REVIEW: Detention

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Title Detention
Developer RedCandleGames
Publisher Coconut Island Games
Release Date January 12, 2017
Genre Adventure, Horror
Platform Steam
Age Rating N/A
Official Website

Detention is a very interesting game that blends survival horror with point and click gameplay. I was excited to get into Detention as survival horror is my favorite genre. After watching a trailer, it looked like it focused on atmosphere, exploration, puzzle solving and storytelling, which are my favorite aspects of the genre. Now that I’ve played through the game twice, how does it fare as both a horror game, and a point and click adventure?

Detention starts off with a boy named Wei falling asleep during a classroom lecture. After waking up long after school has closed, he finds out that the entire surrounding area is under a typhoon watch. Shortly after wandering around the school, he meets a young girl named Ray, who quickly takes the torch as our leading character. Things quickly go south as Ray finds herself alone in a monster filled otherworldly version of her school.

Detention | Meeting Ray

The story is set in a 1960’s Taiwan, where martial law is currently under effect, and that ends up being a big part of the story. It focuses heavily on things like guilt, atonement, as well as the backstory of Ray and the tension in her family. The story is told through both cutscenes and its gameplay. Throughout your journey you’ll find many notes scattered about that little by little reveal just what is going on in the bigger picture. The overall story of Detention is a very personal and emotional journey, showing us some key moments in Ray’s life that have had a tremendous effect on her.

The way Detention handles its ideas and themes is well done, using clever puzzles and environmental effects to help emphasize Ray’s feelings and trauma that she is unaware of. You may not realize while you’re playing for the first time, but like many psychological horror games, a second playthrough ends up revealing a lot of things in the background that are foreshadowing what’s to come. One of the coolest moments in the game is a radio puzzle that has you tuning to several different radio stations. Each radio station will change the environment around you into very warped, but very meaningful projections of Ray and her family’s memories.

Detention | Ominous message

The gameplay of Detention is like that of a traditional point and click adventure game. You’ll run around various environments, clicking on things in the environment to examine them for more clues, pick up various items to help unlock doors and solve puzzles. The puzzles for the most part are simple to solve, but hold significant value to the overall narrative.

One of my favorite puzzles in the game involved solving other puzzles like playing a piano to a specific tune you can hear over the radio, to find two puppets of a police officer and a person. Upon placing the puppets on a stage, the police puppet proceeds to shoot the puppet of the person. The puzzle may have been easy to solve, but it certainly sets the tone early for the games subject matter. It’s little nods to the bigger picture through gameplay that really enhance the narrative, giving a lot more depth and intrigue.

Detention | Taking Cover

Unlike many point and click games I’ve played, Detention flows very smoothly. There was never a moment where I was confused on where to go or what to do next. I always knew what I should be doing with every item. It may make the game a little on the easy side, but I don’t think this hurts the overall game at all. If anything, it helps keep you immersed in the amazing story. I also felt it made the game a lot more replayable as well.

There are also enemy encounters every now and then. You have no means of fighting the enemies off, but there are items you can find to distract them from you. In order to get past an enemy, you need to hold down right click on your mouse while you’re walking, which makes Ray hold her breath and walk slowly past the enemy. Enemy encounters overall aren’t anything special, in fact I don’t really think they were at all necessary. I never found the monsters threatening or scary, and there is no real consequence for being incapacitated by an enemy, as you just respawn a few rooms away. I’m fairly certain this is a design decision that relates to Ray’s story, so I do forgive it.  About halfway through, monster encounters just completely stop, making the rest of the game entirely focused on puzzles and exploration.

Detention | Atmosphere

Visually, Detention is amazing. Its beautifully detailed backgrounds, rain effects, and lighting really create a mood fitting for a horror game like this. From broken down dirty hallways, to talismans and puppets plastered all over the place, the atmosphere is incredibly strong. Every area you explore is all deeply connected to Ray in one way or another, making each room in the game actually have meaning behind them. It’s because of this that I feel Detention has some of the more memorable atmosphere in the genre. The characters themselves also look great, though at first, I wasn’t really a fan of how they would animate, but it grew on me relatively quickly. There are also occasionally some really nicely drawn portraits of Ray during some of the more important story scenes.

The audio in Detention is also easily just as amazing as its visuals and story.  So much so that I purchased the soundtrack after finishing the game for a second time. The ambience that plays during exploration is very eerie and fitting for the areas you’re exploring. There are also plenty of really beautiful melancholic songs for the more emotionally heavy scenes. The songs “Hometown” and “Regrets” are two of my favorite songs in the entire game, and really sold me on the emotional  scenes they were used in.

Detention | Ray

As a horror game, I personally did not find Detention scary, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that will find it horrifying. The themes and depth of literally every aspect of the game really come together to create what has become one of my overall favorite horror games. It’s a short journey, lasting only about 2 to 4 hours for your first playthrough, but it’s absolutely worth its asking price of $11.99. Detention is not only an amazing game, but it’s also a very thought provoking and emotional story. If you love psychological horror or point and click adventure games, Detention is absolutely worth your time and money.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher