“Cute girls doing cute things” is a sub-genre of media that you’re probably well familiar with already. For those who seek an experience less relaxed and more thrilling, there’s also “Cute girls doing uncharacteristically dangerous things”. This alternative naturally lends itself well to games, and today, we’ve got another one. Lorena and the Land of Ruins arrives, promising a blend of shooting, platforming, and a cute girl plundering for treasure.
Get Guns and Get Money
Lorena Lumiere is a 20-year-old (yes, really) Treasure Hunter who’s got one goal: to get paid and to do it fast. With a little sister who’s only months away from dying of a disease, she’s got precious little time to scavenge ruins and make enough money and buy the medicine to cure her. Thus she sets out to gather treasure from old ruins and sell them for profit. These ruins are dangerous, however, containing bandits, monsters, and old machinery that is conspicuously from our own world. Tanks, planes, guns, and ballista are all around the strange world Lorena inhabits. Some, such as a plane at her base of operations, are even hailed as deities. Just after the player’s first job, Lorena is tasked with exploring ruins and investigating the true nature of the machinery.
This isn’t a particularly new setup, but for what it is, it works. Lorena’s relationship with her sister, told through flashbacks and letters she receives through the game, is sweet and earnest. The world’s lore failed to grip me, but I accepted this as simply being an excuse for having a higher variety of enemies and imagery.
Jump ‘n Shoot
Lorena and the Land of Ruins is a fast-paced 3rd Person shooting game with elements inspired by the likes of Gears of War and Resident Evil. With a decent variety of weapons, you’ll run through levels whilst shooting away at your enemies and grabbing whatever loot you can find along the way. To mix things up are occasional platforming sections and light puzzle-solving as well.
On paper, this sounds like a winning formula. However, a complete and total lack of polish means that this is far from the case. Lorena and the Land of Ruins just feels terrible to play. While I haven’t encountered any instances of Lorena clipping through the floor, the overall game’s feel is totally weightless. Guns don’t have a sense of speed, inertia, or feedback to them, and targets don’t respond to being shot at until after they’re dead. Guns also don’t have to be reloaded at all. On top of that, the difference between guns is purely statistical rather than something felt by the player directly. Enemies die so quickly and so effortlessly that you have no real reason to consider whether to use a pistol or a shotgun in a given situation.
The only somewhat novel element to the shooting is the parrying mechanic. When enemies fire off colored bolts of energy at the player, you can reflect or volley them by shooting them back at the target. A simple affair by itself, but add some enemies to the mix and it can become a legitimately stressful but fun task in micromanagement. These moments don’t happen that often, though.
The last big element of play is platforming and puzzle-solving. The puzzle-solving element by itself never evolves past “shoot this thing here and a pathway will open up”, making me wonder why it’s there to begin with. It happens so often that it winds up dragging down the pacing of each level just by being there, while also not being nearly engaging enough by itself.
The platforming is equally as disappointing. Level design never really evolves past basic jumping over bottomless pits. There are no standout level gimmicks, it never coalesces with gunplay or puzzle-solving, and platforming just doesn’t feel good. The mere act of jumping completely kills Lorena’s momentum too. Jump out of a dash and Lorena’s speed will vanish instantly. It feels stiff, wooden, and graceless—much like the rest of the gameplay.
Speedrunning, Rankings, and Difficulty
Lorena and the Land of Ruins is broken up into a series of levels that the player can tackle anytime. One big aspect of play that’s pushed is the game’s speedrunning and score attack element. After the end of each level, you’re graded based on your clear time, percentage of defeated enemies, retries, and shot accuracy. Sadly, the game’s different difficulty selections do not make any difference in score requirements. So if you’re feeling complacent, you can simply lower the difficulty on a level you’ve been struggling with and nab an easy S Rank.
Typically, I play on the hardest difficulty setting that a game offers, but I quickly found out how unpleasant Lorena’s Very Hard mode was. Enemies are relentlessly aggressive and dart around the screen so quickly that they feel impossible to keep up with. Due to the aforementioned lack of polish, it’s easy to die without feeling like you know what went wrong. Dying should feel rewarding because that is a learning experience for the player to improve, but not so here. There’s no rhyme or reason for much of anything that happens. With all of this in mind, I switched to Normal Mode for a slightly more pleasant playing experience.
It’s not like you’ll really ever have to learn, though. Bizarrely, enemies don’t respawn after you kill some of them and then die yourself. You also have infinite lives, so simply throwing yourself at enemies and taking potshots at them is a perfectly valid tactic. Strategy need not apply here.
It’s a shame, because the speedrunning element is a fairly novel and well-considered one on the surface. There are checkpoints, the game keeps track of records, and the player is rewarded for high rankings with in-game money used to purchase more guns and items. But even as someone who greatly enjoys speedrunning, I had no interest in engaging with it here because of the game’s overwhelming number of problems.
Visuals and Presentation
“Moe” is one of those things that’s deceptively hard to get right. It takes a level of finesse and reverence for the characters depicted to really get it right. There’s a thin line between ‘endearingly real’ and ‘cynically fake’ that divides characters and media that use moe as a selling point. Lorena and the Land of Ruins is planted firmly in the latter camp. Lorena herself is somewhat cute, but she’s let down by having nothing but awful animations. There’s no keyframing, buildup, weight, or any sense of realism to any movement she makes. It’s as if she, and by extension everyone else in the game, exists completely independent of the environment they inhabit. About the only thing that will react to stuff is Lorena’s clothes getting torn to shreds if she happens to get blown up.
This animation problem also negatively impacts gameplay. Characters move very erratically and in a way that’s hard to predict. Due to the aforementioned lack of keyframing too, the enemy’s movements and attacks feel like guesswork to properly play around.
Worse still are the character modeling and environments. As the main character, Lorena gets this the best, but even she doesn’t look particularly good. Everyone and everything else, though? They look terrible. They lack any sense of detail, character, or cohesion, and most of them are copy-pasted with no attempt made to hide that fact. One of the key story characters uses the exact same design as the receptionist NPCs and some enemies, and the only thing to set her apart is a pair of glasses.
I can forgive dated-looking visuals, but the lack of cohesion or polish on anything is much harder to look over. Even when playing the game on its “Impressive” graphics setting, it looked like anything but.
The music is decent enough, at least. The battle themes are a bit repetitive, but add a nice sense of thrill. Elsewhere, the music is simple and light, but melodic enough to help bring up the mood where the graphics fail it.
I found very little to enjoy during my time with Lorena and the Land of Ruins. Through and through, it’s a very poorly made game that can’t really do any of the things it sets out to do well at all. Gunplay is poor because of an appalling lack of polish and bad game balance. Platforming is weightless, unsatisfying, and thoughtless. Then there’s the game’s moe aesthetic, which is completely ruined by incohesive, wooden, and massively dated visuals. The only thing I’d say is sort of a saving grace is the rather novel speedrunning element, but that’s only if you’re willing to put up with the many warts of gameplay. Lorena may be a treasure hunter, but all you’ll find in this game are duds.
LORENA AND THE LAND OF RUINS IS NOT RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to NekoNyan for a PC review code for this title.
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A hobbyist who took up the pen to write about their favorite pastime: games. While a lover of many genres, Isaiah Parker specializes in Platformers, RPGs, and competitive multiplayer titles. The easiest way into his heart is to have great core gameplay mechanics. Self-proclaimed world’s biggest Sonic fan. Follow him @ZinogreVolt