Developed by Yakov Butuzoff and Daria Vodyanaya, Loretta is a psychological thriller visual novel set in the 1940s which tells the story of a housewife, Loretta, and her husband, Walter. The pair move from their glamorous lives in New York City to take up residence at Walter’s parents’ farm after coming into money troubles. Loretta is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery-noir portfolio, though what makes this title so unique is that we know who committed the murder from the get-go. In fact, we’re an accomplice. 

Loretta’s story very much feels like a spin on Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Loretta is dragged, penniless, to a deteriorating farmhouse in the middle of nowhere as a result of Walter’s gambling addiction. After she’s given up her glamorous life in the city and now resides as a miserable housewife in the countryside, she then discovers that her husband is cheating on her with another woman. Walter’s future is looking bright: as well as his new side fling, he’s also just completed a book which is looking to be successful. After learning that Walter has a large sum of life insurance stashed away, Loretta plots his murder.

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Loretta is the titular character of the game, a 1940s housewife who murders her husband. 

We start the game as a private detective turns up at Loretta’s door to ask questions about Walter’s disappearance. From the beginning, we’re shown that Loretta is an unreliable narrator. For one, she introduces herself to the player as an unemployed ornithologist—we learn later that she’s made this up. Loretta will also lead you on by making you think that your choices matter, only to reveal that what’s happened is always going to happen; we can’t change the past. This is somewhat annoying, though is effective in reducing your trust in Loretta and her narration.

We can choose to help Loretta cover her deed up, or turn her back on the web of lies and speak the truth. As an adventure game, there are five endings in total to unlock. Despite this, I wouldn’t say there’s an awful lot of replay value in Loretta, as the majority of the story will remain the same asides from the ending. Which is a shame, because it only took me two and a half hours to complete one playthrough.

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At the start of the game, Loretta is visited by a private investigator who is looking into Walter’s disappearance. 

I love the art style in Loretta. Most of the gameplay will be made up of pixel art, however when a new character is introduced or during key moments, we’ll be treated to a more detailed snapshot of the scene. The only downside is that Loretta is a point-and-click game but interactable objects aren’t highlighted, so you’ll have to do a lot of pixel hunting to make sure you don’t miss anything.

You’ll be able to move Loretta across the room and interact with any available objects to solve puzzles or make decisions. There are also dialogue options during conversations. I found that a lot of these didn’t matter, however: if you were given two questions to choose from, Loretta would usually ask the leftover one anyway.

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There’s sometimes a more detailed scene drawing when a new character is introduced or to illustrate a key event. 

At the end of each chapter, you’ll usually be given a puzzle to solve. I really wasn’t a fan of these. Some of them didn’t make sense at all, and you would have to fail first to work out how to solve it. On top of this, some of the jigsaws were too easy, as all you had to do was rotate the piece to the correct angle and it would then slot itself into the correct position on the puzzle. Either way, I think Loretta could have gone without these additions, or they could have at least been made more challenging.

Despite this, the actual writing in Loretta is really compelling and I loved the novel-style descriptions. With such basic visuals, having scene descriptions made each scene more immersive, which was very much appreciated. There were a few typos in the writing, but this isn’t a major issue and I’m sure these will be picked up on and patched in the future.

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The puzzles that you have to solve at the end of each chapter are really odd.

One of the biggest highlights of Loretta is the audio editing and music. The ambient sounds used to set the scene are really effective at further painting a picture past the pixelated graphics. Yet, there’s also a tone to them which is almost unnerving—even during the quieter moments. The music is also really well done, with a few piano covers of classical pieces.

Loretta’s enigmatic story is perfect for a psychological thriller and its stylish, pixelated visuals are supported by detailed scene descriptions and immersive ambient sounds and music to paint a picture of each scene in your head. At only two and a half hours long, Loretta is an enticing playthrough despite the flaws in its gameplay mechanics.

Jess reviewed Loretta on PC with a review code.

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