Author Topic: Decarnation (Switch) Review  (Read 835 times)

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Offline thedobaga

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Decarnation (Switch) Review
« on: June 09, 2023, 12:57:45 PM »

I’ve never seen a game more doggedly refuse to roll credits

I'm not sure there's any genre in the indie scene that feels like more of a roll of the dice than horror; it's a surprisingly easy genre to get wrong. Sometimes, however, a title may catch your eye for a variety of reasons: who's working on it, the artwork, the plot, etc. This is what happened to me with Decarnation, a game I played a demo for during a Steam Festival earlier this year. The demo provided me with a surreal and intriguing start to a story with a lot of potential, and it felt like a no brainer to jump on this game once it hit the Switch. Unfortunately while it tries its absolute best, Decarnation makes more than a few missteps that keep it from truly taking advantage of that potential, making it one of the more disappointing experiences I've had so far this year.

Decarnation puts the player in control of Gloria, a well known cabaret dancer for the Black Swan club in Paris. Things seem to be going well for Gloria: her career is going well, she has a loving girlfriend, and she has just recently posed for a sculpture by a renowned artist. Her life begins to take a downward spiral when she goes to see this sculpture, bearing witness to a pervert harassing it. From there, her boss suggests she retire from dancing, and her girlfriend breaks up with her. Just when everything seems to be going the worst it could possibly go, Gloria receives an offer from a well known patron of the arts that she cannot refuse. Even this ends poorly though, as on her way to meeting this patron she instead winds up knocked unconscious, waking up locked in a basement cell by someone only referring to themselves as "the Master" and his servant, a cheerful man named Bob. Gloria must find a way to escape her captor while dealing with the deep-seated issues that this incident has unearthed in her head.

Decarnation plays like your standard 2D adventure game, with the player able to explore various environments and observe the objects or people around them. There isn't a lot in terms of picking up items to solve puzzles; usually if you are carrying an item, it's just a key (or an object that will serve as a key) that you are going to use immediately. Puzzles are instead usually solved using the scenery around you, such as a puzzle involving giant chess pieces. Decarnation's puzzles are unfortunately one of its weaker points, with nearly all of them being either far too easy, such as one involving walking over circles to make a pattern, or kind of frustrating, such as one involving turning off lights and kiting an instant kill enemy around a room.

Another weak point of Decarnation is its various minigames used as abstractions to regular life activities Heavy Rain style. Nearly all of these games overstay their welcome, lasting far too long for how shallow they are. Most notably I was not a fan of the minigame played when Gloria is doing her morning stretches, which requires you to keep an arrow within a moving green bar for a certain amount of time. The most fleshed out of these minigames is a rhythm game you play several times throughout the story, whenever Gloria is performing one of her dances. This is a standard rhythm game requiring you to press a direction on the D-pad in time with the music, but even it has its problems, especially in terms of lasting far too long with music that is good but not interesting enough to stay as long as it does. To make this worse, it unfortunately also fell victim to one of the worst bugs I experienced in my time with Decarnation: three separate times while playing this rhythm game, the music ended before the game did, meaning I was stuck playing a rhythm game in silence for upwards of a full minute.

That's not the only bug I encountered, either. Another one involved a song forgetting to end when its scene ended, making me spend ten minutes trying to figure out if it was supposed to still be playing or if the game was bugged. Restarting the scene I was in fixed this issue, but it was still annoying nonetheless. Other times, sequences that felt like they should have music were instead backed by silence, and I have no idea if that was another bug or for some reason what was intended. These audio bugs are especially disappointing, as what made this game catch my eye in the first place was the involvement of one of my favorite game composers, Silent Hill's Akira Yamaoka, but disappointingly even when there was Yamaoka-style creepy ambience, it just did not live up to the expectations I'd had going in.

Decarnation is a game with a lot of potential that it just doesn't realize. There are absolutely good points to the game, such as its fantastic sprite art for the environments around you or the grotesque monster designs you encounter throughout, and the plot is also at times very relatable to anybody else going through a similar downward spiral in life, but this is not enough to counteract the overly long minigames or the unfortunately lackluster puzzles. This is made a bit worse by the fact that the game hits the point where most stories of this type usually end, and then keeps going for upwards of an hour, doggedly refusing to roll credits in favor of a drawn out series of epilogue scenes. I really wanted to like Decarnation–it was near the top of my list in terms of most anticipated indie titles for the year–but sadly it just did not deliver the experience I had hoped. It is not what I would necessarily call a bad game, but it is one held back by its multiple missteps along the way.