Red Candle Games
I knew a bit about the period of
suppression in Taiwan following an anti-government protest/uprising
after the Second World War but not a lot. You don’t need to in order to
play Detention, but you might be inclined to want to by the end. If not,
you will still have experienced a rather good piece of thoughtful
Horror in the more expansive
sense of the word – one in which the story builds and burns, in which
its protagonists are forced to put up with what life has dished up and
feel compelled to make ultimately awful choices, in which the horror is
the ordinary world itself. It is bleak, dark and oppressive, a world
where you take joy where you can, and react accordingly when it leaves,
or is taken, from you.
The plot is in many ways a ghost
story. How, you can discover for yourself. It unfolds as you go, and
surprised me very early on. It is sad, it is tragic, it is believable.
It takes place in a school,
which is where most detention occurs, although the detention present
here is far more expansive. It is a nice metaphor, and the game largely
plays out through the corridors and rooms, but now and then ventures
outside. Some outsides are literal - leaving the building in an attempt
to get home, only to find the typhoon has destroyed the bridge. Others
are less so – a memory of the family home, or a childhood bedroom.
The game is exclusively
side-scrolling, but it doesn’t feel two dimensional. You enter rooms,
walk up stairs, pass in front of some things and behind others. You
solve some puzzles by utilising the different floors in the school
building, climbing up and down to progress. You also have to manipulate
time, which adds a whole extra dimension.
These latter puzzles are
probably among the best, although some of the simplest are also worthy
of mention. A puzzle involving mirrors springs to mind.
It is a bleak tale and the
colour pallet is suitably drab. Except occasionally when it isn’t, and
that too surprised me. The world “dissolves” at times, a la Silent Hill,
and in some sections you can flit back and forth between you and not-you
(or is it?) Some images and scenes are creepy, rather than horrific, and
there is one puzzle solve that some people might find a little icky.
It isn’t a hard game, and while
there are some out and out puzzles, you mostly bring the relevant object
to the relevant place to be used. I did wander around a bit at times,
looking for the next door to enter, but not to any great degree. I
picked up more notes than items as I went, some of which provide clues,
some of which are the pieces to the story.
You can die at the hand of a few
otherworldly beings, but will well and truly know how not to before the
situation arises. You don’t defeat them by twitchy action, you just do
the mundane task the relevant note says and that is that. If you fail to
do it correctly, you get a little prompt as to how to avoid it next
time, and are resurrected at a shrine down the hill and just make your
way back and try again. Only once is there any actiony solution, and it
just involves running away. While I mention these things, Detention
isn’t remotely an action adventure, and avoiding it on that basis would
There isn’t really a soundtrack,
rather there are noises. It worked. There is very limited spoken word,
with dialogue being read. It saves periodically, but you can also save
at shrines that you come across. At no time did I feel exposed by not
being able to save. A notebook keeps track of the memos and letters you
find, and you drag items to use them in the world.
There are two endings, based on
choices that you make. One is better than the other. Neither in my view
is good. Regardless, and even it does drag out the ending a tad
unnecessarily, neither is unsatisfying. Both warrant experiencing.
If you want to venture to
YouTube you will find a number of posts that explain some of the
Taiwanese cultural and historical references. I did, and added another
Detention’s three hours of
gameplay surprised me in more ways than one. It does what it does better
than a lot of other horror titles, and I was glad I played.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-6700 4GHz
RAM: 32GB GDDR5
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 470 8192MB
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