There are not many games showcasing East-Asian horror out there, more specifically, those of the Chinese origin. As a largely untested category of horror, will detention be able to emulate the same spine-chilling effects on players, read on to find out.
As a 2D side-scrolling, puzzle solving game, Detention is simple in mechanics. You move left and right, in and out of rooms, up and down levels, to collect clues as you slowly piece your way to the end of the game. All while avoiding supernatural creatures on the way.
Generally, the puzzles are not very hard to solve and, at times can even be “in your face”. Still, there are occasions where you might have to subtly scratch and tilt your head a little to get past them.
One thing that I find to be such a waste is the non-inclusion of touchscreen controls. Certain parts of the game looked well suited for touch but were, unfortunately, controllers only. Even though I played the game mostly in TV mode, there were still times when I was in handheld mode where I intuitively touch the screen to find the game not support it.
Overall, the game’s central mechanic of side-scrolling puzzle solving is not difficult, but as soon we will see, the game’s mechanic is not the thing that multiplies the difficulty.
Horror Horror On The Mirror
Where the game makes things difficult for you is in its excellent utilisation of horror. Before I carry on, it should be fair that I declare that I am of Chinese descent and that such use of horror really hit home to me.
Creatures and practices found within East Asian culture play a central role in the game and to see my childhood nightmares come alive within the game send more than just chills down my spine. The well-designed enemies each have their own ways to be avoided; they can’t be defeated.
Through the brilliant combination of background sound, enemies, art, and uncertainty, Detention has managed to build an atmosphere of high tension. The best thing about it is how it manages to keep such tension high throughout most of the game.
While revisiting some areas again and again for the purpose of puzzle solving will definitely take some of the tension out of the game, the game promises to raise your heart rate every time you step into a new environment.
In fact, things were scarier earlier in the game due to the huge amount of uncertainty. At a few points in the game, I even hoped the main character could move a little faster so I would not have to be at the mercy of the game any longer.
It is amazing how the developers manage to do all those while confining the player to only one axis of motion.
Scares Gave Way To Cares
Indeed, for a good deal of the game, I was constantly being tamed by the game’s tensed atmosphere. Even when playing in bright daylight in the great outdoors, I felt the tingles reverberate through my body on more than one occasion. However, near the end of the game, where the pieces of the story start to come together, I found myself to be less and less afraid.
As the female protagonist’s story cleared up, I found myself wanting to know more and more about what had actually happened to her. I find myself braving through dark corridors, and following spirits rather than avoiding them. The fear in me gave way despite the game retaining its highly tensed atmosphere. I was more concerned about the girl’s tragic backstory and no ghouls can stop me from doing so.
While slow to start, the game’s story ends off excellently. The duo of endings played well to the premise of the game and neither of them felt out of place; although clearly one of them was the more prefered ending.
Also, if I have misled you in earlier screenshots that the game is about a guy, I apologise. Just as the game had misled me early in it, you shall feel a taste of the game even before really getting your hands dirty in it.
Greater Significance And Pre-Requisites
It is entirely possible to play the entire game through without any need for prior reading on historical and cultural backgrounds. While the game handles such issues well, there are points where I felt that the International players might feel out of touch with the game.
The game is a master of horror, but Chinese horror culture is still not as widespread as Western ones. Unlike the Western horror characters such as vampires and zombies, it is unlikely that players outside of Asia will know who the Black and White Impermanence are. Even practices of significance such as food offerings, holding your breath in the presence of ghost , and incense burning is likely to be lost in the greater audience.
Adding on to that, the historical context of Taiwan’s martial law era is usually foreign and not commonly mentioned.
However, it is likely that after playing this game, players around the world will have a greater appreciation of the Sinosphere, its culture and history. To finish the game requires nothing more than a little brain and a bunch of courage, but to appreciate the game requires you to delve deeper into Taiwanese history and (Southern) Chinese culture.
Detention is a horror game that can easily scare the socks off even the most veteran of horror gamers. Although general puzzle solving and game mechanics are simple and easy, getting through the game without ever having chills down the spine is as hard as it could be. On top of chills, the game also showed how a horror game can still have a great story to back it. Though Asian players will have no difficulty catching on with the multitude of references, International players need not feel left out as the game makes a great effort at making sure everyone is on the same page. When the game finally comes to an end… you will breathe that final breath of relief.
- Mastery of horror atmosphere (Auditorily and Visually)
- Deep but interesting story
- Excellent showcase of East Asian horror themes
- Puzzles may be too simple
- Story starts out quite slow
- Could have included touch
Verdict: This Is One Of Those Soups That Will Keep You Awake At Night
A review code for Detention was provided by Coconut Island Games for the purpose of this review.