Life Eater Review – Gotta catch ’em all

Reviewed April 16, 2024 on PC




April 16, 2024


Frosty Pop


Strange Scaffold

Life Eater offers a truly unique premise. You are the reluctant follower of a God that promises devastation on the same day every year. To stave off an annual apocalypse, you must kidnap and sacrifice human targets to the all-mighty Zimforth. What this requires is careful monitoring of people’s characteristics and schedules to make sure you complete your rituals correctly.

It’s a real thinker of a game and unlike anything I’ve ever played. This type of high-brow thinking and game design is to be expected from developer Strange Scaffold, the studio that brought you last year’s El Paso Elsewhere or Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator. I just wish the idea was a little more refined and better executed.

Life Eater’s visual presentation largely represents video software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Window’s Movie Maker. A timeline communicates all events a potential target has in a given day; how many times they have a commute, pee, or how many hours a night they sleep. The spanner in the works is that each event has to be unlocked by completing a task in the menus. However, each of these tasks both take up time out of your big, foreboding clock that is counting down and also arise suspicion. Reach the maximum of the suspicion meter three times and you’ll get three strikes and be out. ‘Downtime’ activities such as sending your character to sleep will lower this suspicion meter but this again takes precious time off your clock. Now the numbers game begins.

Before long, time and task management is the name of the game. Balancing all your moving meters and trying to min-max the information you are receiving is difficult, but engaging. Yes, often you want to go the easier path of the tasks that take the least amount of time, but sometimes you’re out of options and need to make the difficult choice of prioritising suspicion over time, barely scraping by with the ticking clock. This is always tense and has you flying by the seat of your pants, a feeling I don’t get often enough in management games. Make no mistake, management mechanics are Life Eater’s biggest strength.

The game is largely a series of logic and investigative puzzles. In each of the ten levels you’ll play through, you’re given a descriptor that alludes to the target you want to keep a look out for. For example, one level’s hint was “Someone with no friends. Someone who will not be missed.” Here, I had to make note of all their activities they’d be doing at home; cooking, eating, sleeping, watching TV, etc. If these were all consistently activities noted as being performed alone, this was a good, promising lead. Au contraire. It turns out there’s that one little snippet in one of their week nights where they make a call to a friend. Careful studying is always required.

Life Eater provides ample opportunity to become intimate and familiar with its mechanics and its important you do. For one, if you notice two different people you’re investigating have the same sized slot for an event at the very same time, you might easily enough infer that these two targets are doing this activity together, and therefore not need to waste your time barking up that tree but instead where you can differentiate their behaviours. The lessons the game is teaching you are always smart and concise, but they don’t always keep up with the descriptors for a given level. In a later level, I had to find out which two of a household of four are related. You find this out via a process of elimination, noting who in the household has sex with one another. The only issue is I’m still pretty confident this was bugged for me in one of my attempts at it, only resolved once I reset. How do I know this? Two that were having sex also had another event that strongly suggested they were related, both calling their mother at different times.

When issues like this occur, it instils a mistrust of the game. I begin doubting myself rather than following leads. Trusting my gut. Sometimes a train of thought for how x target fits y descriptor is either not that deep or overthought so much that I can’t imagine it being a factor any player considers. The terminology is vague in Life Eater’s missions. You never quite experience that ‘Eureka!’ moment found in other logic puzzle games like Return of the Obra Dinn or Case of the Golden Idol where everything falls into place and makes sense. You largely have a resigned ‘Oh, that’s it?’ or are in disbelief when a level finds its conclusion.

“…You never quite experience that ‘Eureka!’ moment.”

It’s apparent that terminology and clarity aren’t Life Eater’s forte. When you finally kidnap a target, you must complete a ritual where you have to remove different organ parts. The same questions are always asked of you: “Has your target got black hair? Do they get 7 or more hours sleep? Do they live alone? Have kids? Take 2 or more toilet breaks per day? Do they have a commute for work?” Depending on your answer, you’ll be removing or leaving x or y organ alone, before adding one final stab to the heart.

As it is always the same questions and the character archetypes (save a randomised name change) remain the same no matter how many times you attempt a level, you can sort of game the system eventually. Though this is much preferred to the alternative of beating my head against a wall for a level, it does feel in stark contrast to the obtuse investigations you’ll be undertaking. Some of those questions I didn’t answer; I never found someone that didn’t get 7 hours of sleep or have 2 or more toilet breaks every day. It leaves me wondering the purpose of their inclusion, and wanting variation here. We’ve received confirmation that a post-game and endless mode is coming later down the line so I’m confident this will come… it’s just not here when it’s needed. Now.

My absolute favourite part of the entire game is the story you’re fed piecemeal between each level. Each of the ten levels is a year in the Life Eater universe. You’re following the story of the kidnapper (a name written and spoken in distortive text that you can just parse enough to be Ralph) and his qualms with having to serve the God known as Zimforth. You see all the sacrifices he has to make eating away at him, much like those very souls the horrid being is taking. A few levels in, you’re introduced to a character named Johnny who is someone that’s simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnessing Ralph’s crime and henceforth having to also be captured.

In El Paso Elsewhere, studio head Xalavier Nelson Jr controlled main character James Savage, and did an incredible job voicing a character that was mourning an old relationship. Here, Nelson now plays Johnny, providing just as strong a role, only now one of imprisonment and mourning what his life could be. You watch Johnny go through ten years of incarceration under the hand of Ralph, having lost his quality of life. Having lost everything. Ralph and Johnny bounce off each other well. You see Johnny earnestly get why Ralph is doing what he’s doing, somewhat befriending him as best he can, but you also see him loathe him for it. I eagerly awaited the end of each level, seeing how on Earth Johnny is coping in a given year of imprisonment. It kept me on the edge of my seat and also broke my damned heart in the process. Poor old Johnny.

Though there’s a good amount to like in Life Eater, I couldn’t help but feel the game needed a little more time in the oven. As mentioned earlier, the game isn’t without some bugs. Controller play isn’t fully implemented yet, something I desperately wish for because it feels like a game begging to be played handheld in bed with a cup of tea or coffee as you put your thinking hat on. Most importantly, there’s key content that just isn’t there yet. This thing is launching red hot and it’s far from a disaster of a launch, but I wish it was coming out all the more polished and shiny, prime to land big.




  • Engaging means of managing meters and levels
  • Impressive visual presentation through emulated video editing software
  • Always engaging story and performances


  • Descriptors used for searches aren't always clear and don't vary
  • Bugs that can affect progression
  • Controller play, post game and additional modes should be there at launch

Life Eater is a game I’m a little sad I can’t rate on concept and premise alone. Snooping through timelines of activities of potential targets and investigating tidbits to try and correctly take down those requested is good on paper, offering the same highs of franchises such as Hitman. However, its execution is a little underbaked. The qualifiers for targets are equally too vague and too simple with little variety, leading to friction and distrust about whether or not you’re on the right track. There is quality design in the way you’re managing meters to avoid suspicion and maximising your time, along with some stellar returning performances from the likes of Xalavier Nelson Jr. However, Life Eater needed a little more time bunkering down, taking notes, and just getting every little thing right. The perfect hunt it is not.