There are three story tools that really tickle my fancy when playing a game or watching a film: a great message, a twist ending, or horror tropes.
DISTRAINT hits home on every single one of those points. A point-and-click adventure with a horror game setting; you play as Mr. Price, a man working for a greedy repossession company while trying to achieve partnership. You are sent to meet with several people who you must inform can no longer stay in their home. Through all this, Mr. Price goes on a journey of self-reflection and empathy that changes him fundamentally. The great story throughout makes this one a bright spot in the genre, and the game’s length (about two hours) has it stick around for just long enough to not get bland.
Luckily, there’s no time for any impossible-to-solve puzzles during the short runtime, and practically every puzzle you come across makes sense. This makes the puzzles overly simple, though, and the same basic ideas rear their head repeatedly, with most of them tasking the player with finding a key to a locked door. I found myself wishing there were different outcomes to each puzzle after the time taken to collect items, but nonetheless you are mainly just a doorman.
However, this is also a horror title, so some of the things you are tasked with doing are gory and gruesome. The best puzzles are the ones that are built around the game’s horror angles; such as collecting meat of unknown origins to please a chef who is tired of working with nothing but potatoes. When the game thinks outside the box you have some clever ideas come through that really make for interesting puzzles, but the game too often slides back into the norm for the genre.
The only major gameplay issue I had came around the midpoint of the playthrough when you enter a beat-up apartment building and must use a hallucinogenic drug to enter through barred doors and discover hidden entrances. This is all fine and dandy, however, the graphical style makes for a lot of repetition when things are decrepit, and navigation became a serious issue at this point. I was lost for a good while here.
You have a creative mix of artistic design, with pixelated horror effects intermingled with a chibi-cartoon style character design that lulls you into a sense of security. Effects with the lighting and colouration of the slimmed-down, noir-film-style screen make for a horror experience that has 2D jump scares that actually work. Although the game does utilize its fair share of jump scares the atmosphere building makes moving through the story a creepy affair on its own.
DISTRAINT brings together a lot of creative uses of the genre to make a unique experience with a great story. You really can’t ask for more than that when looking through a genre that has had a renaissance in recent years and is looking for ways to break out of the shadow of predecessor’s. Although the game drags a bit in the middle, you still have a great story, and the horror effects and ambiance created are superb.
DISTRAINT: Deluxe Edition £5.99
DISTRAINT: Deluxe Edition offers great story and perfectly crafted ambiance, regardless of its short run-time. Although it drags in the middle with questionable mechanics, it is still a unique take on the point-and-click adventure genre.