I’m someone who likes to trick myself into thinking I can handle, even enjoy, the horror genre. So when the opportunity to review Detention popped up I was all like ‘pfft yea of course I can handle it LOL’. After all, it’s basically a point and click side-scrolling game with 0% combat and I played a million of those in the 90s. I think I managed about ten minutes on my own before I was backing away from the computer all like ‘I’m out!’
Detention is an atmospheric horror game set in 1960s Taiwan under martial law. Although, you don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy this one! The themes of oppression, strict control over human rights and access to knowledge through media are easy to understand. Through dialogue between characters you get a feel for the real-life horror that went on in Taiwan during this time, and the reality is what makes it all the more creepy.
Let me set the scene for you. You start out as a student, Wei, trapped at your high school and it’s pretty clear that something isn’t right. Classrooms are boarded up, it looks like it’s been abandoned for a very long time and there are flippin evil creatures roaming about! Not long into the game you encounter Ray, a fellow student who also has no idea what’s going on. From there a very compelling and depressing tale unfolds involving secrets, forbidden love, betrayal, religion, mythology and of course, death.
When I first started playing, it was hard to look past the glaringly obvious similarities between Detention and Silent Hill. The soundtrack and general game atmosphere, at least initially, are influenced pretty heavily by the Toyama classic. Not to worry! It didn’t take long for the game to either come into it’s own unique style or distract me enough with a completely absorbing adventure that I forgot all about Silent Hill (I got too engrossed to remember which is true)!
The game is pretty good at being freaky! It only took a few fatal (or are they?) encounters with ‘the lingered’ to have me far too anxious to try anymore.
Enter from stage left: Husband!
Yes! I recruited my husband to play for me while I watched and backseat drove his gameplay like the annoying Sas that I am! “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” and “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT YOU I…oh no wait you’re right” were frequently heard from the cheap seats in the Donnell household as my horror-induced anxiety turned me into a monster. But Detention didn’t turn out to be as terrifying as I initially found it!
Once you get the hang of how to hold your breath and pass by the lingering dead, the game becomes all about solving the puzzles! Boy do I love puzzles and unlike many of the 90s games I played, these puzzles didn’t have me pulling my hair out. They were pretty much the perfect challenge level for us. Not so easy that we didn’t have to use our brains at all, by not so hard that we had to sit there for hours trying every possible inventory combination. Basically this game makes you feel pretty satisfied with your cleverness level.
The game may not be aiming to make you jump out of your skin, but it certainly is aiming to disturb. It succeeds. Oh it certainly succeeds. From an uncomfortable and depressing backstory, to gruesome acts your character must carry out to continue the story – you won’t come away with a cheery disposition or a clear conscience (if you get into character, that is).
My complaints are minimal. The dialogue, particularly at the start of the game, felt pretty stiff and unnatural and some aspects of the art felt a little unfinished (especially the icons used for inventory objects). The end of the game abruptly went from solving puzzles to watching a very long, interactive scene unfold where the truth behind the game is revealed. I didn’t actually mind it, but can understand that it might annoy other players.
Detention is like nothing else I’ve played (although, to be fair, I haven’t played many horror games). It’s creepy and outright disgusting at times. It’s atmosphere and graphics build the perfect blend of intrigue and dread. I recommend you get yourself a partner or friend, sit down with some hot chocolates and treats, turn all the lights out and experience Detention.