When I saw the press release about a point-and-click adventure about a 1940s housewife trying to get away with the murder of her cheating and gambling-addicted husband, I definitely arched an eyebrow. I’m a big fan of anything and anyone thinking outside the box, and Loretta sounded like it qualified. I, apparently, am a huge fan of point-and-click sleuthing adventures with games like Curse of the Golden Idol and Return of the Obra Dinn (both Game of the Year nominees, both are games you should play), so this sounded right up my alley.
The story is compelling: Loretta and Walter Harris leave their comfortable life in New York to move into Walter’s deceased parents’ dilapidated farm in the middle of nowhere. Walter is a semi-successful published novelist specializing in detective fiction, while Loretta is his dutiful and unsatisfied wife. Without going too far into spoiler territory, their leaving New York was a calculated move by Walter to flee gambling debts, and things start spiraling out of control to the point where Loretta murders Walter and dumps his body in the well on the farm. The whole of the story at that point is how Loretta deals with the various characters in the story as they are either investigating Walter’s disappearance or involved in Loretta’s life and asking nosy questions about Walter. Generally, you’re given two options: lie, lie, and continue to lie, or take a farming implement found around the house and murder them. By the end of Loretta, you can rack up quite the body count if you so choose.
Loretta is a little less of a game and more of a guided experience and story that you’re simply moving through. While Loretta has a handful of Wario-like minigames that you have to get through to unlock the next series of events or story beats, there were no real puzzles or brain teasers. Honestly, the point-and-click adventure was fairly basic as well: if there’s a locked door, the key will be in the next room. You’re honestly just going through the shell of a game to get to the next narrative beat, which is really what Loretta has going for it.
Loretta’s graphics are somewhat muddy pixels that give the feeling of playing the game on an old Commodore 64 (I’m looking at you, original Maniac Mansion). Sometimes, the basic art nicely conveys the story, but other times, I found myself squinting at a pile of pixels and trying to figure out what I was looking at. Fortunately, mousing over things in the environment will let you know what everything is if you can engage with the item.
I spent my playthrough of Loretta, clocking in at about four hours, generally trying not to murder anyone else, simply lying to everyone and hoping I could get away with my crimes. That said, on finishing the story and rolling credits, I could load up a prior chapter and start cutting a bloody swath through the characters of the story, which was fairly entertaining for a bit.
I appreciated Loretta for what it was: a nice little bloody romp through the life of a housewife pushed too far, but it’s a tough game to recommend. As a game developed by what appears to be a two-person team, they did a fantastic job with what they had, but it is an extremely thin experience outside of the story it is trying to tell.