An iron lung, or “iron lung” in English, is an enclosed machine that is used to perform assisted breathing in clinical patients who cannot breathe on their own. Moreover, this class of devices looks suspiciously like the mental image we have of what a submarine should be: a huge metal cylinder that keeps us alive in a place where we shouldn’t breathe. But unlike submarines, iron lungs have remained obsolete in favor of other forms of mechanical ventilation, which are less invasive and claustrophobic for those who suffer from it.
Iron Lung, the new terror game from David Szymanski – creator of the celebration retro shooter Dusk – we are trapped in the shoes of a prisoner who promises freedom and survives a suicide mission. The peculiarity is that this person lives in a universe where all the habitable planets have disappeared in a mysterious way, being the last hope of humanity a moon with an ocean of blood at such depths that it is possible that it can still exist alive and, through extension, the resources to perpetuate it. In this way, our protagonist, us, we have to dive into a submarine that is not ready to go down as deep as we have to, and explore these points completely on the horizon.
The game mechanics are simple. We can move with our little submarine everything we want and interact with all the objects in it, but there are only three: the buttons on the control panel, the button to photograph what is in front of our submarine and an extension cord. In addition to this we have a map with the coordinates of each of our objectives. In the control panel we are told our coordinates, the angle of the submarine and the amount of oxygen we have left, since we will not have a window or a periscope to see what we have in front of us . We can manipulate our angle and move forward or backward, and so we move through the scene: completely in squares, guided only by our coordinated switches, and the rudimentary map they made for us from satellite photographs of a depth in which he never declared.
That’s all Szymanski needs to make us feel the terror. The only way to see the outside is to take pictures, but we’ll only keep the pictures we take of the objective enclosures, and even if we want to freak out, the oxygen is so limited and the structural integrity of our sub- sailor is so precise that, the power, we tend to optimize it. That is to say, the game forces us to be efficient not because we want to, but because we cannot afford to lose our temper.
In this way, everything in Iron Lung is designed to make us feel like we’re always on the cutting edge of precision. The roads are getting harder each time, the water vapors getting bigger, there are despairs in the submarine, things are shaking against us when we shouldn’t have to do anything, and the oxygen bar not enough to sink. It also helps that the photos we take of key points get more confusing each time. What the noise of the metal combined by pressure, by the blows we suffer, by the radars warning us of obstacles, only creates present threats which are there, but which we cannot see. Because the essence of the game is radical: we have no time to waste, we cannot afford the luxury of letting go of terror if we do not want to die under it.
Iron Lung is aptly named because it looks like the submarine we’re going in. A lung of steel. Obsolete technology that, after all, keeps us alive. He’s claustrophobic, aging-inducing, and amplifying every sound, just like he does when locked in an iron lung; a place we would rather not be, but it is our last opportunity to sustain ourselves in a world that is hostile to us. And the result is a game that demonstrates that neither of the hyperrealism fails to make us feel dread when there are extremely cool mechanics, an appreciated atmosphere and absolutely extraordinary time control. .