Usually, in horror games, ambiguity is key, no one is going to fear something that they know everything about. It’s much more powerful to give the player limited information and let their imagination run wild. However, too much ambiguity can leave the player feeling confused and it takes away from the scares as they desperately try to make sense of the story. Sadly, this is the trap that Detention falls into, although it is an admirable attempt at horror for the first game from the up and coming studio (Red Candle Games).
The foundation of the game’s story is that a teacher has gone missing in a school, and you play as a student stuck within the school due to the unexpected typhoon that has destroyed the bridge back to the main town. It’s also briefly stated that the country, Taiwan, is under martial law. This is more or less all the story you’re given for much of the game and whilst it can be good to leave the player in the dark; frightened, uneasy and with a sense of trepidation about what has happened… It leads to a mountain of questions that are never really answered. As an example, the enemies seen in the game are spirit-like and no explanation is given as to why they are there or why they want to hurt you. The story eventually starts to become about the main character’s family in later parts, this feels a little random and again, very little explanation is provided.
Having said that, the gameplay is enjoyable. It is a point and click adventure so the controls are incredibly easy and feel natural straight away. To complement this, there is also a very clever mechanic wherein you click the right mouse button to hold your breath, this is generally used in conjunction with evading the enemies in the game. The game is very puzzle based, which personally I love, although nearly all the puzzles are easy to work out (aside from a certain late game puzzle with mirrors) and even if you struggle, it won’t take long to find the solution through exploring and trial and error since the environments you find yourself in are small.
Luckily, the game has very generous save points so even when you die (which is rare), you never reload far from the point you had reached. The game is incredibly linear because it is story based so the replay value is non-existent but the events that happen in the game do get quite messed up and occasionally gory; this is not a game for the faint of heart.
Interestingly, this game is very slow-paced. It feels like a casual horror game, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but this made the game a bit less enjoyable for me and I didn’t really have a compelling reason to resume playing it. However, it means that the game doesn’t rely on jumps scares to frighten its players, it relies on the sounds and sights of the environment coupled with the unsettling events that the player witnesses and even takes part in. This is something you don’t often see in bigger horror games and makes a welcome change.
This game is very good at creating an unsettling atmosphere throughout the entire game. The music puts you on edge but there are also a lot of environmental sounds that make the game immersive, delightfully creepy and will make you stop dead in your tracks. Sometimes, you can hear sounds that are half crying and half laughing (this really got to me) and you’ll rue the day you underestimated the scariness of footsteps cutting through silence. The same can be said for the art style, it could be described as pencilled film noir so the objects in the game look soft. The colours of the environment are dull blacks, greys, dark greens, but some objects such as the characters or places of interest are very brightly coloured such as a crimson red glow, this provides a visually appealing contrast which I never tired of seeing during my playthrough. In addition, lighting in the game looks specifically chosen to highlight certain areas, these things when combined, really add to the atmospheric nature of the game.
Players who enjoy story based games that don’t mind very limited combat, a slower pace, solving environmental puzzles and like original story events that are quite dark will have fun playing this game. I played it in my evenings as the slow pace makes the game surprisingly relaxing and whilst nothing really blew me away or was very original or innovative and It’s a shame that the game wasn’t engrossing enough for me to get excited about coming back. Although I did enjoy watching the story unfold and was interested when playing the game.
The premise of Detention of an interesting horror game; a rare sight nowadays. Unfortunately, the game itself needs a lot of work and I believe it would’ve been miles better with a bit more polish. This studio is definitely one to watch for future games.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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