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Game Review: Decay

What is it about horror that fascinates people so much?  Why do we enjoy being scared?  Personally, I think it’s the adrenaline.  The rush of chemicals flooding our brain as we sense danger, followed by the relief when we realize we’re okay after.  Horror movies have let us experience this for years, but horror games are an even greater experience.  When we play a scary game, we’re actually in control, so the scares are directly towards us.  It’s much scarier when we have to take the actions knowing something may pop out at us at any time.  In previous posts I’ve mentioned that, even though I’m a bit of a wimp, I still play scary games.  The most recent of which is the Indie game Decay.

Each Part’s cover is the same except background color

Decay is available on XBL in four separate chapters.  The story begins with the player waking up in an abandoned apartment building after apparently trying to kill yourself.  As you search for clues about who you are & why you tried to do such a thing, you discover that all is not well.  In fact, you’re not technically in the real world anymore.  Instead, you’re trapped inside a dark, nightmarish world created by a serial killer dubbed “The Pale Man.”  You, your family, & all of his other victims are his slaves in this dark world, & you have to find a way to set things right.

Not trying to spoil anything, but this screen led to my first true “JESUS CHRIST!” moment

The gameplay is point-&-click adventure style.  You move your cursor around to search the environment for items you need to reach the next area or solve the next puzzle.  It’s pretty simple, since your icon changes whenever you scroll over something you can interact with.  Part 4 changes things up a bit in that you move the entire camera (which is a bit disorienting).  The game is heavy on puzzles.  They range from finding an item you need to reach a key, playing tic-tac-toe with the dead, replaying a melody on a toy piano, to disarming a bomb.

Narrative: Although the story itself is rather sparse, I think the way you continue to find clues that slowly reveal more & more keeps you interested in it, & motivates you to continue through the game.  Nothing is what it seems in this game, not even the player character.  You begin by thinking you’re a man named Martin Wallace who killed himself because his daughter, son-in-law & granddaughter died in a car accident, but by Part 3 you realize that you’re not Martin… at least not completely.  But by the end everything is tied together.  I like that the character learns about what’s going on as you do.  I have to give the developers credit for coming up with something original.  The story doesn’t match anything I can recall in either games or movies.  So for what plot is there, it’s interesting enough to drive the story on.  Score: 4

I always think houses like this look like my house…

Mechanics: Simple but effective.  What little controls there are work fine, but it’s nothing dramatic.  There are no quick-time events or combat.  But there are two gameplay elements that deserve special attention: the puzzles & the horror aspect.  The puzzles range from easy scavenger hunts to mind-bending tests of patience.  Especially in Part 4, the puzzles require a great deal of concentration & time.  But it’s never the same type of puzzle each time.  There’s a lot of variety, & you can tell the developers put a lot of thought into them.  Although personally, I had a harder time with the balance section in Part 4 than anywhere else.  I fell off that plank dozens of times.  The second aspect that deserves attention is the horror aspect.  After all, this is a horror game.  Decay relies heavily on atmosphere, tension & subtlety.  I constantly felt tense as I play through each part, just waiting for something to happen & not wanting to look.  There were a lot of things that were creepy.  Like the doll that keeps showing up, or after checking behind a shower curtain to find the tub empty you close it & there’s a thrashing figure behind it now, or having to search a room for clues when there’s clearly the shadow of a hanging man in the background.  Most of the scares make you gasp.  That’s not to say there weren’t a few moments that made me shout, “Jesus Christ!”  I think the reason those truly frightening moments are so effective is because they’re so rare.  If stuff’s popping up at you all the time you become desensitized.  Score: 5

Does anything good ever happen in showers in horror?

Aesthetics: For an Indie game, the graphics in Decay are amazing.  Everything has a dark, grainy quality that fits the game very well.  The only complaint I have is that you’ll be seeing the same rooms over & over again as you go back searching for the next clue or the next item you need.  However, this is a minor complaint, as most of the time you’ll find things slightly different from before (assuming you’re making progress).  Like the visuals, the sound adds to the atmosphere.  For the most part there’s only music.  And even though it’s almost all one song, you really don’t notice it because it fits the game so well.  Slow, not quite dark & not quite sad.  In fact, the few times the music changed I found myself not liking it, dreading why it had changed.  But overall the music fits well.  There’s also not much in terms of sound effects either, which makes it really stand out when there is something.  You’ll find yourself jumping when you hear a door open or rapping coming from the closet.  It should also be said that there’s no voice acting, with the few parts of dialogue being delivered in text.  That being said, the way in which visuals & sound enhance the eerie game overcomes it’s sparseness.  Score: 5

Replay Value: Relatively low.  Unless you just really love the game, there isn’t much reach to replay Parts 1-3.  Part 4, however, has several different endings based on your choices near the end.  There are eight in total.  Score: 3

Breakdown

untitled

Overall Score: 4

Final Words: If you’re the kind of gamer who can take their time to soak in the atmosphere of a game & likes to use their mind more than their trigger finger, definitely check this series out.  But if you’re a twitchy action-junkie, steer clear.

Title: Decay
Console: XBL
Rating: Violence 3/Sex 0 (except Part 4 which scores 2)/Mature Content 3
Cost: 800 MP total (80 for Part 1, 240 for others)
Developer: Shining Gate
Release Date: April 26, 2011 (Part 4)
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Filed under 4, Horror, Indie, Reviews, XBox Live

Celebrating Independence… With Gaming!

What better way to celebrating our country’s independence than by staying inside, avoiding your family, & bunkering down with some quality games?  Really, I’m not that unsociable.  I do plan on having a barbecue with my parents later today.  But when you work in emergency services like I do, you tend to avoid crowds on your off days, especially on holidays.  (At least at work I get paid to deal with drunk idiots.)  And I have taken breaks from my games to play with my new kittens outside.  But after the heat, rain, & bug bites, I eventually seek refuge in the climate-controlled, pest-free comfort of my room.

But what to play?  Seeing as how I’ve completed most of the games in my library at least once, I decided to some ‘trolling on XBL & see what indie games were out.  I was looking for something different, something I hadn’t heard about yet, like Limbo or Death Spank (not that there’s anything wrong with them, I was just feeling adventurous).  So after browsing the highest rated I downloaded a few trials for games that looked interesting.  What was the outcome & what games were worth paying for the full version?

House of 1000 Demons

This is sort of the gaming version of those R.L. Stine Goosebumps Choose-You-Adventure books.  The entire gameplay is text-based.  The game consists of sloppy text over a blurry red & black background.  Once you’ve read the text, you’ll have several options for your next action.  Sometimes it’s simply moving to the next room, others are interactions with things in the room.  Honestly, I only played through the trial & wasn’t interested enough to buy the full game.  But in that time I’d run into a bleeding first aid box, a headless woman in the closet with a cell phone who either ignored me, sliced me to death with a katana or beat me for trying to touch her.  I get the feeling that, despite the dark visuals & soundtrack, the game is trying to be more funny than scary.  It wasn’t even able to scare me, which is pretty bad.

A sample of your background

Beat Hazard

Beat Hazard is a shooter that reminds me a lot of the old Asteroid game, but with much better graphics.  The main selling point of the game is that the action is driven by your music.  The game scans your music library (& comes with six tracks in case you don’t have any) & the louder, more intense the music, the more powerful you become.  The graphics also respond to the music, becoming more vibrant with the beat.  Each level is a specific song.  I tried the game with a variety of music, & it seems to work best with rock, heavy metal, etc.  Anything that’s fast & with a heavy base.  Lucky for me, I have a lot of Disturbed & Breaking Benjamin songs.  The controls are pretty simple: use the left stick to move & the right stick to shoot.  I haven’t bought the full version yet, but I most likely will.

Is it any wonder the start screen has a seizure warning?

 Decay

For the life of me I can’t figure out why I insist on torturing myself by playing horror games.  But after the trial of Decay I just had to buy the full game.  Decay comes in four chapters, each of which has to be bought separately (80 for the first & 240 for the other three).  It’s a point-&-click adventure/horror games.  Remember those?  It’s like Myst but with a scary atmosphere.  This game is amazing, simple enough.  The story starts out with you waking up after apparently hanging yourself.  Over the next four chapters you learn about your family & the serial killer who won’t let them go even in death.  Like all adventure games, the gameplay involves exploring the area & looking for items you need to solve the next puzzle.  It’s not heavy on puzzles, but there are some interesting ones, like playing tic-tac-toe with the dead.  The visuals are amazing.  Everything’s dark & desolate, with a grainy quality.  That, combined with excellent sound (both effects & music) lend perfectly to the tense atmosphere.  You just get more & more tense as the game goes on, always expecting something.  For the most part the scares are subtle, like shadows behind a door or footprints on the ground.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some genuine “Oh My God” moments.  Two in particular stick out for me.  I won’t say which chapters they’re in but one was while playing a seemingly benign game of breakout the freaky doll (that’s right) that’d been following me around suddenly appeared in the monitor reflection, or when backtracking to leave a room a shadow figure pops up in front of me.  Both scenes literally made my heart stop.  I haven’t finished the final chapter, but expect a full review when I’m done.

Even after learning the reason behind the doll, which is actually touching, it still freaks me out.

 Cthulhu Saves the World

“What’s this?  Surely that’s a typo, GamerDame.  Everyone knows Lovecraft’s most well-known monster-god tries to destroy the world.”  Well, yes.  But now his powers have been sealed away & the only way to reclaim them is by becoming a hero.  Cthulhu Saves the World is an 8-bit styled RPG along the lines of the original Dragon Quest game & other classics RPG’s, but it has an amazing sense of humor.  The characters are funny, the dialogue is funny.  There are even references to Lovecraft’s other works.  Gameplay is pretty standard for these types of games.  You wander around wilderness & towns, having random encounters resulting in turn-based menu combat & find treasure.  But there are unique features aside from the story.  Random encounters in one area are limited, but you can select the “Fight” option in your menu for more.  Enemies can be turned insane.  And you can save anywhere you want.  I only played to the first battle when I decided I had to have the full game.  It’ll probably be a bit, but I will eventually review this game once I’m finished.

Save the world to destroy it?

 Sequence

Sequence bills itself as a rhythm/RPG hybrid, but I’ve found little in the way of pure RPG elements.  You can gain items during combat that you can use to craft different items to improve your stats, & choose which spells you want to learn & equip, but that’s extent of the role-playing aspect.  That being said, it’s still a good game.  You play as Ky, a man who finds himself in a strange tower being guided through battles by a woman on an intercom named Naia.  The voice-acting is pretty good & the cutscenes are all still pictures, but the drawing is well-done.  Combat is where the rhythm part comes in.  Without getting too complex, you cast spells, defend & replenish mana by keeping the beat & pressing the corresponding arrows.  I haven’t played lot a rhythm games, but I picked it up easily enough.  The music is good.  Most of the tracks are really catchy, so picking up the beat is easy.  The strategy is that these abilities are in different fields, & you can only use one field at a time.  For example, if you want to cast a spell, you leave yourself open to attacks because you can’t defend.  Eventually you gain the materials to make a key that leads to the floor’s boss.  After beating him, you advance to the next floor.  I’m only on the second of seven floors, & plan to take my time doing some grinding on each level, but a review should eventually come.

 

Can you keep the beat?

Those are the games that’ve been keeping me busy for the holiday.  Hopefully I’ll be getting reviews done soon for them.  Have a happy & safe 4th everyone.

 

– GamerDame

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