Life Eater. Credit: Strange Scaffold.

If a game could land us in legal trouble, we’d be writing our review of Life Eater from prison. While playing this horror simulator from Strange Scaffold – yes, the same studio that made thyroid trafficking trendy in Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator and taught children to gamble (allegedly) in Sunshine Shuffle – we’ve carefully jotted down the sleeping schedules, commutes, and even bathroom habits of people marked for grisly fates. It’s all for a good cause (we think), but does that hold up in court?

Yes, Life Eater is as grim as it sounds. Playing as a modern-day druid, the goal is to stalk and sacrifice victims as part of an annual ritual, which supposedly keeps a mysterious god from destroying the world.

Before each killing, you’ll use a video editor-style interface to build a week-long profile of someone’s every movement. Their schedules start off hidden behind blocks of crackling TV static, which can be peeled back with a slew of creepy activities. You’ll peer through their window to find out when they sleep, watch from a nearby tree to see if they live alone, and blackmail their boss to learn about their job. Why stop there? Slash your target’s tires to see if they commute to work, and bug their home to see how many bathroom breaks they take.

Life Eater. Credit: Strange Scaffold.
Life Eater. Credit: Strange Scaffold.

A target can only be abducted when enough has been learned about them, which makes piecing together their life darkly captivating. However, it’s not all sunshine and sacrifice. Every action removes hours from a timer, and adds to a suspicion meter. Run out of time or hit three strikes on the meter, and it’s game over. Constantly having to balance the two is a thrill – some activities are quicker but very suspicious, while others take more time but won’t raise as many eyebrows. You’ve also got downtime options like work and sleeping, which remove suspicion at the cost of precious time.

It’s still not as simple as nabbing someone random off the streets, though, as each target must match the description of a cryptic hint. There are often several potential victims, which means that each year’s timer is largely run down by working out who matches the criteria. In one level, a week is spent tailing a band to see which stand-in musician won’t be missed. Elsewhere, a brutal dual killing involves figuring out which two people in a group are related. These investigative puzzles are phenomenal – logic and analytical skills are always rewarded, and you’ll feel like a genius whenever a hunch turns out to be correct.

However, diligence is the most important trait of all. After abducting someone, the last step requires carrying out a ritualistic murder where each step is based on their life. Do they commute? Remove the pancreas. Live alone? Carve up their small intestine. It’s not enough to abduct the offering – you need to know them intimately, or else fall at the final hurdle. We found ourselves jotting down increasingly unhinged notes so that we wouldn’t forget anything needed for the ritual. “Doesn’t live alone. Light brown hair. No commute,” reads one of our entries, scrawled between someone’s sleeping schedule and a tally of another person’s bathroom breaks.

Life Eater. Credit: Strange Scaffold.
Life Eater. Credit: Strange Scaffold.

This meticulousness makes Life Eater deeply immersive, but that feeling occasionally falters. The ritual’s criteria never changes, which means it feels slightly formulaic by the end of the game. Likewise, failing a sacrifice means starting that year again, which can be frustrating as it involves repeating everything again with very little deviance. However, a short runtime (it takes three to four hours to finish the game) means that by the time these mild issues become noticeable, you’re nearly at the credits anyway.

Along the way, an unsettling story is told through jagged cutscenes and fantastic performances by actor Jarrett Griffis and Strange Scaffold’s multi-talented director Xalavier Nelson Jr. The biggest question – whether the protagonist’s god is even real – looms over the plot, but there’s a compelling tale about faith, love and duty beneath it. Meanwhile, a scuzzy electronic soundtrack from composer David Mason – who scored last year’s equally unnerving fishing horror Dredge – ties the bow on Life Eater‘s skin-crawling atmosphere.

It’s surprising how deeply this tension worms its way under your skin, given that it plays through the villain’s perspective. But Life Eater’s true horror lies in how easy it makes ritual sacrifice look. Because really, if all of this can happen to poor Doug McCarthy – 33, heavy sleeper, commutes to work, lives alone, no children – then it can happen to anyone, can’t it?

Life Eater launches on April 16 for PC.


An inventive kidnapping sim, Life Eater is one of 2024’s most creative (and uncomfortable) games yet. Yes, it’s fucked up. But will you stop playing? Absolutely not.


  • Your investigative skills will be put to the test
  • Thoroughly immersive, with a killer atmosphere


  • Rituals become formulaic toward the end
  • Failing a year can be repetitive

The post ‘Life Eater’ review: twisted kidnapping simulator strikes at the heart appeared first on NME.


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