By Michael Fontanini / March 3rd, 2015
|Title||Decay: The Mare|
|Developer||Shining Gate Software|
|Release Date||February 13, 2015 (Steam)|
|Genre||Puzzle, Point-and-Click, Horror|
With a life torn apart by pain and consumed by drug addiction, you head to the Reaching Dreams Institution to turn your life around. But, on the first night, you find yourself in a bizarre world of strange dreams and hallucinations. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell what is real and what is not. Welcome to Decay: The Mare, a point-and-click horror game. As you solve puzzles and progress, you will discover the dark truth about what is really going on inside this place. There are sinister secrets hidden away in these walls that only you can uncover, but will they consume you first?
Decay was inspired by Resident Evil and Silent Hill. It divides its story into three episodes (don’t worry, they all come with the game!) When you start a new game, you see a menu that lets you choose which episode to play. The third episode has multiple endings (a good and a bad), so your choices can influence how the story ends.
The image above shows your room at Dr. Yerazig’s Reaching Dreams Institution. It is where your strange journey to unravel the dark secrets hiding in these walls begins. You will quickly discover that you are locked in your room. You can explore the closet behind you, but it is empty. You can also head to the table to take your pills that you were told to take before going to bed. A cutscene will play, and you will be in your room again. As soon as you leave, you will see strange things. Is this real, or is it a dream? I will leave that for you to discover.
As you can see from the screenshots, the graphics in Decay: The Mare are not bad. They are slightly blurry, though, which may be due in part to the film grain effect. For those of you who don’t like film grain in their games, there is unfortunately no option to turn it off. However, the effect is more subtle here than in some other games I’ve seen. If you look at the screenshots in full size, you can also see that the graphics seem to be at a relatively low resolution, but they still look reasonably good. Of course, super realistic graphics aren’t the draw for this type of game anyway. There is some gore, as you can see below, but only in certain places. Lastly, the text font used in the menu is very generic and seems a bit uninspired.
As mentioned above, Decay is a point-and-click style game. It is very different from the previous one I reviewed, though. The puzzles are more difficult in Decay, and, as such, the game is a bit more like Myst. Some of the puzzles in Decay can be overly unclear, and you might solve them more by dumb luck than through actually figuring stuff out. Probably the one I disliked the most was in Episode 1, where you have to place four drawings on four rings scattered throughout the level. Doing so somehow magically unlocks a path that was previously too dark to enter. This puzzle is too nonsensical, I think. One other flaw I found in the gameplay of Decay was that navigating the level in Episode 1 can be confusing at first. This is partly because there are two areas that look too similar to each other. There are differences, though, so you can tell where you are, but, at first, you might get a little lost occasionally.
Also of note in the gameplay department is the fact that each episode has a series of coins in it for you to find. Episode 1 has five coins, and the second and third episodes both have 10 coins hidden in them. Finding all of the coins in an episode unlocks the extras for that episode (a series of concept art images). You also may have noticed the icons on the corners of the screen in many of the screenshots. The “i” icon opens your inventory screen (which can also be accessed via the I Key) and the camera icon lets you take pictures and can reveal hidden text (of course, you need to have the camera item first, and it may also be accessible via the C Key). The “?” icon will give you a hint, though it can be pretty unhelpful at times (you can also press the H Key for this). It will basically show you where you should go, or text will appear saying “You need to search more in this room.” The icon in the upper-right corner will open the pause menu (as will the Esc Key).
The bag shown above is another of the horrors you will encounter on your journey through Decay. You will first encounter it in Episode 1, but this screenshot of it is actually from Episode 3. You won’t find out what it really is until later in the game. When you first encounter it, the bag is hanging in a closet in Episode 1. The bloody bag pulsates a bit as it talks to you. If you ask it who it is, it will reply “Your new best friend,” and the fingers of a hand start to rise out of the bag as the cutscene ends.
On the audio side of things, the sound effects definitely get the job done, but the best aspect in the sound department is, of course, the music. The best music track, in my opinion, is the one that plays in the intro and at a few other points during the game. It has a darkness and a hopelessness to it, which sets the mood pretty well. This music track can be heard in the trailer at the bottom of this review.
I didn’t like this game quite as much as I thought I would, mostly due to it being a bit harder than it needed to be. Nonetheless, Decay: The Mare was an enjoyable experience, and it has a good story. It just felt like some puzzles could’ve been designed a bit better. It may have been inspired by Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but it is not as scary as those games. Decay will throw some jump scares at you, but they aren’t as good as those found in its predecessors. Though, to be fair, those were much bigger budget games. Overall, I liked the game and its story, but it felt a bit rough around the edges with some of the gameplay flaws I mentioned earlier. For $9.99, the game will take you maybe 20-30 hours to beat depending on how much you get stuck. If you like difficult puzzles, you might like this game. If you just want to experience the story (without much thinking) this game probably isn’t for you unless you follow a guide. Decay: The Mare was an interesting and enjoyable experience, and, in spite of the, flaws it is still worth playing.
Review copy supplied by publisher
Daedalic EntertainmentDecay: The MareShining Gate Software