Detention (Switch) Review – Unique yet Familiar
Platforms: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Developer: Red Candle Games
Publisher Coconut Island Games
Release: 1st March 2018 (Switch)
2D indie horror games are almost developed in mass production, flooding the market along with other genres. Naturally, games like Detention, that try to be more than just the generic standard, may find an audience but never the mass appreciation they deserve. Yet, after releasing on the Switch one year after its PC release may prove otherwise.
1980, Taiwan, in a little, far away school a student awakes from his daily nap, just to find himself in an abandoned environment. Seemingly evacuated due to a hurricane, he soon discovers another abandoned girl but the following events are everything except normal. Soon both find themselves in a world where rivers are filled with blood and are hunted by screaming ghosts.
If described on paper, Detention´s plot wouldn´t impress nor surprise anyone, hell, more than half the twists and events can be predicted from miles away. The tale of those two lost souls is dark, gripping, brutal and truly terrifying because the way its told is horrifyingly impactful way. The atmosphere masterfully shifts between different moods according to the situation, deaths are portrayed in twisted pictures and frightening music. Red Candle Games understood how to present a plot in a meaningful way without cheap jumpscares, relying on an exceptionally dark art style able to transform itself into their liking.
There are bright, hopeful moments, that are crushed in mere seconds by dark aberrations, supported by an artistic presentation full of dark light contrasts, constantly fighting with each other over dominance. The washed out colour palette is a perfect choice considering the time period, themes and goal, creating a melancholic but beautiful vision of Taiwan. Underlined through a simple but thrilling soundtrack, background art to behold an overall image quality able to rival even the best 2D games out there, the reason why Detention is so impactful is due to its smartly crafted world. Only the quite high batter consumption and occasional loud fan noises from the Switch due to a decent but not perfect port may interrupt the atmosphere at times.
Even the quite redundant gameplay heavily profits from the atmosphere. Similar to many other genre games like Yomawari, Detention almost solely relies on one enemy type, able to insta-kill you if they catch a glimpse of a human. The only option to sneak past them is by holding the breath, while slowly moving past them. A well-known system often used and still not able to deliver a great experience. While the shrill screams and amazingly scary ghost design ensure a certain fear, there´s only so much possible with slow movement and the same enemy. Especially for anyone already familiar with it, the lack of any unique element quickly becomes redundant.
Luckily, mostly those rather frustratingly redundant segments are driven by many puzzles, to motivate the player. Since both the puzzles and item placements are well designed to constantly reward exploration without requiring massive backtracking, there´s almost no time where I got stuck. As a result, the lacklustre sneaking is overshadowed by a very motivating, fun structure. Unfortunately, towards the end Detention loses much of its breath in the lacking innovation, relying on the ever-same things throughout the 7-hour journey.
Red Candle Games’ little indie horror game is by far not a reimagination of the genre but one of the best executions of recent time. Detention offers everything from an amazing atmosphere, breathtaking art and rewarding gameplay. At the end, it may lose a lot of breath in repetition but its fair price point and simply amazing horror experience, the Switch´s latest horror addition is definitely worth your time.
[A Review Code was provided by Coconut Island Games]