If you're not already aware, there's this super fun co-op horror game making waves across the internet. You've probably scrolled past clips on social media with these orange guys exploring some factory-looking place and meeting their hilarious doom. Yeah, that’s probably the the buzz around Lethal Company, a co-op horror game crafted by the 21-year-old solo developer Zeekerss. The game hit Early Access on October 23, 2023, and has garnered over 170,000 positive reviews to date. As of writing, it boasts a concurrent player count of 184140, securing the 9th position on the SteamDB 24h Peak charts. Despite not flaunting impressive graphics or complex gameplay, somehow it keeps players hooked and getting their buddies on board. So, what's the secret sauces that make this game so addictive?
- Emphasis on teamwork
It's not called “Lethal Man” for a reason. Lethal Company thrives on a crew of industrious employees (us) collaborating like a well-oiled machine. Numerous gameplay features hinge on flawless teamwork with our friends. Take, for instance, the use of the Zap Gun—a nifty item that momentarily stuns monsters, creating an opening for our teammates to go all in. But here's the kicker: the Zap Gun doesn't dish out any damage on its own. So, if you're zapping away solo instead of running away from the threats, you might end up looking a bit silly. And let's talk about nabbing the Circuit Bee's Hive—that's a two-person job. While one person acts as a distraction for the bees, the other can snatch the hive and make a dash for the base. Warning: the distractor is almost guaranteed to bite the dust. So, unless you've mastered the art of Shadow Clones, going solo in this game is a one-way ticket to isekai.
- Intricate communications system
One of the elements that cranks up the fear factor in the game is the challenge of maintaining constant communication with your teammates. Similar to Phasmophobia, the in-game voice comms operates within a limited range, mirroring real-world environments. What adds an extra layer of thrill in Lethal Company is the requirement to actually buy walkie-talkies. This means that if, for some reason, you and your buddies find yourselves strapped for cash, it might take a while before you realize your friend died to a spider attack during your separation.
Moreover, just like flashlights, walkie-talkies occupy one out of our four precious inventory slots, demanding some decision-making: do you equip each team member with their own walkie-talkie, or do you divide the team into groups, assigning a single device to each group to save inventory space? And don't forget, the walkie-talkie has a limited battery life that can be depleted if used excessively during your expedition, leading to moments of uncertainty—are your teammates dead, or are they just temporarily out of reach?
- Unpredictable elements
Like many co-op games, Lethal Company introduces dynamic elements to keep things consistently fresh and exhilarating each time you jump into a game with your pals. In Lethal Company, the maps are split into outdoor and indoor areas. While the outdoor landscapes remain consistent when arriving on different moons, the layout of indoor areas changes with every game, with the game currently featuring two distinct types of interiors: the Facility and the rarer Mansion. Thanks to the ever-changing layouts, you might find yourself getting lost often, even if you've played this game a bunch. That’s also when the Spray Paint becomes your best friend, allowing you to mark your path effectively.
But the ever-changing maps aren't the only dynamic factor. Various monsters boast different spawn rates on different moons, meaning you won't know the kind of monstrosity you'll face until it's right in front of you. Some creatures, like the chill slime-like Hygrodere, simply require a well-timed jump, while others, like the lightning-fast Bracken, can be momentarily halted with a quick gaze but will still become enraged with prolonged eye contact. All these unpredictability make every round of Lethal Company its own adventure, keeping you and your crew hooked for more.
- Tough gameplay
Unlike RPGs that rely on a compelling story to engage players, co-op games like Lethal Company aim to captivate their audience through a mix of factors, including a challenging gameplay that encourages learning through trial and error.
The good news is that the game serves up a solid challenge. Numerous gameplay mechanics aren't explicitly spelled out, like the eerie Ghost Girl, who comes with virtually no in-game information available for us as reference. Being pursued by the Ghost Girl for the first few times can induce panic, especially since she's only visible to the player she's hunting (creepy af). However, as the gameplay hours pile up, we will gradually master how to navigate these perilous encounters. Sure, there are online guides, but many strategies remain tricky to pull-off in-game—like patiently waiting behind cover to strike the Nutcracker while it reloads, which demands a decent level of teamwork and coordination to execute.
- Epic meme-worthy moments
And here's the real gem of the game—the hilarious moments that are pure meme materials. Picture this: your whole squad obliterated by lightning the second you step out of the ship. Or your buddy getting taken out by a landmine while running from a spider. Oh, and how about dying to a Hygrodere the moment you set foot in the facility? Yep, all of that happened to us. But instead of being scary, it had us rolling on the floor with laughter as we watched our friends (and ourselves) meet silly demises. The best part? We can share these epic fails online, spreading the laughs. These meme-worthy moments have cranked up the fun in our gaming sessions with friends, creating memories that we can tease each other about every time we hang out in person.
Though Lethal Company's viral fame might be seen as a stroke of luck, the game's appeal goes way beyond chance. As a gamer, I want to give major props to Zeekerss for pouring his heart into creating such an enjoyable multiplayer co-op game that can bring friends closer together. By getting hands-on with the game, I'm sure you'll uncover a charm or two for yourselves. Who knows, you and your crew might just fall head over heels for the game, just like the rest of us did.
Lethal Company is now available in Early Access on Steam.