuzov, this 1940’s noir delivers a thriller full of secrets, lies and intertwined lives that successfully kept me engaged. Whilst it is very light on gameplay, the story of a neglected housewife, a troubled writer and everyone in-between feels compelling and thoughtful. Originally released on Steam last year, it’s now been brought to the Playstation 5.

It’s going to be difficult not to spoil Loretta. The game is largely plot-driven but the story begins with the housewife being visited by a detective at the rural home she shares with her husband Walter. He’s a writer and, at the worst possible time, he’s gone missing. Whilst the mystery doesn’t remain so for long, it is a decent starting point. It wastes no time unravelling and reveals more layers from the main characters. There’s a lot of secrets being held by the cast and playing through each chapter does well to build intrigue more and more.

The plot escalates nicely. It begins as a missing person inquiry and ends with one of four final conclusions. I did wonder if the story would get carried away with itself. Thankfully, from the two endings I’ve seen, Loretta’s journey remained consistent and made sense. It does help that, very early on, she has her hands dirty. I think that allows the tale to go places without jumping too many sharks. The deeds that are done feel understandable, if nothing else.

It’s not tightly wrapped up. I have a couple of queries about some loose ends but these could also be red herrings. By the end of the story, there’s several threads being pulled that results in an intriguing narrative. Nobody comes out of it clean but I was still satisfied with the route the story took. It’s written really well with the main cast feeling like they’re motivated by their own desires. It’s somewhat twist-heavy but there is a good sense of player agency within the story.

The presentation is occasionally brilliant. For the most part, scenes resort to a distant, pixel appearance which I wasn’t entirely onboard with. I grew tired of the look quickly but I will admit there’s plenty of detail to it. This does allow for the bigger flourishes to pop. The close-ups give us a greater look at our cast. Some shots like to linger although there’s a swift pacing that keeps the tale moving. The locales deliver a strong sense of place and it all feels firmly grounded in reality. Some Hitchcockian moments that come into play as Loretta’s facade starts to wane. As stakes raise, the game takes more chances with feeling occasionally otherworldly and dreamlike but it’s never wandering too far from solid ground.

This continues with how music is used. It can often be muffled indoors but the score is often used to compliment a scene. The wind rustling the wheat fields can be accompanied with just the right tempo and sometimes the score can aid the game’s moments of dark humour. As a complete work, it does well to cement and nail its style. It’s atmospheric and there’s some loving homages to the game’s obvious inspirations.

Gameplay feels very light. Most of your time will be used wandering around the game’s chapters looking for something to solve a puzzle. Areas are small and, whilst there’s plenty to interact with, they’re mostly there to add more incidental dialogue. None of the puzzles are tricky to solve with key objects being a few doors away, at worst. I was never frustrated although one section of time-pressured lock-picking took a few attempts.

Aside from these, you have dreamy interludes that don’t serve much of a purpose beyond giving you something else to do. Again, there’s not much of a puzzle to them. What I needed to do became clear very quickly. These are also very small and tend to arrive near the start of a chapter. Of course, there’s also dialogue choices which can change how the story goes. There’s a few moving parts that can be influenced and later scenes will alter depending on an earlier decision.

I like that it can pivot at more than one point and it has made me revisit old chapters to gain some new knowledge. On my first playthrough, I ran on instinct and came out with a conclusion I felt happy with. Having dug around, I think any of the routes work out just as well. Some little sub-plots remain very self-contained but the cast can be greatly effected by your actions. Loretta’s no saint but you look to try and redeem her or push her as far as you dare.

Loretta is a fascinating short story that really does well to evoke those pulp noirs of old. There is a surprising attention to detail from the isolated family home to the seedy motels the mystery takes you to. It’s a well-written homage to the genre with some great presentational touches. It is very slim on gameplay and I will admit the dreamier interludes don’t seem to add much. Still, the decisions you make pack a real weight and I came away from my playthrough wanting to dig into it more.

8 Overall
+ A really intriguing, well-written plot.
+ Atmospheric and occasionally tense.
+ The four endings all feel viable.
+ Presented with real style.
- Some of the gameplay sections can feel superfluous.
- Puzzles don't really allow for much thinking.
- Not every sub-plot gets a resolution.
Loretta is a stylish thriller that does well to make decisions feel impactful. The presentation is top-notch and makes playful nods towards its inspirations whilst delivering some flourishes of its own. The story feels tight and thoughtful whilst giving the player plenty of chances to influence proceedings. I was satisfied with my ending but the others feel equally believable. I do think the dreamy interludes can feel occasionally superfluous and the puzzles don't really allow for much thought. Despite this, the intriguing narrative pulled me through.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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