Saturday, 25 May 2019

D - Saturn Horrorfest Review

Among the vast library of the Saturn games, it’s interesting to note how few Survival Horror titles there were. The one title that I played as a kid had such an affect on me that I remember it very well today. When I say the Saturn port of "D" affected me, that is not a good or bad thing, it just is. Part of me absolutely loved playing this game. It is probably one of the best point and click horror games of its time, growing its own cult following, especially among those of the Saturn community. The other part of me can never go into a hospital waiting room without thinking a portal will open up and I’ll be trapped inside the mind of a murderer.

Many have played Myst, and despite your thoughts on that game, it’s a good way of getting the feel for the type of game you’ll play with D. However, while Myst had more of a science fiction/steampunk feel to it, D was very gothic and very macabre.

When I say horror, many would think of gore and blood, along with some zombies. Well, if that’s what you’re expecting, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is not survival horror in the ways of Resident Evil but more akin toward Phantasmagoria, if you’re old enough to know that game (Spoiler alert, it’s not good). This is slow horror. This is atmospheric to the point of settling your brain into an unsettling posture.

One thing you will realize when you play this game is that it is slow. Like, ungodly slow. That is one serious strike against it at some points. The frame rate is not great and the movement speed plus the load times bring the game to a slow, slithering pace. Patience is a definite must when you dip into this. It really doesn’t matter what port you play this on, it’s slow and very needing of darkness to get the full effect.

You’ll notice very little music apart from the general sudden scare shot from the background. That is replaced by what sounds like someone tapping on a gong over and over again. This is not annoying, this is, once again, unsettling. The creepy atmosphere is such as to give you some real, genuine scares.

The puzzles are not hard, but some of them do require that you do some serious searching and deductive reasoning. Some puzzles are pretty obvious, some not so much. On the first playthrough, you may have to do one or two source checks, but the game itself is intuitive enough, you probably won’t need to. It’s a lot of fun to figure it out for yourself, like when the game originally came out, you couldn’t do it to the point you can today.

The game is not hard by any means, especially when you’ve played it once already. The replay value is not great. The best you’ve got is two possible endings, good and bad. Another somewhat questionable gameplay element was the pocket watch. Your character, Laura, has to make her way through the mental representation of her father’s insanity in order to find out why he went on a killing spree and took an entire hospital hostage. She must do all of this before midnight. So you have a time limit on how fast you can solve the riddles. In theory, it’s a good thought, but this game is a bit on the inconvenient side on time already, considering how slowly you move.

Still, as annoying as it is, you still have time. It only takes a little over an hour to finish the game after you’ve figured everything out and gazed at all of the horrific scenery for a bit. Storywise, it’s mediocre, but the true horror atmosphere makes up for a lot of the flaws the game possesses.

When you get right down to it, the slow pacing of the game, while atmospheric, is probably the largest flaw it possesses. It really does feel like you’re swimming through molasses with how slow the pacing is. Beyond that, the father’s mind face pops up every once in a while and spouts out some very bad voice acting. I understand that not all games can get A-Class voice actors, but this guy does not have the magic instrument of vocal bliss. Again, more than just an annoying voice, it also continually slows the game down.

If you have a few hours to dedicate to a good horror experience, then D is definitely up your alley. It has the Nosferatu feel about it, and it even has a nice little twist to go along with the story. Despite its pacing, QTE’s, and overly short playtime, it is, without a doubt, a gem of a game. Be a dear, and get this title if you get the chance.

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