The human psyche is something that holds the key to many a mystery. What secrets can we unlock from the mind that will help us unravel the past, present, and maybe the future?
The brilliantly inventive teams at D’Avekki Studios and Wales Interactive, in particular, are back with another venture into the fascinating FMV (full motion video) side of gaming. There is one location, a cast of characters to interview and a murder to solve. Are you enough of a Sherlock Holmes to the take over The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker?
Since their last game in the FMV world, Late Shift, which was like a low budget crime thriller, this time round we are seeing a much more focused single location story, one that allows the chance to tell a more ambitious tale than any previous effort.
You play as a therapist who has been brought in to take over Dr. Dekker’s patient list after his horrific murder on Valentine’s day. Set in first person and fixed in a POV position, the scene set in your eyeline contains a treatment room with a large leather sofa and some Rorschach pictures above it. Your assistant, Jaya, tells you that you have a full list of patients to see. If you get a chance maybe you should ask some questions about the good doctor’s murder, eh?
There isn’t a tutorial, which is the correct decision because this ‘game’ isn’t hard to pick up. Each day you have a list of patients to see, but the order in which you wish to see, and treat, them, is entirely up to you. There is a button on the right that shows your notebook, giving clues to follow up on and questions to ask the patients when the touchy subjects comes up. You can then start your therapy session.
Now, there are two ways to make this happen. The first is you can type questions in using your on screen keypad or via the Xbox App, but I found this a bit random and typing using a controller is a pain. But others will love it, allowing them freedom in their questioning. I much preferred utilising the preset questions that are available allowing the choice from a number of dialogue trees that lead to choice making and different narrative possibilities.
One of the highlights about the whole ‘guessing the murderer’ is that every time you play through Doctor Dekker, the murderer is chosen at random from the suspect patients. Big credit goes to the game developers, writers, and filmmakers for making this happen and it gives the game more playability after its initial 8-hour play through. Another highlight is how the narrative shifts from ordinary psychological problems of the patients to the drip feeding of the supernatural and the introduction of all manner of strange things. The whole thing is written in a very clever and engaging style that doesn’t jar or seem to go against the professional setting of the game.
The writing of the characters and blending of the different narratives is also of a very high standard. Sometimes it goes into melodrama, but it feels like the right tone and doesn’t go too over the top with it; pleasingly teetering on the edge without slipping off. The characters are all delightfully well rounded and change as the story and journey progresses. A big hit of kudos and full on round of applause has to go to the performers as well for making this happen. We have a film noir siren, a geeky boy, a strong rich murderous wife, a freaky gravedigger and a nice care nurse with a terrible secret, as well as some more minor characters, all included. The acting is great and at times masterfully performed, but if I had to single one out it would be Bianca Beckles-Rose who plays Jaya, delivering a very funny and offbeat portrayal of an assistant who knows more than she is letting on.
The visual template of the menus and colour tone of the screens is also very exciting, and of course, the room the action takes place in is really well worked in its design… which is a blessing as you won’t see anything else. There are some nice special effects and some not so nice ones, but they are few and far between and never really affect the game. Most of the effects in fact are in the imagination of the words used and that is the most powerful tool.
I have really enjoyed my time with this thoughtful, well written and brilliantly performed FMV game, but the deciding factor in that enjoyment comes from whether you want to watch characters deliver a strange story for 8 hours, without too much in the way of actual gameplay. For me though, that’s what makes The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker what it is. The price is perfect and it’s the best example of this genre that the Xbox has to offer. So sit down comfortably and the let the doctor take control.