When it comes to horror, there are a lot of things to take into account. First of all, what type of horror is it we are talking about? If you were to go onto Netflix and scour the horror section, what you’d mostly find is tales of gruesome murders being conducted by deranged psychotic killers, and whilst it’s certainly a horrific situation for those involved, it’s hardly what I’d call a definitive horror experience. But then, what is horror? Is it the known or the unknown? Is it something you’re so desperately afraid of, or that which lurks silently in the shadows? More importantly, how do you evoke fear into those who go in search of a good scare?
I’ll be honest, I’ve only got the questions. I don’t know the answers, but with a new horror title arriving on Xbox One, Decay, what could be the harm in looking there?
If you were old enough to enjoy the horror genre around 9 or 10 years ago, then chances are you may just remember Decay from the moment it first arrived on Xbox 360. It lit up the Indie Game section during its four-part outing with unexpected scares. Now though, returning back all these years later sadly doesn’t quite prove as frightful, but that’s not to say it isn’t at least worth a look.
Decay is set over four episodes, each of which are unlocked as you progress. The game begins with the player awaking in a seemingly abandoned apartment building, with a noose tied to the bathroom ceiling and no memory of what’s going on. Why have you tried to kill yourself? Who are you? What is going on!
The gameplay takes players through a point-and-click type adventure, with a cursor used to navigate the screen to click on items of interest. It’s old school mechanics, especially for a horror title, but it works and does a great job of engaging players. Movement is restricted to turning for the most part, and each rotation will see a new static image line the screen with progression through different areas possible after you’ve completed a set task; such as solving a puzzle, navigating to a door, or clicking on the appropriate item that you need to see.
The puzzle solving elements certainly brought back the subtle reminder of just how different modern horror titles are, with some items allowing the player to view them in a 3D manner to find a hidden code or message upon them, whilst others require the player to think a little more outside the box. It’s not ground-breaking of course, but it does return fond memories of games such as Silent Hill or Resident Evil, albeit in a point-and-click fashion.
In terms of the narrative, Decay isn’t exactly going to see you on the edge of your seat throughout each episode. It’s not an action adventure, it’s not going to have you screaming your head off, but there is more than enough here to pull you along and ensure you want to see this tale to its conclusion. What starts of slow, leads into much more of an exciting thrill once you begin to learn what’s going on and with a serial killer on the loose, you soon begin to learn just what’s caused the drastic measures at the start of the game. Due to the nature of point and click games I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s fair to say it isn’t a story that you can predict each and every progressive point, and that’s a welcome addition to the usual horror titles on the market today.
Something that gives me mixed feelings is the game’s visual design. As is the nature of the point and click genre, it tells all through imagery, so it’s hard not to notice this is a game that has been around for some time. Of course that doesn’t affect the playability and it certainly doesn’t make the experience any worse, infact once you’ve spent enough time racking your brain to figure out what you need to do next within the well detailed confines of whatever location you find yourself, you soon begin to appreciate just what you are looking at. And while the visuals haven’t aged perfectly well, the detail does look pretty impressive for a near 10-year old title. Still, it would have been nice to see the arrival on Xbox One bring something a little more in that department.
With that said, whilst Decay brings all four unique episodes that were separately released last time into one short-but-sweet package, there are some rather enticing extras that players can work towards unlocking as well. To unlock these you’ll first need to complete certain requirements, such as completing an objective in a set amount of time, but there is extra artwork that can be seen and plenty of other juicy extras that you’d normally find when you buy a collectors edition DVD. It’s not huge but it is something, and we’ll take it.
Another point to note is the fact that Decay does have multiple endings to unlock. Now, whilst I’m not one to run through a horror title twice – as not to ruin the initial experience – those who like to squeeze every last bit of content for their cash will certainly have plenty to work towards.
The final point to talk about is of course the sound design. The audio isn’t fantastic and does feel a little repetitive after a while with the same audio cues alerting the player to a new room being accessible. Now that is me being extra picky, and for most it won’t be a big deal, but when you play through such a static story, the audio can make a big difference, and with audio feeling all too similar, it would have been nice to see a little extra variation.
Overall and whilst Decay probably won’t give you the biggest scare, it is certainly an interesting tale. It has enough to keep the player going on, tells an original story and focuses more on the classic horror elements; it’s not afraid of delivering brain-teasing puzzles that would leave you guessing for hours. In terms of being a point-and-click, Decay certainly does the genre proud and although many will probably gloss over this one due to it not being another from the masterful minds of Artifex Mundi, this is a game that is deserving of some extra love once more, for old times’ sake.