Review – Detention
The vast majority of horror games I’ve played over the past few months follow the same cliché trend of being set in a first-person view for the obvious reason that it makes immersing yourself into the story a billion times easier. I have to admit that playing a third-person horror game was a small breath of fresh air. Make that breath a bit bigger due to the fact it’s a 2D game. Make it even bigger given that it’s set in everyone’s favorite (and weirdly enough, not frequently explored) horror setting, a school. Here’s Detention, the latest horror game to be released on the Switch.
Me during chemistry classes
Detention is set in a Taiwanese school in the 1960s, a period of martial law and intense civilian unrest in that country. The setting alone makes Detention more interesting than the seven trillion horror games set in a haunted house released over the past few years (looking at you, Layers of Fear). The game doesn’t try to fool you into playing a walking simulator with very few interesting moments or jump scares; instead, Detention is, weirdly enough, a point and click kind of game, without the actual pointing and clicking. Have you played the remastered version of Grim Fandango? The one where you can freely move through the map and interact with anything with an icon? Well, that’s basically how Detention works, the typical style of picking up items that seem to have no use, use them in places where they seem to have no purpose, and so on, but in a 2D environment.
Being a 2D game, Detention tackles horror in a different way. It doesn’t try to bombard you with jump scares nor does provide you with an unhealthy dose of gratuitous Outlast 2-esque shock value. The game appeals more towards the growing sensation of discomfort and losing your mind that Silent Hill 2 achieved in such a masterful way. Despite being a 2D game with visuals that look like cardboard, Detention is more Silent Hill than a lot of proper Silent Hill games, if you stop to analyze it. The problem is, it takes a while for the story to get interesting, and the game ends not long afterwards.
Despite the length being an issue, it’s not the weakest aspect of the game. I’d say the visuals and sound department are bigger flaws, but at the same time I’ll actually praise the developers for having attempted to do something different with the genre. Detention‘s 2D visuals feature a cardboard style of animation, something that made the game a bit difficult to get immersed into at first. Whenever I was walking in a 2D mode, I wasn’t appreciating the art style that much. Whenever the game jumped into a more Myst-esque close-up style or whenever it started cranking the creep factor up to 11 with some really strong torture imagery (all tied perfectly to the game’s martial law Taiwan setting), it made me feel uncomfortable, and there’s nothing else I’d want from a horror game than that. The sound department featured some flaws as well, namely, and sadly, the lack of voice acting. There are no spoken lines of dialogue, just lots and lots of text boxes. It’s a bummer, given how decent the soundtrack is.
Despite the severely short length and somewhat subpar artistic presentation, I have to say I was still pleasantly surprised with Detention. After playing so many first-person horror games that failed so miserably in trying to scare me, a little 2D adventure game managed to make me feel more uncomfortable than all of those games combined. The game isn’t only highly recommended for horror fans, but also for adventure game fans in general. It’s creepy and I like it.
The visuals don’t seem to fit at first glance, and the character animations are cardboard levels of cheap, but the game’s visuals get more appealing (and weirder) as time goes by.
Plays like a point & click game . . . without the actual pointing and clicking. Somehow, it still works, given the easy menu system and good responsiveness. The way you need to avoid enemies is annoying, though.
The lack of voice acting and near nonexistent sound effects are a shame, given how eerie the soundtrack is.
Fun Factor: 7.5
Detention starts off ridiculously slowly, but it gradually gets more interesting, and a lot weirder. Sadly, it’s quite short.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Reviewed on Switch.
Also available on: PS4, PC